Needham cheered on an Olympic gold medalist, Brookline banned plastic bags, and communities everywhere confronted an onslaught of furry and feathered residents -- from hungry coyotes to emboldened wild turkeys. We take a look back at some of your favorite local stories from 2012. By Lisa Kocian, Globe staff
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One minute we’re saving them, the next minute we’re hunting them. An owl caught in a Weston backyard soccer net was rehabbed and released in August, a bear met a tranquilizer dart while touring Brookline in June, and in October Belmont began training volunteers how to “haze” aggressive coyotes with shouts, projectiles, and water. But when Weston launched a bow-hunting season for deer on town land this fall, opponents cried foul.
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When it comes to celebrity watching, we like to elevate politicians and athletes alongside our exports to Hollywood. Gymnast Aly Raisman basked in the spotlight as hometown hero in Needham and beyond with her gold-medal performance. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney put Belmont on the map when the former governor came home with his wife, Ann, to vote. And local residents embraced Joseph P. Kennedy III, whose election to Congress returned the storied family name to national politics.
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With smart boards and solar panels, new high schools opened in Natick, Wayland and Wellesley (pictured). Natick’s athletic teams also got a new name, the Red Hawks, replacing the short-lived Red and Blue as a substitute for the controversial Redmen name. Plans to build a new Concord-Carlisle High School stalled when the state suspended funding, saying the project had ballooned past its original budget and scope. The state later said it would reinstate its contribution— but only if the school district met a list of conditions.
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It was the year of the embattled superintendent, as top school administrators in Hopkinton, Marlborough, and Wellesley stepped down. The Wellesley system was further unsettled when the departing superintendent, Bella Wong (pictured), fired its business manager. But perhaps the biggest flap in local leadership came in Newton, where Police Chief Matthew Cummings was fired after he was accused of making boorish comments to three female employees in his department.
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New developments are changing the local landscape. New England Studios broke ground on the Devens property for a $30-million TV and film production complex that it envisions as a magnet for projects being made in Massachusetts. “The Street,” formerly known as the Chestnut Hill Shopping Center, is welcoming several new tenants, including an upscale movie theater, as part of a $50 million revamp. And the old Polaroid property (pictured) in Waltham is being blasted — much to the consternation of neighbors feeling the earth move — to make way for a major retail and office complex.
Ted S. Warren
Is ganja coming to a neighborhood near you? As soon as Bay State voters legalized medical marijuana last month, area cities and towns began pondering whether they could restrict pot dispensaries within their boundaries. On another health front, parents, physicians, and coaches debated whether any equipment can protect young athletes against head injuries (the short answer: maybe). And communities like Westborough argued over large solar-panel arrays, trying to balance “go green” enthusiasm with aesthetic concerns.
We seemed to be struggling with our Puritan heritage, thinking up new bans and undoing others. Brookline outlawed plastic bags and polystyrene food and beverage containers, while Concord barred the sale of single-serving plastic water bottles. Concord voters also narrowly rejected a bylaw regulating wandering cats. Needham loosened up on booze, voting overwhelmingly in November to allow the retail sale of alcohol. And Arlington decided to keep its seasonal ban on gas-powered leaf blowers for now, despite a concerted effort to bring back the buzz.