This was the year all politics became national. President Trump’s inauguration triggered debates inside city and town halls on immigration and impeachment. Two favorite sons — one a 19th-century author, the other a 20th-century president — were remembered on their birthdays for encouraging civic participation. And in a year of world turmoil, local institutions from museums to downtown shops seemed more precious than ever before.
WOMEN TAKE THE REINS Voters in Newton and Framingham turned to women to serve as mayors in historic elections on Nov. 7. Ruthanne Fuller is the first woman to become mayor in Newton. Yvonne Spicer will become Framingham’s first mayor ever after town residents voted in April to switch to a city form of government. Both are scheduled to take their oaths of office on Jan. 1. And in Brookline, Town Meeting on Nov. 14 voted to rename the Board of Selectmen to Select Board. The change is meant to reflect that women also serve on the board.
PUSHBACK ON POT About a year after Massachusetts voters approved the legalization of recreational pot use, the thorny question of where legal marijuana may be sold is being battled in cities and towns. More than 100 municipalities have already imposed bans or moratoriums on shops, a Globe review has found. Locally, at least seven communities — Milford, Lexington, Weston, Sherborn, Westborough, Southborough, and Medfield — have passed bans on recreational marijuana shops. Massachusetts voters approved a ballot question in November 2016 allowing recreational pot use. Sales are expected to start July 1, 2018.
OFFERING SANCTUARY Since February, at least five Globe West communities have publicly stated protections for immigrants in response to a crackdown by the Trump administration. Newton’s city council, select boards in Brookline and Acton, and Town Meetings in Arlington and Concord have passed similar measures over the past year. A “sanctuary city” is not an official term, but generally refers to a community where local police do not assist federal authorities in enforcing immigration laws except in cases of serious crimes or public safety. Some communities prefer the term “welcoming.”
IMPEACHMENT QUESTION Should Donald Trump be impeached? A small, but growing number of Massachusetts municipalities are calling for a congressional probe of the president. Over the past year, at least 16 communities across the nation — including seven in Massachusetts — have approved nonbinding resolutions urging an investigation into whether sufficient grounds exist to impeach the president. The latest was Weston, on Nov. 28. The resolutions — also passed in Newton and Brookline — call on members of the US House of Representatives to investigate whether Trump through his business interests has violated the Constitution’s foreign and domestic emoluments clauses, along with other federal laws.
BIG BIRTHDAYS The 35th president of the United States was born on May 29, 1917, in his parents’ bedroom at 83 Beals St. in Brookline. On the centennial of John F. Kennedy’s birth, he was remembered outside his early childhood home with music, speeches, and a flyover by US Navy jets. Henry David Thoreau, the author of “Walden” and “Civil Disobedience,” was honored in his hometown of Concord during the bicentennial of his birth on July 12, 1817. Fans flocked to Walden Pond, where Thoreau built a one-room cabin in 1845 to conduct his famed “experiment in simplicity.”
MUSEUM WATCHING Local museums spent 2017 in transition, as Danforth Art found a new home in Framingham, and expansions moved ahead at the Concord Museum and Acton’s Discovery Museum. In May, the Concord Museum broke ground on a $13 million construction and renovation project that will include a new education center. In September, Framingham State University announced a merger with Danforth Art that provides a critical lifeline to the museum. And the expanded, renovated, and fully accessible Discovery Museum is slated to open the weekend of Feb. 3 and 4. The original Children’s Discovery Museum, housed in an 1880s Victorian home, will close permanently. But Bessie the dinosaur will remain.
RETAIL REVIVAL Watertown’s Arsenal Mall is in the midst of a transformation into Arsenal Yards, a mixed-use development 425 residential units, a hotel, restaurants, entertainment, and stores. At the Natick Mall, the space formerly occupied by J.C. Penney is being converted into a 134,000-square-foot Wegmans, which is set to open in April 2018. And Ashland has gone hyperlocal with both the MetroWest Design Center and The Corner Spot, a community gathering place and incubator for pop-up businesses near Town Hall.
MASSIVE BLAZE A 10-alarm fire in July tore through an apartment complex under construction in Waltham, destroying a 264-unit project that had been set to open on Cooper Street in 2018. Officials determined the blaze to be arson and estimated damages at $110 million. The fire highlighted growing concerns over the practice of putting four or five stories of lightweight wood framing above a concrete ground floor. Fire officials said that such tall wooden structures are especially vulnerable to fire during construction — before their sprinkler systems are activated. After the blaze, Waltham city councilors called for tighter state restrictions on the height of wood-frame residential buildings.John Hilliard can be reached at email@example.com.