Our Chicago theater resolutions for 2020, and what happened to 2019′s – Chicago Tribune

Our Chicago theater resolutions for 2020, and what happened to 2019′s – Chicago Tribune

4. That Chicago theater better embraces its most loyal and appreciative audience: retirees. These are the folks who buy the most theater tickets, write the most checks at end-of-year donation time, and care the most about this city’s cultural institutions. They volunteer, usher and support whole-heartedly and their views and tastes deserve far more respect than they often enjoy. Without them, the Chicago theater simply would not exist in this, or any other, year.


What were the decade’s most defining moments for Centre County? Here’s what you thought – Centre Daily Times

The 2010s, a decade marked by the aftermath of the 2008 economic recession, the 2016 election and the rise of technology and social media, are finally coming to a close.

Beyond the ever-divisive national discourse, we asked readers what moments most defined the past decade in Centre County. More than 900 readers voted in an online poll, with answers ranging from the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal in 2011 and its fallout to the first mass shooting in State College, the police shooting of 29-year-old Osaze Osagie and mental health system reforms and the legacy of the late Josiah Viera, honorary Spikes coach. One reader even gave a shoutout to the first KFC to open in State College in almost a decade.

Changing downtowns and Penn State scandals joined major road projects like Atherton Street and U.S. Route 322 construction in the Seven Mountains in the county’s top moments. Here’s a look at some of the top events that changed the face of Centre County over the past decade.

Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal and fallout for Penn State

Former Centre Daily Times reporter Sara Ganim broke the story in March 2011 that former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was being investigated by a grand jury for ongoing sexual abuse of a Clinton County boy, whom he had met through his charity the Second Mile. Over the next few months, the grand jury heard stories from several more victims. By Nov. 5, 2011, Sandusky was indicted and arrested on felony charges of sex crimes against minors.

The fallout was swift. Top Penn State officials — athletic director Tim Curley and senior vice president Gary Schultz — resigned and were charged with making false statements and failing to report the abuse of a child. They later pleaded guilty to child endangerment charges and were sentenced to six months to two years in prison.

Instead of resigning as planned, head football coach Joe Paterno was fired by the board of trustees, along with President Graham Spanier. Penn State students rioted in the streets over the beloved coach’s firing. Paterno died several months later after a battle with lung cancer. Paterno’s statue was removed in July 2012 from the front of Beaver Stadium by then-president Rodney Erickson, who said it was a “source of division.”

By the time Sandusky’s case went to trial in June, the story was making national headlines and reporters from other state and national outlets swarmed the area. After hearing testimony from several of Sandusky’s victims, witness Mike McQueary, Dottie Sandusky and several character witnesses for Sandusky, the jury found Sandusky guilty of 45 out of 48 counts of sexual abuse and a judge sentenced him to 30-60 years in prison.

A line of people wait to get into the courthouse Thursday, June 21, 2012, for the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse trial, at the Centre County Courthouse, in Bellefonte.

Spanier was convicted of child endangerment in 2017 but had his conviction thrown out by a federal judge in April 2019. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro filed an appeal in May on Spanier’s overturned conviction that is still pending.

In July 2012, the NCAA levied sanctions on Penn State’s football program, including a four-year bowl ban, a $60 million fine to fund anti-child abuse efforts, the revocation of 112 wins, erasing Paterno’s status as the coach with the most wins and a temporary reduction in football scholarships. Some of those sanctions ended in 2015 after the NCAA settled a lawsuit with Penn State to restore Paterno’s wins and his winning coach status, though the $60 million fine remained.

Hazing death of Timothy Piazza

In February 2017, Penn State was thrust into the national spotlight again when 19-year-old student Timothy Piazza died after a hazing ritual at Beta Theta Pi fraternity in which he consumed 18 drinks in 82 minutes.

Members of the fraternity left Piazza, a New Jersey native, on a couch after a 15-foot fall down a set of basement steps and waited almost 12 hours to call 911. Piazza was flown to Hershey Medical Center, where he died the next day from his injuries, which included a collapsed lung, lacerated spleen and a fractured skull.

After a State College police investigation and a grand jury report, 28 of Piazza’s former fraternity brothers were charged — 17 of which have pleaded guilty. Six others entered a program designed for first-time, nonviolent offenders that could leave them without a criminal record. The fraternity’s former house manager, the first Beta Theta Pi fraternity member to be convicted by a jury, was sentenced to two years of probation, 100 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine in August.

Jim and Evelyn Piazza walk toward the Courthouse Annex for former Beta Theta Pi fraternity member Ryan Burke’s sentencing on Tuesday, July 31, 2018 in Bellefonte. Phoebe Sheehan Centre Daily Times, file

Penn State swiftly banned Beta Theta Pi and made sweeping changes to its Greek life system, including harsher penalties for hazing and underage drinking.

The Timothy J. Piazza anti-hazing bill — introduced by state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Benner Township — was signed into law in October. The law elevated hazing that results in death or serious injury to a felony. It was previously a misdemeanor. The law also requires secondary schools and higher education institutions to publish biannual reports on hazing violations. Penn State’s inaugural report found 31 hazing violations between 2013 and 2018.

Penn State announced in January 2019 it would pledge up to $5 million toward the establishment of a national, multidisciplinary research center to study Greek life. The Timothy J. Piazza Center for Fraternity and Sorority Research and Reform is set to help universities develop and refine Greek initiatives using research.

