The big news in the North Bay this year, if you had to pick one story? Tough call.
Natural phenomenon ruled the above-the-fold headline landscape, or whatever remains of it, and you have to start with the Aug. 25 South Napa Earthquake. That thing shook a 6.1 on the Richter, made national headlines, and the New Yorker even sent a writer to Napa for a predictably boring report about how awful it was. Losing all that wine, that is.
Meanwhile, the Napa jail got hit pretty bad, numerous businesses got hammered, and all told, about $1 billion in damages was assessed. People in Napa are just now getting on the good foot with Small Business Administration loans and other stand-up efforts, even if they haven't yet re-upped their New Yorker subscriptions. (A Bohemian sub is where it's at.)
Verdict on the quake: not the big one, but kind of a big one. Stay vigilant. Check your batteries and make sure you got plenty of Lagunitas at the ready, just in case.
Meanwhile, it rained quite a bit in December in the North Bay. But it didn't rain much this year. The rain was therefore newsworthy, as was this bit of news: If it rains too much, too fast, the Army Corps of Engineers has to drain reservoirs in Sonoma and Mendocino counties so dams don't get over-flooded. They did it in 2012 after big December rains, but nobody figured on two more years of drought. Like the man says: D'oh!
The blessed bud may be California's number-one cash crop, but Gov. Jerry Brown would rather you hit the frack pipe to save the state's economy, not to mention his legacy-humping ambitions. Four more years? You got 'em, Guv. How about four more dabs in return?
Cannabis news in the North Bay was dominated by the December Emerald Cup at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. Verdict: it was fun.
Less fun were the idiots who made the local news after they blew themselves up trying to extract THC for wax dabs using the dumb and dangerous butane-extraction method.
Meanwhile, state legislators tried, and failed, to come up with language this year that would encode statewide protocols for medical cannabis dispensaries, in business here since 1996.
That did not happen, and the bill bit the dust in a late-game flurry of Tough on Crime language.That's what happens when you ask the state's police chiefs to write a cannabis bill that's supposed to be underpinned by empathy over enforcement. They suck at it, and they loaded the bill with all sorts of last-second hate for those who've been working in the illicit pot economy and would like to come out from the shadows into the medi-marijuana light.
So now all eyes are on 2016's expected legalization referendum.
The state did make strides in the department of criminal justice this year. Lawmakers passed and Brown signed a law that decriminalized numerous drug-related, nonviolent crimes—and in doing so, carved space for lawmakers interested in scampering across the no-man's-land that is the war on drugs.
It would be cool if Gov. Brown could lead the charge in 2016, with a blazing bong in hand. Hey, it's not like prominent California Democrats haven't already been charging through the streets, loaded down with elixirs and marching to their destiny, with impassioned intent. Care for a couple of Plinys?
So, what else? Marin County continued its long battle over this quaint concept of "affordable housing." The Marin mandarins meanwhile took a cue from Sonoma County and told people it was OK to live in their cars. Given the recent and steep decline in gasoline prices, it's fair to say that living in your car is what they're talking about when they talk about "affordable housing" in hyper-monied Marin. Sort of like the way ketchup can be a vegetable..
The North Bay also made a "contribution" of sorts to the national freak-out over policing. Young Andy Lopez was killed by a Sonoma sheriff's deputy in late 2013, after he was spotted carrying a gun that turned out to be a toy rifle with its "safety" tip cut off. The officer involved in the shooting wasn't charged, after DA Jill Ravitch spent most of the year reviewing the incident.
Man, we'd love to get on the phone with Robin Williams and get his take on the year in North Bay news. But Williams is unfortunately part of the not-so-great-news checklist. He took his life on Aug. 1. Williams was a funny man with a headful of worry, and his death jolted harder even than the Napa quake. Now he's gone, just like that.