2013 in review: story countdown

As I face the New Year, it’s time to look back on the old.

Clearly, one of the biggest changes for me this year is the fact that I’m writing this instead of enjoying Susan’s end of year post.

In some ways, Susan’s “retirement” was the biggest development on the blog this year. But for readers, there were other stories that captured your attention more.

I looked at both number of hits and comments to determine the top 10 stories of 2013. Some controversies popped easily to mind. Other stories surprised me.

After you read the list, post your thoughts on what you considered the year’s biggest stories in town.

What stories were you surprised to see not listed? Is there an unlisted issue you thought Southborough cared about more?

Counting down the biggest blog stories of 2013:

10. Property Tax rates

  • The lead post in this category: Letter to Editor: alternate tax rate proposal was the 9th most-read this year with 41 comments
  • 56 comments were published across multiple posts on the issue of increase property taxes and split vs single tax rates.  [This, of course, does not include countless comments about town taxes through the year under unrelated posts.]
  • In the end, Selectmen voted to maintain the single rate course.

9. School ranking

  • Southborough makes top 20% of Boston Magazine’s Best Schools List was the 10th most-read post this year
  • 46 comments were posted.
  • [Comments included the complaint that the 20.4% I calculated isn’t 20%. So I’ll posit – perhaps if you teach your children standard rounding rules (i.e., anything under .5 is rounded down) their test scores will improve enough to put us above the desired 20.00% mark!]

8. Gun safety talk

  • MWDN: Southborough Board of Health to look at gun safety
  • The above headline was the 3rd most read post this year.
  • The story explained the Board of Health’s intention to hold a talk at the library providing residents with gun safety information.
  • The notice drew the most comments of any single post – 89 – with residents passionately debating gun control.

7. Transfer Station expenses and rates

6. Barn Hollow open space issues

  • The lead post in this category: Wrap up of Monday night’s Special Town meeting: Postponed votes on Marijuana and Barn Hollow
  • While the above post didn’t focus exlusively on the topic, most commenters did.
  • The story itself came out through several posts about the town’s issue with open space compliance in the Barn Hollow neighborhood. Neighborhood residents defended their “reasonable belief” that land in question belonged to them. Other residents and officials debated the fault, origins, proposed resolutions and potential fallout.
  • Multiple posts on this issue were highly read and generated about 45 comments[ tried not to count comments that were related to other issues]

5. End of an era/blog transition

4. Park Central 40B development proposal

3. Transfer Station Policies

  • The lead post in this category: Transfer station’s new permit placement is sticking point for many residents
  • The above post was prompted by the passionate comments across two open threads this summer. The sticker and other policies were passionately commented on well over 60 times.
  • I differentiated from the other Transfer Station story (#7) as the vein of comments had a different focus. [Still, I was shocked to see two Transfer Station stories in the top 10. I’ll never get over how passionate people are about our waste management!]

2. Gulbankians’ zoning issues

  • The hometown business owners and town government continued their legal battles this year. The lead story on the topic: MWDN: Gulbankians fined $126,600 for violations
  • 154 comments debated the fairness of restrictions and fines across multiple posts.
  • Comparing this to the 84 comments in 2012 and 15 in 2011, this story just seems to keep getting bigger. And with a court date scheduled for January, its looking to continue into 2014.

And the top story this year. . .

This controversial topic generated the most reader comments, the greatest hits, and some of this year’s most intense reactions:

1. Neary’s proposed 1:1 iPad Pilot

  • The lead post in this category: 4th Grade One:One Pilot Project – Update and Letter to the editor
  • This fall, school officials shared a pilot proposal with 4th grade parents of a parent-funded iPad pilot to be launched this January.
  • 265 comments debated the merits of the pilot across multiple posts.
  • Some readers were excited by what they viewed as an important step forward. Others were scared that shifting classroom dynamics would cause a major step backwards in education.
  • Some readers were upset by the funding component. Some were concerned about health issues. And some were angered that naysayers would derail improvement in their children’s education.
  • In the end, the initial proposal failed to garner enough support to proceed. The school is now regrouping in hopes to significantly increase iPad access in the classroom without parent funding.
  • The posts generated 8,395 hits. (That doesn’t include those who read stories on “page 1” without clicking on a story link.)

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