High-rises come to State College

Over the past decade, the borough of State College saw an enormous shift in the character of downtown as high-rise mixed use buildings touting luxury apartments have cropped up.

After the 2013 borough master plan passed with zoning in the Signature Development Area allowing for buildings up to 145 feet if they included retail on the first two levels, developers took advantage of that to build mixed-use high rise buildings. With a student housing shortage in the borough, said Downtown State College Improvement District Director Rob Schmidt, “this boom here was inevitable. The borough had nowhere to build but up, otherwise all the student housing would have been built elsewhere.”

Over the past four years, five new high-rise apartment and mixed-use buildings have gone up in State College — the 12-story Fraser Centre in 2016, the 12-story Metropolitan at 412 W. College Ave. in 2017, the 12-story mixed-use building The Rise at 532 E. College Ave. in 2018, the seven-story mixed-use building The Edge at 254 E. Beaver Ave. in fall 2018 and The Bellaire at 711 Bellaire St. in August.

The Fraser Center on the corner of Beaver Avenue and Fraser Street. Abby Drey [email protected]

Next fall, those buildings will be joined by The Standard — formerly The Residences — on West College Avenue across the street from the Metropolitan, and Here State College, which is being constructed on the site of the former Garner Street parking lot. At the corner of East Beaver Avenue and South Pugh Street, the seven-story Pugh Centre is under construction with an expected completion date of August 2020.

Chicago-based developer Core Spaces submitted plans in November to demolish four buildings on the 400 block of East College Avenue and build a 12-story mixed-use building with commercial space on the first two floors and luxury apartments above.

In late August, the historic Glennland Building was acquired by the same Ardmore-based developer that developed the Fraser Centre, Scholar Hotel Group. The developer plans to redesign the mixed-use building into a high-end, extended stay hotel.

Whether you’re a fan of the high-rises or think they are taking away the charm of State College, said Schmidt, “change is inevitable.”

NewApartments 1
Construction at The Rise, one of several high-rise apartment buildings in State College, in 2019. Abby Drey Centre Daily Times, file

“This is not unique to State College. We need to be out in front of it and not simply react to it, but there needs to be a balance,” he said. “Sustaining the existing businesses and making downtown attract new businesses is a challenge everywhere. When we hosted the International Town & Gown Conference this year, the comments about downtown were incredibly positive. It’s a reminder that we are in better shape than most big university towns.”

Bellefonte revitalization after Hotel Do De and Garman Theatre Fire

A devastating 2012 fire that gutted two historic buildings in Bellefonte — the Hotel Do De and Garman Theatre — hit the borough hard as it sought to recover from earlier fires that destroyed the Cadillac House in 2009, the Bush House in 2006 and the Bellefonte Academy in 2004.

A fireman sprays water on the blaze inside the Do De Hotel building, along East High Street, in Bellefonte in 2012. Centre Daily Times

What followed was a yearslong battle to stop demolition of the historic theater building, the creation of a fire protection task force and improvements to fire safety in the Victorian borough.

The destruction those fires brought set the historically-minded borough on a path to rebuilding through economic development. After the fires, developers rebuilt the Garman Theatre on High Street and Cadillac House on the corner of Bishop Street and Allegheny Street as affordable housing complexes with 32 units combined. With the Garman Theatre and Hotel Do De properties demolished, Centre County greenlit the Temple Court project, which connected the Centre County Courthouse Annex with the Temple Court building on the corner of High Street and Allegheny Street.

Bellefonte’s rebirth after the fires signified times were changing for the town. In 2016, the borough unveiled its finished waterfront walkway on the banks of Spring Creek along Water Street. After several unsuccessful sales agreements, two brothers closed on the sale of the long-empty Gamble Mill last June. This month, developers officially closed on the waterfront property between High and Lamb streets, with plans to build a boutique hotel, retail space, a parking garage, restaurant and apartments.

Opioid epidemic hits Centre County

When the body of 35-year-old Corinne Pena — dead of an apparent heroin overdose — was found dumped on the side of a rural Ferguson Township road in 2016, the opioid epidemic could no longer ravage the county in private.

Drug overdoses, mostly related to opioids, accounted for 102 deaths in Centre County between 2013 and 2018. 2018 was the deadliest drug year for the county on record, with 22 drug overdose deaths.

Opioids killed 102 people in Centre County between 2013 and 2018. File photo

But the end of 2019 brings hope, with cautious optimism. The county is on pace to make 2019 the year with the fewest drug overdose deaths — in September, it counted two overdose deaths, though the District Attorney’s Office reported three drug overdose deaths clustered in one week this month.

Opioids were considered the state’s “top threat” this decade, according to a 2015 report released by the Pennsylvania State Coroners Association. A Drug Enforcement Agency database obtained by the Washington Post found more than 20 million pain pills were shipped into Centre County from 2006 to 2012, likely exacerbating the crisis.

Besides the epidemic’s death toll, the opioid crisis has led to more grandparents caring for grandchildren, more drug delivery resulting in death convictions and reforms in how hospitals and doctors offices prescribe pain medication.

In addition, it’s now standard for first responders to be equipped with the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone (also referred to as Narcan) and to have drug take-back boxes around the county to encourage people to get rid of their old prescriptions.


2019 in review: It was a stormy one … here, there and everywhere – Abilene Reporter-News

2019 in review: It was a stormy one … here, there and everywhere – Abilene Reporter-News

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Without even considering what went on in Washington, D.C., the past 12 months certainly can be called stormy.

