*The following stories were voted as the top 11 of 2009 by the Times' editorial staff. Click the headline to read the story associated with it.
The tragic loss of the Patriot's captain, 36-year-old Matteo Russo, and his father-in-law, John Orlando, 59, came when t Jan. 3. Their loss was not made any easier when it became clearhe 54-foot fishing vessel went down in the early-morning hours of that the U.S. Coast Guard — thanks in part, the agency itself later found, to inexperience within its own chain of command — didn't launch a full search-and-rescue operation for 2 1/2 hours after the first report of the vessel's trouble.
For weeks, residents of East Gloucester had reported the smell of gas in the area around Jeff's Variety. Shortly after 8 a.m. on Jan. 25, the home of Gloucester Police officer Wayne Sargent erupted in a devastating natural gas explosion. The blast blew the front door into the street, drove the heavy, metal cellar bulkhead high into a tree, and damaged nearby homes, too. But Sargent, who was in the basement at the time, survived. He and his neighbors are rebuilding their homes — and their lives.
When the city first ordered residents to cease outdoor water use, officials also ensured residents their water was “safe for drinking.” But on Aug. 21, the state Department of Environmental Protection found otherwise, placing the city, its residents and businesses under a “boil-water” safety order that would carry on for 20 days. No traces of E.coli or other fecal bacteria was ever found, but the crisis cost many businesses and residents thousands of dollars — and is about to cost a lot more for repairs.
The reports grew throughout the year: Coast Guard personnel and other enforcement agents of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were regularly taking hard lines against fishermen over alleged regulatory violations. Then NOAA enforcement tried to shut down the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction over purported wrongdoing that remains tied up in court. Now, the Department of Commerce Inspector General’s Office is doing a probe of its own into the feds’ tactics. Stay tuned.
To its backers, the state’s February approval of the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School represents a step forward toward more innovative and independent education options for the city’s school children. To its opponents, the charter school’s funding needs will deal a severe blow to the rest of the city’s school system. And to Paul Reville, the governor’s appointed education secretary, the approval was a means to advance the governor’s charter school “agenda,” according to a now-infamous e-mail later obtained by the Times.
The September debut of Marshall’s and the ensuing launch of Gloucester’s own Market Basket and neighboring businesses off the Route 128 Extension didn’t simply mark the opening of the city’s biggest-ever retail shopping complex. It also capped an intense political battle that included the city granting developer Sam Park a conditional Tax Increment Financing tax break to bring the project to fruition.
The rise to power of Jane Lubchenco as the new NOAA chief administrator in the nation’s capital was felt in Gloucester and elsewhere through her push for a new regulatory scheme based on fishermen’s “catch shares.” The change was approved by the New England Fishery Management Council for 2010, and remains on target despite questions surrounding the science used to set fishermen’s catch limits, and the feds’ open admission that the change will mean additional job losses for Gloucester and other fishing communities. More than 300 fishermen from New England and beyond demonstrated against the change in Gloucester on Oct. 30, and state and federal lawmakers have taken up the fishermen’s fight. To learn more about what the fishermen are facing, watch our "Fate of the Fishing Industry" video.
A sports story among the top new stories? You bet. The Fishermen won their second Super Bowl title in two years, posted their second perfect record in three years, and capped a 10-year record of 100 wins and just 13 losses. Plus, 20 of the team’s 37 players at the end of the season made the honor roll, reinforcing the team as a source of community pride.
The filming of Adam Sandler’s latest film not only found stars like Sandler and Salma Hayek taking in the St. Peter’s Fiesta and other sights around Cape Ann over the summer, it brought a welcome economic boost for Essex, and for Gloucester as well. On the heels of Sandra Bullock’s 2008 visit to film, “The Proposal,” Sandler’s film firmly restamped Cape Ann as a viable film destination.
With the loss of the Patriot and its crew still a raw wound, Gloucester and its fishing community was stricken again on Oct. 12 when lobsterman Jaime Ortiz fell from the deck of the 39-foot Dominatrix and was lost forever, leaving behind his wife and five children. Taken to heart as a Gloucesterman by the Fishermen’s Wives Association and the community, he was eulogized in a memorial ceremony at the Man at the Wheel statue, destined to be the 5,369th name to be added to its Cenotaph.
On Nov. 22, the Manchester Board of Selectmen rejected a proposal from First Parish to present a Living Nativity scene in front of the church — which also happens to be on the public Town Common. Selectmen cited a desire to not to wade into a potential legal challenge as a reason to just say “no,“ and that didn’t sit well with many residents and local organizations who offered to host the event. In the “all’s well that ends well” tradition, three churches teamed up for the Nativity and hosted a procession to a manger built in front of a private home on Christmas. But the issue to whether such a scene could have been held on the essentially shared Common was never resolved.