Last week, I made my choices for the top stories of 2012. This week, I’m looking back at traffic on the New London Patch to see which articles were the most well-read from month to month. It gives a look not only at the pulse of the city over the course of the year, but a few viral hits as well.
January: Ackley’s Accusations Against Buscetto Publicized
Police Chief Margaret Ackley’s public accusations that former city councilor and mayoral candidate Michael Buscetto III had engaged in unethical behavior drew a lot of attention in 2011, and this story about Mayor Daryl Finizio releasing Ackley’s complaint was also well-read. It was a big month for police stories in general, with the subsequent release of an investigator’s report into Ackley’s claims and an expected shakeup of the New London Police Department following close behind. The anticipated $12 million deficit over the course of three years, an early sign of a difficult budget process, was also a popular article this month.
This Valentine’s Day story was something of a viral hit. Danny Rakow and Teresa Bianco dated in high school, then reconnected online decades later and rekindled the relationship. The Huffington Post linked to this story in their article on teenage sweethearts reunited after 70 years.
March: L&M Has Big Birthday Story
Another story that went viral, this recounted Lawrence & Memorial Hospital’s incredible connection to a new family. Born less than three hours apart at the hospital in 1990, Anna-Marie Craven of Ledyard and Nicholas Clarke of Groton later became engaged. Their son, Carter-Lee Wilson Craven, was born at the hospital on March 22.
April: Finizio Proposes $87.1 Million Budget
Finizio’s budget proposal to the City Council caught most people by surprise and brought plenty of ridicule. Although Finizio proposed a three percent increase to the school budget, he also said the budget—including its increase of nearly five mills, or 20 percent, in the tax rate—was necessary if the city was to keep operating as it had in the 2012 fiscal year without running a deficit. This would mark the start of a very long budget process.
No doubt one of the most unpopular parts of the budget deliberations was this announcement that in order to stay within their approved budgets, the fire department would have to lay off 25 firefighters and keep 10 vacant positions unbudgeted while the police department would lay off 10 people and keep 11 vacant positions unbudgeted. The public outcry led the City Council to transfer funds into the budgets of the public safety departments…
…which in turn led Finizio to veto the approved budget, saying the final budget cut essential administrative positions and overestimated revenues. Finizio also said the move was premature given negotiations with the union to avoid layoffs, which he said had been successful. For the time being, anyway. See August.
The top story of July came from across the river. A report of a gunman on the University of Connecticut-Avery Point campus caused a lockdown, and following the man’s suicide he was revealed to be Tim Devine, a Poquonnock Bridge firefighter and owner of CrossFit Groton. A later story said Devine was under investigation for improper sexual contact with teenage boys at the gym at the time of his death.
August: New London Council Approves Fire Union Agreement; Layoffs Rescinded
Firefighter layoffs once again returning to the table following the City Council’s tie vote on whether to accept a new agreement with the firefighters’ union was a big story of July, and continued to be a major concern into August. Following an amendment to cap contributions to the fire department’s pension plan, the agreement was approved 4-1 and Finizio rescinded the layoffs.
September: Several Injured In Fight At Motorcycle Club
This violent incident at the Wild Style Motorcycle Club, which resulted in life-threatening stabbing wounds to one victim, brought plenty of conversation. Police later arrested four people in the incident, including the club’s president and vice-president, and the city shut down the organization after learning that it did not have a proper permit.
October: Downtown Parking Ban In Effect; Mandatory Evacuation Zone Expands
Top seven stories of this month were all related to Hurricane Sandy, and this got the most hits. And for good reason: it aimed to tell residents what preparations and restrictions were going in before the storm, and the discussion in the comments was a good show of people helping each other out with further information.
November: Misquamicut Beach Devastated By Hurricane Sandy
Hurricane Sandy’s effects included heavy damage to this Rhode Island beach, popular with many people in this region. Don’t worry, it’s making a slow but steady recovery. Also popular this month was an article on the several different ways available to cast a ballot on Election Day.
December: New London Kindergartner Collects 207 Pounds Of Food For Hurricane Sandy Victims
And closing the year, this story shows that big gifts can come in little packages. Hannah Hallisey, a five-year-old St. Joseph School student saddened by the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, started up a food drive for the victims with the help of her family. The collection at her Ocean Ave. home brought in the whopping total of 207 pounds of food for donation to the Gemma E. Moran United Way Labor Food Center.