Clouds gathered and lightning flashed at City Hall in January, then winds whipped in mid-May. We mean really whipped, as Abilene was struck by an EF-2 tornado.

And while gunfire ripped through the American consciousness, at an El Paso Walmart and in the streets of Midland and Odessa, this past summer, we remember those killed — including Brownwood’s Kameron Karltess Brown — and injured, namely Abilene’s Larry Shores and Brownwood’s Timmothy Hardaway.

Stormy? Negative comments to a “rough cut” of the movie “Brother’s Keeper” flooded the city. The film did not depict Abilene High School’s 2009 state championship football season as many had expected.

There were some stormy moments between city of Abilene and Taylor County officials regarding tax breaks for a new downtown hotel.

It continued raining on Wylie football much of the fall, while the Cooper Cougars stormed three rounds deep into the playoffs. There was a storm of protest after No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor kicked Hardin-Simmons out of its bid for the playoffs with a field goal as time expired. 

The city stopped accepting plastics and glass as recyclable items, whetting some protest.

And for “Star Wars” fans everywhere, the year ended with stormtroopers and more returning to the big screen with the opening of “The Rise of Skywalker.”

Appropriately enough, local deejay Terri Knight (a.k.a. The Queen) sang “Stormy Monday” with visiting blues guitarist Carvin Jones accompanying her at the Paramount Theatre.

The stormy national political scene, which may hit Category 5 hurricane status in 2020, blew into town. At times, flags, T-shirts and other gear in support of President Donald Trump were seen placed strategically about town under tents and sales looked brisk. Trump ball caps were worn about town, from Meals on Wheels to even the performance of “Messiah.”

We did not see any Stormy Daniels memorabilia for sale.

Abilenians were invested in national issues, marching and/or assembling to promote awareness of human trafficking, civil rights and LGBTQ issues. There also was a march to commemorate a 1969 walkout by Hispanic students at Abilene High School to protest inequality.

The spring election season took shape, with several contested races. We’ll have two rematches, as former Sheriff Les Bruce takes on the man who ousted him from office, current Sheriff Ricky Bishop. There also is a third candidate in the race.

And for House District 71, two-term Republican state Rep. Stan Lambert again will face Democrat Sam Hatton. 

Lambert, in November 2018, won 70 percent of the vote against Hatton.

Earlier in the year, Lambert made a list, but not the one compiled by Santa Claus. He allegedly was one of 10 Texas House Republicans named by Speaker Dennis Bonnen as susceptible to defeat and needing to go. When word got out and that the list was checked more than twice, Bonnen was in trouble. He eventually chose not to seek re-election to House District 25.

It was also a year of cheers and beers. Abilene Christian University pulled a double-dip by landing both its men’s and women’s basketball teams in the NCAA Tournament, and March Madness ensued.

More: Abilene Christian basketball teams turn the page after historical seasons

Beer stayed in the news, with the opening of Six Brothers Brewery and The Local, both downtown, and work beginning on the new location of Sockdolager Brewing Company at the former Matera Paper Company site, which will be known as Matera Gardens and be an event venue.

More: Council approves $83,500 in incentives for former Matera Paper Building site

The annual Abilene Beer Summit again was well attended at what could be called FrontBeer Texas!

Meanwhile, word was out that Belt Buckle Distillery would open in 2020, offering bourbon whisky.

More: Is opening an Abilene distillery a whisky business?

New restaurants included Cheddars and Grumps Burgers.

Mainline churches continue to struggle with aging, waning congregations. First Christian, one of the four “downtown churches,” now is meeting at the Enterprise Building. It sold its site to neighboring First Baptist, which had grand expansion plans.

Other congregations announced merger plans, either sharing a site or uniting.

Potholes took a back seat to the forever paving of South First Street, which was a bumpy mess for months. The smooth sailing after work was done reminded residents of how bad other streets are in town.

Abilene police had a busy year, including a bank robbery and moving to new headquarters. That leaves the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office pondering whether to fix the aging Law Enforcement Center shared with police or go on patrol for a new site.

At year’s end, the fate of the dilapidated former jail was on parole, but it is likely headed toward demolition.

More: Taylor County commissioners taking bids on asbestos abatement, demolition for old Jail

A highlight of 2019 was more than 12,000 attending the ninth Outlaws & Legends Music Festival. Kris Kristofferson was the headliner. For the 10th anniversary show in three months, Willie Nelson will be on the road again to Abilene.

Photo Gallery: Back at the Back Porch of Texas, 2019

Nelson is 86, prompting some to wonder, “Willie make it?” 

We absolutely believe he will, so no blue eyes crying in the rain, people.

Speaking of Luckenbach, here’s our review of the top 10 news stories from 2019:

10: City builds, tears down

The former Kmart site in west Abilene became Stanmart. Or Lawmart. The nicknames quickly came.

The Abilene Police Department, once housed at City Hall and then at a former department store in south downtown, moved to the home of the national chain. The local store closed in December 2016.

Joining the move were the city’s water customer office, Municipal Court and Child Advocacy Center. The move was met with more good news – there’s plenty of free parking.

More: ‘Lawmart’: Abilene Police Department’s new headquarters offers opportunity to ‘start anew’

The former water office at the corner of Cypress and North Sixth streets was demolished, creating an entirely empty city block where it is hoped a convention-style hotel will be built.

