Thursday, April 25, 2024

Press Top 10 stories of 2020

Staff Writer | December 31, 2020 1:07 AM

Every year Press editors put their heads together, leaf through a year's worth of archives, sip something that stimulates the thought process and then select an exceedingly arbitrary Top 10 local stories of the year.

This is no digital data dive. Did that on Sunday. Besides, what readers of and readers of the actual newspaper deem most important aren't always the same thing.

So in a paper hat-tip to the printed product, here's your Top 10 local stories of the year. Feel free to disagree and submit your own Top 10 to

1) COVID-19: You could easily make the argument that COVID-19 was the No. 1 story for 2020.

And Nos. 2 through 10.

Seeing as how that would be kind of boring, we're going to allot only the top three slots to COVID-19, a once-in-a-lifetime nightmare (we hope).

First is the pandemic making its unwelcome presence known in Idaho, claiming its first Idaho victim on a Friday the 13th — March 13, to be exact. Kootenai County had the 12th case in the state.

Second is the response by Gov. Brad Little, who didn't make many friends in the Idaho Legislature by invoking his constitutional authority as governor to act on behalf of the safety of citizens. The governor has moved the state through various levels of restrictions, but his Idaho Rebounds plan has been credited in many quarters for helping the state economy weather the virus storm for the most part.

Third is the herculian efforts by health care professionals throughout the region, dedicated men and women who have been risking their lives to care for their patients. Leading the way regionally, Kootenai Health has dealt admirably with every challenge and setback, including mask mandates that would have helped but ultimately were never enforced.

While we're limiting the virus to the top three stories of the year, we must acknowledge other major COVID-19 themes, including public schools' responses to the virus, leaning more heavily than ever on remote learning, and the economic impact to businesses, changing some business models and shuttering others.

If COVID-19 wasn't the top story in every state this year, something else was selected merely because everyone's sick and tired of this long, excruciatingly painful pandemic slog.

4) GROWTH: With the economy contracting because of No. 1 above, "growth" remained the predominant cussword on many a North Idahoans' lips.

With waves of cash-rich newcomers flooding the area, augmented by the new demographic of talented professionals leaving cities to work remotely while living in an outdoors haven like our very own, job loss, government income from taxes and sustainability of otherwise vulnerable businesses fared much better than in other places. But at what cost?

Homeownership is now impossible for many of the people who grew up here and have worked hard, only to be forced into paying high rents for modest dwellings. Many are being priced out of living here.

Infrastructure like roads and bridges are deteriorating rapidly.

And "traffic" isn't as relative a term as it used to be. When we talk about traffic in North Idaho, it's no longer with a chuckle followed by "... but it's still a heck of a lot better than (fill in the blank)."

No, it's not a lot better. And it looks like traffic is going to get worse before we turn some important corners as a community and reverse course.

5) PROTESTS: Just what nobody needed in the midst of a pandemic and a ramp-up to one of the most divisive elections in history, protests rocked the nation — and Coeur d'Alene was ground zero in May for a type of counter-protest that brought out Second Amendment lovers and their arsenals.

No matter which side of the Black Lives Matter movement/counter-movement appeals most to you, North Idahoans' First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble were pulled off without violence, looting or the sort of mayhem whose aftershocks continue in some sectors.

6) TURNOUT: We break this into two categories — primary and general.

In the May primary, Idaho executed its first-ever all-mail election without a serious hitch.

That paved the way for the highest voter count in the state's history for the general election, 878,527.

In Kootenai County partisan elections, no Democrat won — again. The GOP's hold on all partisan offices at the county, state and federal levels has been unbreakable dating back to Dan English's tenure as Kootenai County Clerk, which ended a decade ago.

7) NORRIS WINS: If it wasn't the hardest battle for sheriff in Kootenai County election annals, it certainly was the longest. In November, after more than two years on the campaign trail to replace retiring Sheriff Ben Wolfinger, Norris easily defeated his two opponents in the general election.

The former Los Angeles County deputy takes over starting Jan. 1.

8) LAWMAKER EXPELLED: This story was actually ranked No. 2 for the year in the entire state by The Associated Press.

Here's what the AP wrote:

The Idaho Legislature had only been in session for nine days when lawmakers voted to expel one of their own — then-Rep. John Green, a Republican from Post Falls who had just been convicted of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government, a felony. The charges stemmed from allegations that Green helped a wealthy Texas couple hide assets to avoid paying income taxes when Green worked as an attorney there. Idaho's Constitution doesn't allow someone to hold any civil office if convicted of a felony, but two-thirds of House members must vote to expel.

9) PLANE CRASH: On a gorgeous Sunday summer afternoon, tragedy rocked the community July 5 when two planes collided over Lake Coeur d’Alene. The planes were located in 127 feet of water by the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office sonar team, and the results were heartbreaking: Eight dead, including beloved local pilot Neil Lunt and three children.

10) CRIME: We won't overstate this. There was some. Plenty, if you ask police, check the Sheriff's blotter in the paper and read of the misdeeds of others throughout The Press.

But those big, heart-pounding crimes that capture the news cycle for days, weeks or months on end? Nothing of the earth-shaking variety in 2020.

Two of the ongoing crime sagas, that of convicted embezzler and accused murderer Lori Isenberg, as well as the police shooting of then 18-year-old Tyler Rambo during a gun incident in City Park on the Fourth of July 2019, are ongoing. Because of COVID-19, their trials have been pushed into 2021.



Residents arrive at the Kootenai County elections office on Third Street to drop off their ballots.



Amanda Longpre stands with her daughter Emma, who holds a sign during a rally at McEuen Park.