Top 5 public affairs stories

1. 2014 elections (By far the most important story of the year from the standpoint of extent of coverage and number of appearances:

20 of 23 issues between Jan 1 and the June 4 primary had major election articles; 10 of 21 issues between June 4 and Nov. 4 had major election articles.)

2. Economic Development Council appointed, incorporated, funded, trained, and reported ready to function in stakeholder meeting. Commission chairman described this as the “single most significant action the commission has taken in a generation.”

3. Budget battles and commission troubles in tandem set the stage for a major story taking shape at year’s end: the commission chairman’s proposal to request the legislative delegation pass local legislation to split the probate/commission job into two and to enable the county to transition to the unit system beginning in 2015.

4. The alcohol games. Alcohol arrives in Blount County, with retail sales already instituted in two municipalities, in progress in another, and another referendum pending – as is a definitive Supreme Court ruling that could turn the clock back on all of it.

5. West Blount Emergency Medical and Fire District approved in referendum. The second largest and most financially and operationally challenged fire department in the county was forcibly rescued by citizens in a remarkably well-organized and intensive campaign to put the department on the road to compentency and solvency.

Other possibilities:

• Oneonta school superintendent resigns; replacement hired.

• The old guard is passing: Armstrong, Criswell retire with nearly half century of public service between them.

• The great radio debate. Shaping up to continue a chronic saga.

• The weather front: “just a dusting” in January followed by tornadoes in April with months of aftermath.