Additionally, a chain-link fence was put around Civic Plaza Hotel downtown. Regarded as an eyesore with a history of criminal activity, the former downtown hotel resides between the Abilene Convention Center and City Hall. It won’t much longer, due for demolition in 2020 as the efforts continue to spruce up the city’s central business district.

9: Here’s looking at you, Virginia and Robert

Abilene lost two pillars of the community in 2019.

Dr. Virginia Connally died in March, shy of her 107th birthday. For more than a century of good health, the good doctor should be honored.

She also was Abilene’s first female physician. So there’s that bit of history.

More: Abilene’s Virginia Connally remembered with love and respect

Most importantly, to her and others, however, was her dedication to worldwide mission efforts. The Connally Missions Center at Hardin-Simmons is named for her. A gift from her and her husband, Ed, made that possible.

She was remembered as an avid reader and someone who made sure others were encouraged in life.

In December, the city lost its expert on movies, Robert Holladay.

His decades of teaching at both Cooper High School and McMurry University was noted, as well as dedication to family. But most Abilenians knew him as “the guy who talked before movies” at the Paramount Theatre, where he served faithfully as its classic film director. 

More: Robert Holladay, Paramount Theatre champion and retired Cooper High teacher, dies at 79

It’s not always a nice world out there, but Holladay gravitated toward films that celebrated niceness. He enjoyed traveling, the opera and preserving local history.

Connally and Holladay both provided models of living life and serving others that will be examples for years to come.

8: New CPS court

It’s sad that Abilene needs two courts charged with child protection.

With the 326th District Court, Taylor County’s family court, overburdened, the state OKed the addition of a new court. April Propst, formerly on staff in the 326th, was named associate judge for the new court.

She will preside over child protection cases filed by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Her appointment is good for four years.

More: Taylor County’s new Child Protection Court to ease lengthy case load

The primary advantage of the new court, she said, will be to free 326th Judge Paul Rotenberry to handle the large number of private cases.

Drug abuse continues to be the fuel that ignites family issues. Methamphetamine use is the biggest part of that.

Until that is resolved, court cases will mount and the county now has two courts to more quickly address cases.

The good news, as it is, was tempered by news that Rotenberry had a medical incident while exercising and fell. He temporarily was absent for court and was outfitted with a defibrillator.

More: Rotenberry family says ailing judge has had ‘excellent recovery so far’

7. O, ‘Brother’s Keeper,’ where art thou?

There was much excitement ahead of the local premiere of “Brother’s Keeper,” a movie about the 2009 state championship football team at Abilene High School.

What a way to remember the unbeaten season 10 years later.

The anticipation was high. Film crews had been in town, the cast included Laurence Fishburne as beloved late barbecuer Harold Christian and Milo Gibson as the team’s chaplain, Chad Mitchell. The movie title was taken form the 2010 book by local author Al Pickett, with Mitchell. 

Hollywood hopefuls filled the stands at Shotwell Stadium for game simulation shooting. Local merchants and others ponied up to be seen in the movie.

Former players and coaches, fans and community members arrived at the Convention Center in May for dinner, photo ops and a showing of what was being called a “rough cut.”

Boy, was it rough. The movie was not a season retrospective, as most envisioned, but a study of that fall from the perspective of key players, coaches and Mitchell. Former AHS coach Steve Warren was in attendance, and did not dispute how that was portrayed.

But it wasn’t the feel-good movie that was expected. Commenters said the film made Abilene look bad and sad. Others questioned the lack of football action. 

More of that was coming, movie officials promised.

But a nationwide launch in the fall never happened, and the year closed with some wondering if it ever will be released.

And some of those hoped it would not.

6: Downtown: The lights are much brighter there

Much of the focus in 2019 was on downtown Abilene.

Construction was everywhere.

In contrast to the demolition to the city water services building and impending leveling of Civic Plaza, the remodeling of two buildings began.

The former Busch Jewelers now is home to The Local, which specializes in tacos and drinks. 

One block south and east, the three-story Motis Building was getting a dramatic face-lift. Scaffolding covered the street-side exterior, as bricks were removed. It will be home to Grain Theory, a local brewery, and other businesses.

More: Commercial construction grows in Abilene in 2019

Abilene already had the Back Porch of Texas. Now it has the Front Porch Coffee Company and Bakery on North Second Street.

The old Cotton Exchange, with its roof caved in, has been purchased. Its new purpose will be to offer retail and office space with a central courtyard.

The purchaser was Charlie Wolfe, who also has turned a former corner commercial space into an event venue (201 Mesquite) and has condominiums in the works at the former Pride Refining Inc. building.

Son Sam opened The Hallows on Pine Street.

5: Madness marches into Abilene

Who doesn’t love March Madness?

When the college basketball season winds up and conference tournaments are settled, attention turns to which team will win men’s and women’s championship.

Texas Tech did something in 2019 that its football team hasn’t done. The Red Raiders made it to the national championship game, losing in overtime to Virginia.

That was big news locally, but bigger news was ACU landing teams in the two tournaments in its first year of eligibility as an NCAA Division I program.

Each won their respective Southland Conference tournament, winning an automatic bid to The Dance. The men played one of the most storied programs in basketball, Kentucky. The women drew No. 1 Baylor, which eventually won the tournament.

