The News Tribune’s top news stories for 2011, as chosen by our readers and staff.
BUSINESS: Nalley’s Closes
The closure of Nalley’s Fine Foods marked end of an era for Tacoma manufacturing. Founded in 1918 by immigrant Marcus Nalley, the operation employed as many as 700 at its height and produced everything from pickles to potato chips. In recent years, the Tacoma facility had changed hands multiple times and down-sized. Birds Eye Foods closed the plant in June, displacing about 160 workers. Read the story.
CRIME: Copkiller’s Accomplice Convicted
Dorcus Allen was convicted of being Maurice Clemmons’ getaway driver, and sentenced to 420 years. The case brought some closure to 2009’s biggest story: the shooting of four Lakewood police officers and subsequent manhunt that ended in Clemmons’ death. Read the story.
MILITARY: ‘Kill Team’ on Trial
A 2010 war crimes investigation consumed much of the past year at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where prosecutors convicted four local Stryker soldiers of murdering three innocent Afghan men for fun during their last deployment. Seven more soldiers received lesser punishment for crimes including drug use and the assault of a private. “Kill team” ringleader, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, was sentenced to life in prison in November for instigating the killings. One more trial is scheduled to take place in January. Read the story.
CRIME: Justice for Craigslist Killers
Justice was served in the 2010 murder of Edgewood resident Jim Sanders, a home-invasion killing that started with a Craigslist ad. Kiyoshi Higashi, Clabon Terrel Berniard, Amanda Knight and Joshua N. Reese were tried, convicted and sentenced to long prison terms. Read the story.
GOVERNMENT: Washam Survives Recall Attempt
The signature drive to recall embattled Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam fell 1,400 signatures short of the 65,500 needed to force a vote. Detractors accused Washam of retaliating against his employees, wasting government resources, abusing his power, hindering investigations and violating his oath of office. But the county still faces claims for damages filed by current and former Washam employees. Washam is up for reelection in 2012. Read the story.
POLITICS: Liquor Privatization Passes
Washington voters approved Initiative 1183, which ended state control of liquor sales. After failing at the polls in 2010, another attempt to end overwhelmingly passed in November. The primary sponsor, Costco Wholesale, put up a record $22 million to pass the measure. Read the story.
MILITARY: Homecoming for Troops
After nearly eight years of war, the last large group of Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers came from home Iraq in early December. The base south of Tacoma became a major staging area for the war, deploying more than 140,000 soldiers and airmen over the past decade. Soldiers from the South Sound fought in the war’s bloodiest days, but the ones who last served in Iraq saw a relatively stable country. The base and the Northwest paid a high price for that progress. The war took the lives of 293 service members from Lewis-McChord and Washington state. Read the story.
EDUCATION: Tacoma Teachers Strike
The Tacoma Education Association waged a strike for eight days shortly after the beginning of school in September. Striking teachers took to the streets, while the union and school district fought in court and at the bargaining table. The two sides settled after Gov. Chris Gregoire intervened.
COURTS: Amanda freed
In an internationally watched media soap opera, Italian courts freed former University of Washington student Amanda Knox, whose murder conviction was overturned after she served four years in prison. She returned home to Seattle in October after being acquitted. Read the story.
ECONOMY – No recess from recession
The continuing economic doldrums hit schools, local and state governments. State lawmakers were called back into special session twice to deal with deteriorating budget forecasts. Tacoma district shuttered two elementary schools. The budget crisis hit the City of Tacoma, leading to a proposal of mass layoffs of police and fire employees. Pierce Transit slashed bus services after voters turned down tax proposal.