The Sandra Meyer tragedy is one that we add reluctantly to this list out of respect to Meyer's family members who endured much during the nearly month-long search for the missing Bend woman. Meyer's mysterious disappearance became a matter of public discussion after family members and police called on the public to help locate her. Family members erected a billboard on the Parkway emblazoned with Meyer's image and police searched the river around the Old Mill where Meyer's car was found. Suspicion quickly turned to her husband John Meyer who later shot himself in the couple's home. Still, Meyer's family was left in limbo after police found evidence that she had been murdered, but failed to turn up her body. The case came to a shocking and sad conclusion when Meyer's family members discovered her body on the couple's property almost a month after the crime. It was an area that police had supposedly scoured thoroughly. Friends have memorialized Meyer by dedicating a room in her honor at the Bend women's shelter, Saving Grace.
The D.A. Soap Opera
File this one under news so juicy that it couldn't be squeezed into just one year. Where to begin? With the lightning rod grand jury proceeding and ensuing pissing match with The Bulletin? With the high-profile staff departures? The state bar complaint/investigation? Wherever the starting point, the destination is the same: The attorney general's office. Oregon's top cop, John Kroger, officially opened an investigation into Flaherty's use of the grand jury to prosecute the county's top civil attorney, Mark Pilliod, whom Flaherty accused of disclosing classified personnel information. Pilliod publicly apologized for the mistake and Flaherty dismissed the grand jury, but the dispute has simmered with Pilliod threatening to sue and the state bar and Kroger now investigating the DA's handling of the affair. Flaherty has maintained throughout that he did nothing wrong. Will Flaherty be disbarred. Will the AG indict the sitting DA? Looks like we'll need another year to sort this one out!
Bend's Surface Water Project
The effort to upgrade the city's aging surface water system evolved from a wonkish public works project to a political hot potato when conservationists and chamber types joined forces this past year. The Stop the Drain Campaign has been a persistent thorn in the city's side ever since. While there are no indications that the city intends to reverse course on its $60-plus million drinking water upgrade, the opponents, which include nearly half a dozen former mayors, the environmental group Central Oregon Landwatch, the former head of the Deschutes River Conservancy, and a former Bend Chamber of Commerce board member, have shed light on the potential pitfalls. Their concerns range from rate increases to impacts on Tumalo Falls and middle Deschutes River flows. Issues that all Bend residents ought to be tuned into.
Mountain View Takes State Football Title
Bend's high school football fans got nothing on the Wrigley faithful, but after 71 years the town was due for another football championship. Thankfully, the Mountain View Cougars delivered, beating archrival Sherwood, 14-13. The win avenged last year's 42-22 play-off loss to Sherwood and an early season rematch that saw Sherwood tip the Cougars. The early loss was Mountain View's only defeat in a season marked by impressive wins that were fueled by the twin tandem of Jake and Cody Hollister who connected on touchdown after touchdown en route to the state title. In the end, though, it was a defensive stand that helped the Cougars bring home the hardware. Take heart Summit fans, it took only 33 years to make it happen.
Powder. It's the substance that fuels an entire winter industry in Bend. It's also an obsession for locals, many of whom have moved here just for the chance to get first tracks on any given day of the week between December and April. In 2011, those who prayed for snow in October had their prayers answered early and often. The skies opened in October and after a brief pause, resumed with a vengeance in March and April. When it was all said and done, Mt. Bachelor shattered its previous record for snowfall, chalking up an amazing 665 inches. Mt. B officials made the most of the deluge, opening the mountain for a bonus season over the Fourth of July weekend, a move that harkened back to days of yore when it wasn't unusual to see the chairs running in June.