More: March Madness: First NCAA Tournament appearance worth the trip for Abilene Christian fans

The teams did not win, which was not unexpected. But to watch the Wildcats on TV, and the school featured in a USA TODAY story, was thrilling.

Smartly, ACU locked up coaches Joe Golding and Julie Goodenough with new contracts. 

The men lost many key players going into the new season, but the women were favored to repeat as Southland champs. They lost just once, at Oklahoma, before Christmas.

4: The B-21 has landed

Abilene’s Dyess Air Force Base will be home to the new generation bomber, the B-21 Raider, which one day will replace the durable B-1B Lancer.

The base also will house the operational test squadron of the new bomber and its weapons training school.

The Air Force assigned training for the B-21 to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota. Ellsworth also is home to B-1s.

The B-1 came to Dyess in 1985. The air base also is home to a fleet of C-130s, providing a dual mission to the Air Force.

More: Air Force chooses Dyess as B-21 test squadron, weapons training site

More: Air Force B-21 announcement ensures Dyess impact on Abilene

During the summer, Dyess got a new commander. Col. Jose “Ed” Sumangil took over for Col. Brandon Parker. It was history meets history, as Parker, the base’s first African-American commander, passed leadership to Sumangil, who was born in the Philippines.

More: Sumangil new commander as Parker exits Dyess Air Force Base, Abilene

The difference in the two men is that Parker had not been to Dyess before he arrived as commander of the 7th Bomb Wing and the base. This is the fourth stop at the West Texas base for Sumangil, who also commands the bomb wing.

In October, Dyess Memorial Park opened near the front gate of the base.

More: Crew of TORQE 62 remembered in sunlit ceremony at Dyess Air Force Base’s Memorial Park

Designed by Mitch Wright, the grandson of longtime local military advocate “Dub” Wright, the space honors 79 fallen airmen. The design features sunlight illuminating the time of day when the tragedies occurred.

The dedication of the park was attended by family members of many of the deceased.

More: By dawn’s early light: Deployment is a reality of military life

3: Hotel Transformania

Not all the details have been worked out, and some questioned how many of those there are, but a convention-style hotel is on the way to downtown Abilene.

It will have the DoubleTree brand.

The total price tag was set at $66.7 million, with the city chipping in $23.1 million for the convention center component of the project.

That part will be financed through $4 million in cash on hand and $19.1 million in certificates of obligation.

A nonprofit was created, Local Government Corporation (LGC), that will own and fund the hotel component of the project — approximately $43.54 million — through the issuance of hotel revenue bonds, expected to be payable over 30 years.

A variety of funding sources have been found, including $7.5 million in contributions from foundations and use of hotel occupancy tax (HOT) funds that otherwise would go to the state.

A city block now is cleared to build the high-rise structure across the street from the Convention Center. The idea is to lure conventions and other sizable events to the city, an economic boost that proponents believe will greatly outweigh the money being invested in it.

The city of Abilene’s portion became an issue in the May local election. Critics said the city should not be in the hotel business, and that taxpayer money should be used for projects such as street repair and maintenance.

Others championed the economic shot in the arm and dramatic change to the downtown skyline. Businesses that have opened downtown over the past few years have been expecting increased traffic.

And with that, the City Council OK’d putting some of the last 2015 street repair bond money into fixing broken pieces of concrete in downtown streets. Sidewalk improvements, too, are promised.

Candidates for council who supported downtown efforts won election to office in May, signaling that public support rested on the side of this effort.

2: Kylegate

Perhaps in another year, this would be the top story. 

As the calendar turned to 2019, attention was brought to social media posts by two-term Councilman Kyle McAlister. Some dated to 2010, and many poked fun at Hispanics.

Or, was this not funny at all and racist.

The January news set off a firestorm of words, both in anger and apology.

With the mayor present, McAlister apologized. Not good enough, not believable, others responded.

His resignation was called for. He did not resign but in short order, he lost his gig on public radio station KACU, was cut by the Abilene ISD as a soccer official and was terminated by his employer, Aflac.

At a January council meeting, McAlister was not censured, though he voted to censure himself. A public comment time, normally at the end of a meeting, was not moved ahead of the censure vote. That led a number of people in council chambers to walk out in protest. Some hurled comments at the council before exiting chambers, and a group formed outside to chant that McAlister must go.

Instead of resigning, McAlister ran for re-election. He drew two opponents, and faced attorney Cory Clements in a summer runoff. McAlister won a third term by 84 votes.

More: McAlister, Clements set for runoff in Place 5 Abilene City Council race

More: 84 votes: McAlister narrowly defeats Clements in Abilene City Council Place 5 runoff

The rest of the year went quietly, with McAlister, known for his playfulness, dressing in pink for an October council meeting during breast cancer awareness month.

In response to the claims of racism in this case and a broader divide in the city, Mayor Anthony Williams formed a group to address community unity.

1: It was a tornado

Reports of wind damage in west Abilene in the early morning hours of May 18 were greatly understated.

While some in the strike zone immediately determined that a tornado struck Abilene, it was the next day before a National Weather Service team from San Angelo confirmed it. It was “at least” an EF-2 tornado, which packed winds as high as 135 mph.

The storm carved a path of damage more than two miles in length. The twister sometimes left areas undamaged while pulling off roofs and toppling trees on an entire block. U-Haul trailers were scattered, and outlying buildings at Reagan Elementary damaged.

No one was killed, and only one minor injury reported.

More than 300 structures were affected.

