Tahlequah Daily Press

January 2, 2013

2012 a mixed bag

Local officials and residents weigh in on what they liked best, and hated most, about the past year.

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — This past year included a wide scope of activity like the much-heated Presidential race, the continued frenzied obsession with smartphone technology, and the capture and death of the world’s most-wanted terrorist.

No matter the high or low point of 2012, it was a year many will remember for something or someone that made news around the globe  – either for its impact on the medical world, politics or the social life that has evolved into a highly digitized and constantly connected existence. The Daily Press spoke to some local folks to get their thoughts on what they viewed as a high or low point of 2012.

Northeastern State University President Dr. Steve Turner went the way of a David Letterman-like Top 10 list that included both the positive and negative moments of the year, in no particular order.

“Here is my list of 10 that includes both,” he said. “Embassy attack in Benghazi,  financial collapse in Greece, school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, Joe Paterno’s death and Penn State, election of the president of the United States, reduction of troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Oklahoma legislature’s decision not to reduce income tax, NSU’s groundbreaking for the $14.4 million multi-purpose event center, mayor and city council of Tahlequah’s support of sales tax vote, and Cherokee Nation efforts to provide new housing and better health care.”

For former Sen. Jim Wilson, the Supreme Court approval of the Affordable Care Act is “probably the most significant and best development of the year.”

“I am fully aware of significant resistance to the Affordable Care Act in Oklahoma, but I’m also aware that U.S. presidents, both Republican and Democrat, have been trying to improve access to health care for the masses since Teddy Roosevelt in the first decade of the 1900s,” he said. “Citizens in every other industrialized country are getting a better product for half the cost, giving them an economic development advantage, higher wages and a better quality of life.”

The worst singular events have to be the monthly mass shootings, he said.

“We were at risk of becoming anesthetized, even accepting the violence as societal, until the devastation in Newtown, Conn.,” he said. “Hopefully, we will never accept such an atrocity as unavoidable. The worst development for society in general has been the inability of politicians to work together for the benefit of their constituents. Neither party is without fault. Being against everything is not statesmanship. Being against something merely because the other party is for it is not thoughtful. The political climate has become more toxic over the past year with the continued inability to compromise. Voters deserve better.”

And for Michael Stopp, Oklahoma high school student-athletes deserve better, as his noted low point was the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association’s handling of the Sequoyah School football players found to be ineligible due to attending summer camps paid for by the school. This cost the players nine victories, and a chance at winning a state title.

“I was very disheartened by the OSSAA’s handling of it, and how they went after the players. They didn’t know any better. It was the coaches,” he said.

“If you want to penalize the school and coaches, that makes complete sense. They broke the rules, but the kids didn’t know any better. It was their senior year for some of them. It was completely unfortunate. I was disappointed in the way the state handled that. If there’s a low point in sports this year, that was a low point.”

Waking up when the Mayan calendar suggested otherwise is Stopp’s brightest memory of 2012.

“The high point of the year was Dec. 22 came, and we were all here,” he said.

Josh Hutchins’ low point connected to the lives lost and forever altered by Mother Nature and human-born tragedy.

“My low point would be the fact that no child in the next decade will ever be named Sandy, in lieu of the hurricane and the school shooting,” he said.

“That name might even be completely abolished from baby-name books.”

Hutchins noted positive fiscal effects experienced in his paper-recycling business recently as a high point.

“Paper prices went up three months straight at the end of the year,” he said. “That’s [a highlight] because the first nine months was quite the opposite.”