Bend Beer Bonanza
Call it the year of the pint, or maybe the year of the pub. Either way, 2011 was a banner year for the craft brewing industry in Central Oregon. The past 12 months saw the successful opening of GoodLife Brewing in the Century Center. Deschutes, after pushing into markets in Portland, L.A., Phoenix, Denver and even North Dakota, announced that it was undertaking a long-awaited expansion at its downtown pub even as it bolstered capacity with a major addition at its production plant. Meanwhile, upstart 10 Barrel Brewing Co. bolstered its beer brain trust by adding veteran brewers from Deschutes and Bend Brewing Co. Recently, 10 Barrel confirmed that it's putting the finishing touches on plans for a satellite pub in beer-hungry Boise. Back in Bend, bad-boy brewers Boneyard were also sipping success and have plans to expand their production capacity. In Redmond, former Central Oregon restaurateur Matt Mulder launched his own line of craft beers, Phat Matt's, that will soon be available in bottles. Bend's culture-free eastside is even getting in on the act. According to published reports, an investor is looking to open a brewery that will double as a beer university on a parcel out near Costco-ville on 27th.
What can we say?... our cups overfloweth.
Central Oregon's newspaper of record became the news of record in late August when it filed for bankruptcy protection from its largest creditor, Bank of America. The family owned newspaper disclosed that it had been embroiled in a long-running dispute with the bank over an $18 million loan and line of credit related to its flagship headquarters on Chandler Avenue and other assets. The filing made national news in part because of the newspaper leaderships' outspoken criticism of the lender, which the paper's brass accused of trying to "wreck" the paper by imposing tough penalty interest rates and terms on WesCom. The paper shared, and filings supported, that a sharp revenue decline related to the recession and building industry collapse prompted the paper to miss agreed upon financial performance measures in the loan. The paper has proposed restructuring the debt at a lower interest rate on a scheduled repayment plan. If the paper and its creditors cannot reach a settlement, a bankruptcy judge will likely decide how to restructure the paper's debt.
After a relatively uneventful past few seasons, firefighters found themselves scrambling around Central Oregon this past summer. A pair of blazes, one outside Sisters and another north of Madras, kept crews busy throughout the late summer. The Shadow Lake Fire was eventually contained at 10,000 acres, making it one of the largest in the state. The fire, which burned through a mixed pine forest west of Sisters, sent plumes of smoke into the late summer sky that inundated Bend and other cities for several days, resulting in poor visibility and health advisories. Just a few miles east, the High Desert Complex burned thousands of acres of range and grassland around the Deschutes and John Day rivers prompting the evacuation of 55 people from OMSI's educational center near Clarno in late August. Closer to home, a 1,500-acre blaze that erupted near Alder Springs, briefly threatened Crooked River Ranch while metaphorically torching a wilderness proposal that was being floated by the Oregon Natural Desert Association.
Facebook made good on its promise to build a massive server farm in lil' ol' Prineville, a town that was in the grip of a deep recession that had seen Crook County's unemployment shoot up to nearly 20 percent, the highest of any county in the state. In hard hit Prineville, a town where you're likely to find more cowboy boots than laptops in the local Starbucks, Facebook's investment was welcome news. This past year, the social networking behemoth doubled down on its Prineville plans, announcing that it was more than doubling the size of its High Desert operation. Other tech businesses took notice. In November, it was reported that another hitherto nameless data farm suitor was no less than tech darling, Apple. According to early reports, the maker of the now ubiquitous iPod and iPhone is looking to build a server farm that would be snuggled up near Facebook, creating an unlikely partnership with Silicon Valley that has left Bend leaders shaking their heads in dismay.
It's not what you know, it's who you know. That was the theme of an investigation that plagued newly elected John Kitzhaber for months this year, after it was reported that state officials may have steered an energy consulting contract to his girlfriend, longtime Bend resident Cylvia Hayes. Both Kitzhaber and Hayes were cleared of any wrongdoing, but not before questions arose about Attorney General John Kroger's handling of the matter. Kroger, a fellow democrat, whom some had seen as a future candidate for governor, announced in October that he will not seek re-election. There were other casualties, too, four department of energy employees, including the interim director, were threatened with termination and placed on mandatory leave for months over allegations that they had improperly handled the contact. They were all reinstated as questions mounted over the AG's tactics.