The city quickly mobilized to secure the affected areas. A recovery hub was set up at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church. Volunteers were organized to help remove debris as teams worked to restore power.

The recovery went from weeks to months, not unexpectedly, but the team effort may be the most notable of the natural disaster. Abilene learned on the fly. One lesson was to combine efforts, and so United Way of Abilene and Community Foundation of Abilene joined to have donations funneled to them and hasten distribution.

There were happy endings. Discovery Studios, which sustained significant damage, relocated and celebrated that spirit prevailed over the storm.

And looking at quite possibly a turbulent year ahead, that outlook may serve us all.     

Greg Jaklewicz is editor of the Abilene Reporter-News. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com

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The decade in Maine arts and culture – Press Herald

The decade in Maine arts and culture – Press Herald

A small crowd waits to enter the State Theatre for a show in 2018. After a four-year hiatus, the downtown concert hall reopened in 2010. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

What a difference a decade makes.

Ten years ago, Maine rarely saw a big outdoor rock concert, and downtown Portland’s live music scene was fairly quiet. Pop songwriter Amy Allen of Windham was still in high school, there was no end in sight for the Old Port Festival and Maine game wardens were government workers, not TV stars, too.

Over the past decade, Maine has seen a rich and varied output of books, art, TV, films and other creative endeavors. We’ve seen the passing of some noted artists and performers, and the emergence of others. Some venues have closed and others have opened. Maine performers and artists have made names for themselves around the world.

Here is a look back at some of the people and happenings that defined Maine arts and entertainment during the last 10 years.

Anna Kendrick of Portland became a major Hollywood star this past decade. Photo by Jordan Strauss Invision/AP


At the 2010 Oscars, Portland’s Anna Kendrick was nominated for a best supporting actress for “Up in the Air” with George Clooney. She didn’t win, but went on to major Hollywood success in the “Twilight” teen vampire franchise and in the incredibly popular “Pitch Perfect” movies. The 34-year-old actress also was a starring voice in the animated “Trolls” movies, had a hit single on the radio called “When I’m Gone” and even wrote a book.


As one half of the duo The Chainsmokers, Freeport’s Drew Taggart scored a half-dozen hit songs this decade, including “Closer” and “Something Just Like This” in 2016 and 2017. Windham native Amy Allen co-wrote “Without Me” by Halsey, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart in January, and penned songs for singers Selena Gomez and Shawn Mendez. Portland country singer Kalie Shorr’s debut album, “Open Book,” came out in September and landed on a New York Times top-10 list of 2019’s best albums.


Portland’s longest-lasting bash, the annual Old Port Festival, ended a 46-year run in June. Organizers had announced in March that the annual festival – featuring a parade, live music, entertainment, food and crafts – had fulfilled its mission of marketing the Old Port and was no longer necessary.


It was the decade of cover/tribute bands in Maine, including ones that specialize in the music of previous decades. Motor Booty Affair continued to pack in shows with its ’70s disco/funk sets, while The Awesome played the ’80s hits and Hello Newman played the hits of the ’90s. Others include The Maine Dead Project, which does Grateful Dead and jam band tunes, Yellow LedVedder, a Pearl Jam tribute band, and Portland-based Dean Ford, who travels the country with his Prince tribute act.


Before 2010, big outdoor rock concerts in Maine were few and far between. But in the past decade, enterprising concert promoters opened several outdoor venues that together hosted 50 to 70 acts in any given summer, including Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion, which opened in Bangor in 2010; the Maine State Pier, which came and went within the past decade (open 2014 to 2018); Thompson’s Point in Portland, where concerts have been held since 2015; and, new this year, the Maine Savings Pavilion at Rock Row in Westbrook. One of the biggest outdoor concerts ever held in Portland came in 2012, when Mumford & Sons headlined a festival on the Eastern Promenade that drew about 15,000 fans.

“North Woods Law” on Animal Planet followed Maine game wardens like Kris MacCabe. Photo courtesy of Animal Planet


The decade saw Mainers popping up on all sorts of reality TV shows. From 2012 to 2016, “North Woods Law” on Animal Planet followed members of the Maine Warden Service as they searched for missing people, tracked illegal hunters, went on drug raids and freed trapped animals. Other Mainers appeared on “Survivor” and “The Bachelor.” Maine chefs were especially popular on reality TV, particularly on the Food Network show “Chopped.” About a half-dozen Maine chefs have won episode competitions on that show, including Rob Evans of Duckfat and Matt Ginn of Evo Kitchen & Bar, both of whom were contenders in the Chopped Champions tournament.


Ryan Peters of Wells, better known as the rapper Spose, first gained fame in Maine and elsewhere in 2010 with a radio hit called “I’m Awesome.” He’s gone on to build a Maine-based career as the state’s best-known and most visible rapper. He’s sort of like Maine’s best known comedian, Bob Marley, but of the rap world. He records albums, performs around the country and the state, and puts on annual Christmas concerts in Maine.


Downtown Portland has seen an explosion of live music in the past decade or so, largely because of three venues located within about a quarter of a mile of each other. First to open was the 500-plus-capacity Port City Music Hall in 2009, followed by the 2010 re-opening of the 1,900-seat State Theatre, which had been closed for four years. Then the 290-seat Portland House of Music opened in 2015. The State Theatre owners took over Port City in 2013, and those two venues together host about 250 shows a year.


