Year in Review – Staff column: Appreciating 2012, considering 2013
Editor reflects on year gone by
The year of 2012 went much too quickly, but held some new experiences that I didn’t foresee.
I had never met a state governor before, nor other such government leaders.
But in January, I had the pleasure of covering a town hall meeting at Irondale High School in New Brighton to discuss the future of education and the school’s Early College High School program. Featured speakers at the meeting included Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius (whom I had met once before at Fridley High School), U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Many other elected officials and community leaders attended as well.
Later in the year, I was surprised again when none other than Erin Brockovich came to Fridley in June for a town hall meeting. She and a member of her research team, Bob Bowcock, gave an update on their research into Fridley’s superfund sites’ pollution, specifically considering water contamination issues.
Having never seen the movie named after her, I wasn’t star struck to meet Brockovich, but her name was far from foreign. However, student Mikayla Barondeau, who took an internship with the Sun Newspapers over the summer, was excited for a chance to meet Brockovich and hear what she had to say at the meeting.
Barondeau was another surprise for our newsroom. While many Sun Newspaper editors offer internships, the Sun-Focus doesn’t frequently open up the opportunity. This year, a Sun Newspapers managing editor opened the opportunity and Barondeau assisted two sister papers in our joint newsroom.
She took and edited pictures, conducted interviews, wrote and edited stories for the Sun-Focus and Press papers. This summer, she handled most of the coverage of the Fridley ‘49er Days, allowing me to take a year off from those photo opportunities. As much as I enjoy the festival and its various events, it was certainly nice to have the weekend off.
Looking into 2013
As my thoughts roll through winter and into 2013, my crystal ball is unsurprisingly foggy.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has plans for a process of forming community action groups in Fridley.
The groups will meeting regularly to discuss environmental studies and cleanup efforts, helping to facilitate communications between the community and the EPA and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The EPA staff said they intend to hold an action group workshop for Fridley residents in late January or early February 2013 (tentatively Jan. 30).
But what has been polluted is polluted, and I think it’s hard to turn back the clock now. Will this new program from the EPA in Fridley bring residents satisfaction? Will it answer their questions? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see if it pans out.
The coming year will bring a new Fridley city manager, who will have to fill the shoes of the city’s longest-running city manager, Bill Burns. Burns retired as of Dec. 31, ending his about 24-year career with Fridley.
What will the new city manager bring to the city? Stay tuned in – city staff projects the next city manager will be hired around April or May.
Approaching summer months, my thoughts go back to Fridley ‘49er Days, the festival that was said to be going through great financial difficulties. Despite rumors otherwise, Fridley staff anticipate the festival to continue in 2013, but recognize a great need for more volunteers – for early planning stages, for sponsoring the event and helping on the days of the festival – to make sure it runs smoothly.
I expect to be taking pictures at the festival this summer, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see changes in activities or location, for example.
The prospects for the former Columbia Arena, however, seem uncertain. The indoor ice rink, constructed in 1968, has been vacant since 2006 and has recently seen unfruitful redevelopment plans in 2009 (senior living facility and Fridley Medical Center) and 2010 (senior living facility).
The latest plan came up at a Fridley council meeting in October 2012 (remodel the existing building to become a senior living facility). Time will tell if the latest proposal will come to fruition.
But there is good news for the newspaper.
While 2012 brought a change in ownership from American Community Newspapers to ECM Publishers, as well as a change in and redesign of our websites, 2013 will bring a redesign of our actual papers.
As indicated by our ads seen in the paper already, Sun Newspapers will be switching from its tabloid size to broadsheet, with about 22-inch tall sheets. If you want to get a feel for that, take this open newspaper and turn it 90 degrees; then flip open a page, left to right, to get a view of the approximate dimensions of the new design, coming later in January.
With changes come challenges, and we will have some of those in our newsroom as well. Still, we look forward to bringing our readers a newly designed paper for the new year.
Here’s to 2013 and everything it will bring.