A Year in Review: Bidding Farewell to 2011
Patch's columnist takes a look back at a year of advice and commentary.
How unoriginal is it to write a retrospective column right before New Year’s? Pretty freaking unoriginal. But it’s either that or some equally uninspired fluff piece about things to do around town for New Year’s Eve.
So with the sun setting on 2011, I thought I would comb through all of my previous columns from this past year and attempt to put a little bow on the whole shebang.
Strolling through the back catalog of my recent hits, I have discovered that the voice and focus of this column has changed over the course of the year. In the beginning quarter of the year, I chose to write about issues of national or global news and then attempted to tie the stories into our community. Troubling events like last January’s shooting out in Arizona, which left six dead and many wounded including Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford, or the devastating tsunami that toppled buildings and washed away entire towns this last March in Japan. For these topics, I was simply another voice trying to add a little local perspective to issues being discussed everywhere else.
In April all eyes in this town turned inward to what had to be the local story of the year. Nothing polarized and energized this little ‘burb more than the proposed District 39 Education Referendum. It seems like years ago, but it was only last spring that this town was covered in pro and opposed signs for the referendum. Even though it has been months since the last vote was counted, in a lot of ways the lasting impact of such a hotly contested issue is still present in Wilmette.
On this site, it is apparent that no issue brings out the venom of our residents like that of education and taxation. Representative Robert Dold recently took to Patch to voice his concern over the state of our public schools. His column garnered more than 200 comments from community members. The best I could muster all year was about 40 comments when I sounded off about the Occupy Wall Street movement back in October. You guys remember that? I wrote that the core of the protest seemed unclear, and then everyone lost their minds and wigged out at me, remember? Good times.
I also had the privilege to write about other great local stories. In June, I was pleased to write about Cook County issuing their first Civil Union licenses. Throughout the year I got to sit down and discuss issues of local business with residents and then craft columns concerning the state of the North Shore’s shopping districts.
Hopefully in 2012 we will see new businesses move into the currently vacant areas around town. Do make it a point to check out new businesses whenever possible, and should they prove worthy, please don’t hesitate to become a customer and lend them the same support you have shown us over at Alchemy.
If I had to identify a reoccurring theme in this column, it would be parenting advice. Cards on the table, I am not a parent. I hope I have made that more or less clear when writing about issues concerning our young people. When I was first approached about writing a column for Patch, I had to figure out what it was I could write about on a weekly basis. So I examined what is was I talked about with customers on a daily basis, and everyday I found myself talking to parents about their concerns and anxieties regarding their children.
I’ve said it since day one: this is a family town which puts the safety and prosperity of our children above all else. As a result I have written columns from the perspective of a young adult who not that long ago was a student in our school system. I am quite proud of the columns I have written about the weight of privilege growing up on the North Shore, what to expect out of your eight grader the summer before they begin high school, what to expect going into your third quarter junior year of high school, how to plan a college trip and what not to take to college.
I am hardly an expert on the subject, but nothing has meant more to me than the comments I have received this year from parents thanking me for my perspective and advice.
On all other fronts, 2011 has been a cruel and cold year for me and it has truthfully meant the world to have you as an audience. From the bottom of my heart, I sincerely thank all of you who have taken a moment out of your day every week this year to read my humble little column.
I wish you all nothing but the best going into 2012, and again, thank you.
Let’s see those champagne flutes raised high.
James E. Stoker