A few Maine bands have really established themselves locally this decade while making national inroads as well, including The Mallet Brothers Band, which plays all over the state and beyond and draws big crowds with their country rock. The Ghost of Paul Revere, with a modern folk sound, performed on Conan O’Brien’s late-night show in 2018 and this year had their song “The Ballad of the 20th Maine” named the official state ballad. Indie rockers Weakened Friends have built a national and regional reputation and were named Indie Artist of the Year at the Boston Music Awards in 2018.


Portland artist Lauren Fensterstock was everywhere this past decade. A sculptor, maker and educator, Fensterstock maintained a furious studio pace, creating a consistent body of work using materials associated with women’s crafts – hand-cut paper and seashells, often painted black – that reflected a domestic world growing increasingly complex. Between academic appointments that bookended the decade – first at Maine College of Art and recently at the University of Georgia – she had more than a dozen solo exhibitions, in Portland, New York, Philadelphia and elsewhere. She was part of a Portland Museum of Art Biennial and became an art-world star to watch at Art Basel Miami. Artsy, an online art journal, named her one of the top artists in the country younger than 40, based on her showing in Miami in 2014. She won a USA Artists grant in 2016, worth $50,000.

Artist Ashley Bryan at his home in Little Cranberry Island in 2014. Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer


It would have been perfectly acceptable for artist and author Ashley Bryan, 96, to have retired quietly to his home on Little Cranberry Island, where he has lived mostly year-round for more than three decades. But the painter, illustrator, poet and puppet-maker has had one of his busiest decades yet. His 2016 book, “Freedom Over Me,” was short-listed for the Kirkus Prize and received a Newbery Honor. His latest book, “Infinite Hope,” a memoir, explores his service during World War II. There’s been a movie made about his life, exhibitions on the island and at the Portland Museum of Art, and the University of Pennsylvania recently acquired his archive.


Elizabeth Strout won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction at the close of the last decade, in 2009, but she didn’t rest. Strout, who lives on Maine’s midcoast, kept up her good work, and the accolades kept coming. She won a Malaparte Prize in 2016 for “My Name is Lucy Barton” and the coveted Story Prize for “Anything Is Possible” in 2018. The New York Public Library named her a Literary Lion, the institution’s highest honor for a cultural icon, in 2018. The best-selling “My Name is Lucy Barton” was adapted for the stage in London, starring Laura Linney, and former President Barack Obama included “Anything Is Possible” among his favorite books of the year in 2017. Oprah Winfrey named “Olive, Again” as a book-club pick this past fall. In a decade that saw the publication of major books by Maine’s biggest writers, Strout stood tallest.


It seems like many more than seven years have passed since Bethel poet Richard Blanco stood on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and recited his hopeful poem for America, “One Today.” He wrote it for Barack Obama’s second inauguration, and it celebrated all that brings us together. A civil engineer and city planner, Blanco was the first immigrant, Latino and openly gay poet chosen to write and read a poem for an inauguration, and at 44, he also was the youngest at the time. The years since have been somewhat of whirlwind, for Blanco and the country he hardly recognizes anymore. His most recent book, “How to Love A Country,” published in 2019, explores how much America has changed in the years since and why he, as an immigrant, has lost his seat at the table. Next on his agenda: Becoming poet laureate of the United States, so he can reclaim that seat.

Children’s book illustrator Melissa Sweet. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer


Melissa Sweet went from successful children’s book illustrator to superstar. Among the honors she received this decade: Her second Caldecott, for “The Right Word, Roget and His Thesaurus,” and a Carle Honors lifetime innovation award from the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Massachusetts. Her New York Times’ bestseller “Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White” also won an Orbis Pictus Award and a Boston Globe-Horn Book honor for nonfiction. In all, the Portland artist and writer has illustrated more than 100 books, as well as toys, puzzles and games.


John Cariani has a Broadway habit. Every two or three years, the pride of Presque Isle ends up in a hit Broadway musical. His run of success started with “Something Rotten!” in 2015, which ended up with 10 Tony and one Grammy award nominations. He followed that two years later with “The Band’s Visit,” which snagged 11 Tony nominations and won 10 of them. It was one of four musicals in Broadway history to sweep the Big Six of the Tonys – best musical, best book, best score, best actor, best actress and best direction. The Broadway cast recording also won a Grammy. Next, he will appear in a revival of Tony Kushner’s “Caroline, or Change,” in the spring. But before that, he’ll be back in Maine to perform in his play, “Almost, Maine,” at Portland Stage, which he wrote many years ago and has become one of the most-produced plays in America. Through Macmillan Publishers, Cariani will release a novel version of “Almost, Maine” in March.


Other than perhaps that King guy up in Bangor, is there a Maine writer more beloved, respected and productive than Monica Wood? If so, we haven’t met her yet. Monica Wood’s decade saw the publication of her memoir, “When We Were the Kennedys,” which was on the best-seller list at Longfellow Books for more than a year after its 2012 release, and her first play, “Papermaker,” which debuted at Portland Stage Company in 2015 and became one of the theater’s most popular plays. She also published another novel, “The One In a Million Boy,” and another new play, “The Half-Light.” This year, the Maine Humanities Council honored her with its Constance H. Carlson Public Humanities Prize for her commitment to Maine communities, libraries and her nourishment of Maine’s cultural life.

