The Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Fifteen is now very nearly in the books, after we dispense with the binge eating and football watching and familial squabbling and borderline alcoholism that the holiday season brings with it. And, if we're being honest, that thought doesn't make us sad. Much of the news this year sucked: mass shooting after mass shooting, including one in Chapel Hill; cringe-worthy debates over the merits of Confederate monuments; the inexplicable replacement of esteemed UNC president Tom Ross with Dubya lackey Margaret Spellings; the passing of Dean Smith and UNC's cheating scandal; basically everything the Legislature did.
Oh sure, some good stuff happened, too: Coach K bagged win No. 1,000 and a national championship; the Carolina Panthers are kicking all kinds of ass; Durham finally kicked Police Chief Jose Lopez to the curb; Raleigh got Dix Park squared away; we got a new Star Wars movie. But trying to find a silver lining to a year that saw Donald Trump become a legitimate presidential frontrunner (!) is like trying to find a diamond at the bottom of a Porta-Potty: You have to first wade through a whole bunch of shit.
Still, like Monty Python, we always look on the bright side of life. And so the turning of the calendar gives us hope for a brighter tomorrow, hope that will probably be crushed the day Ted Cruz wins Iowa.
But for now, let's take one mercifully final look in the rearview at the year's most important—or at least most talked about—state and local stories. And then let's never speak of 2015 again.
In the end, it was a lot of sound and fury signifying almost nothing. But for a couple of months this summer, the debate over Raleigh's sidewalk-drinking restrictions seemed poised to consume the fall's Council elections, even though there were clearly further-reaching issues at play (e.g., the Unified Development Ordinance). It didn't—aggrieved bar owners, who rallied under the banner Keep Raleigh Vibrant, largely failed to alter the election's trajectory. But what came to be known as #drunktown, a name owing to an asinine late-game ad campaign financed by Raleigh businessman Dean Debnam, nonetheless generated considerable heat.
- Illustration by Shan Stumpf
City staffers first proposed the new sidewalk-drinking rules—modeled after Austin's, as all things in Raleigh must apparently be—in June, but the debate started months before that, when Empire Properties proprietor Greg Hatem and some downtown condo-dwellers began complaining that the bars' noise had rendered downtown "unlivable." And even after Council, in November, conceded that it had gone too far, walked back the weekend sidewalk curfew it had passed three months earlier and promised to look anew at occupancy limits, it seems unlikely that the central point of contention undergirding this mess—that is, what kind of downtown does Raleigh really want to have—will pass from the main stage anytime soon.