Gabriel Frey, a 12th-generation Passamaquoddy basketmaker, weaves at his studio in his home in Orono. Photo by Ashley L. Conti


Maine basketmakers have been productive for thousands of years, but the past decade brought widespread recognition, acclaim and prize money to Wabanaki basketmakers working in Maine today. The brothers Gabriel and Jeremy Frey each won $50,000 United States Artists fellowships. The National Endowment for the Arts named Theresa Secord and Molly Neptune Parker, in 2016 and 2012, respectively, National Heritage Fellows, one of the country’s highest cultural honors (also awarded to Franco-American musicians Don and Cindy Roy of Gorham in 2019). And Maine basketmakers routinely pull down top honors at the Native American art fairs across the country. Meanwhile, the Abbe Museum started its own Indian art market in Bar Harbor in 2018.


The decade saw the rise of community art spaces and hyper-local collectives and residencies in cities and small towns across Maine – in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood, on the waterfront in Rockland and in the mills in Biddeford, as well as the towns of Eastport, Cushing, Monson and Lovell, energizing neighborhoods and communities, creating economy and empowering artists. Other notable openings this decade were the Winslow Homer Studio in Prouts Neck, originally designed by John Calvin Stevens and restored and reopened by the Portland Museum of Art in 2012, and the Center for Maine Contemporary Art moved into a new building, designed by Toshiko Mori, in downtown Rockland in 2016.


The decade saw major changes in the structure and personnel of longstanding Maine art institutions. Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Monhegan Museum, Bates Dance Festival, Portland Ballet, Bowdoin International Music Festival, Maine State Music Theatre, the Portland Chamber Music Festival and Barridoff Galleries, among others, saw the departures of longtime, legacy directors. At the Portland Symphony Orchestra, Robert Moody came and went, completing a decade-long triumph as music director during which he helped restore the orchestra to its status as a community pillar. Meanwhile, the Portland String Quartet celebrated its 50th anniversary and continued to find new ways to present music from across the ages and cultures.


Peter and Paula Lunder spent much of the past decade giving away their money. The couple donated an art collection worth an estimated $100 million to the Colby College Museum of Art and then gave the college money to add a new wing to the museum – and then kept on giving. The couple donated Picasso etchings to Colby in 2016, Rembrandt etchings in 2019, and gave $3 million to the Maine College of Art and another $500,000 to the Portland Symphony Orchestra.


We’re never surprised when famous people suffer ignominious disgrace, but Don McLean’s fall was dramatic, tragic and messy. Best known for writing the song “American Pie,” McLean was exposed as a perpetrator of domestic violence when his now ex-wife, Patrisha McLean, called the police after a 2016 incident at the home they shared in Camden. After their divorce, she spoke out about what she described as a pattern of abuse, and organized a traveling art exhibition, “Finding Our Voices,” that told the story of domestic abuse through words and images of abused women across Maine. Though he admitted his guilt to six charges and was convicted of three as part of a plea deal that included a fine but no jail time, he threatened media outlets that wrote about his crimes in the context of his wife’s exhibition.

Robert Moody, conductor of the Portland Symphony Orchestra takes a bow after he performs his final program with the PSO in 2018. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Home Minister Amit Shah inaugurates Directorate General Building of CRPF in New Delhi – Odisha Diary

Home Minister Amit Shah inaugurates Directorate General Building of CRPF in New Delhi – Odisha Diary

New Delhi: Union Home Minister Sh. Amit Shah today said that Central Reserve Police Force, CRPF had played an important role in wiping out terrorism from Punjab and Tripura in the decades of 1980 and 1990 and to restore complete peace in the border States. Speaking at the foundation laying ceremony of the CRPF Headquarters in New Delhi, he said that neighbouring countries tried to foment terrorism in the two States by misleading the youth to dismember the country but all their efforts were neutralised by CRPF.

Shri Shah said that whether it is a Naxal theatre or a riot situation, or for conduct of peaceful AmarnathYatra in Jammu and Kashmir or providing security ring to India’s Parliament, CRPF jawans always remain at the forefront.

Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment for the welfare of paramilitary forces, the Home Minister said that by August-September, 2020, all such schemes will be given a final shape, the prominent among them would be a measure that all jawans should remain at least 100 days out of 365 days with their family members. A Committee is working on this and suggestions sought from DGs of paramilitary forces to implement this scheme soon. Shri Shah said, Ministry of Home Affairs is working with AIIMS to provide electronic Health Cards to family members of jawans for health check-up and facilities. Expansion of Air Carrier facilities for travel and transportation, creation of over 35,000 vacancies for faster promotion, announcement of new awards and more administrative and financial powers to DG, CRPF are steps in that direction, he added. Shri Shah said that it is the mantra of Modi Government that jawans should take care of India’s borders, the Central government will take care of their families.

Recalling the supreme sacrifices made by about 2184 CRPF personnel for internal security duties including at the war theatres with China in October,1959 and with Pakistan at Sardar Post, Kutch in Gujarat in 1965, Shri Shah said that he is more than happy to inaugurate the new headquarters of the World’s largest and the bravest force. He informed that in 2019 also CRPF bagged 75 bravery medals, which is the highest for any force.

Shri Shah said that new building at a cost of Rs 280 crore will have all modern facilities and green amenities, besides effective control and command system with modern training modules for 3.5 lakh strong force to enhance their operational capability.

The Home Minister also launched a new logo “Garud” for those engaged in providing security to the common man and VIPs and said that it would give them a new identity.




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