Year in review: What we thought in 2016

There was debate on all manner of issues — local, state and national — on the opinion page in 201

"It is the role of this opinion page," Capital Gazette editor Rick Hutzell wrote in a column in July, "to hold up divisive ideas to public scrutiny." There were plenty of such ideas up for debate on this page throughout 2016, a year bound to be remembered for a historic — and exceptionally raucous – presidential election.

The editorials themselves mostly stayed away from that election, except to call for voter participation, note the demise of former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's ill-starred campaign and commend Gov. Larry Hogan for putting his judgment above strict party loyalty. But letters poured in and many columnists found the subject irresistible. Running a distant second but still getting much attention was an unusually spirited race for Circuit Court.

Hogan, as the governor and an Anne Arundel County resident, was a major figure on the page — and a surprising amount of the discussion had to do with his role in local schools: the battle with the General Assembly's Democrats over appointments to the School Board Nominating Commission, and later his executive order that all Maryland school systems start class after Labor Day. The governor was also in the spotlight over transportation issues, including his dissatisfaction with a bill forcing the government to "rate" transportation projects and his authorization of a study of a third span across the bay. And the editorials continued to root for his so-far unsuccessful quest to get the legislature to act on redistricting reform.

County Executive Steve Schuh drew attention with several moves — including an unsuccessful charter amendment on procurement — that he saw as reductions in red tape and that others criticized as reductions in government transparency. His push for more amenities at Beverly-Triton Beach Park sharpened the apprehensions of Mayo Peninsula residents about growth. Those apprehensions weren't allayed by what was probably his most dramatic and farthest-reaching proposal of the year: establishment of a new rural conservation district that would include virtually all of south county. The heroin and opioid addiction crisis, which by the end of the year had lead to a huge upswing in overdose deaths, drew comment throughout the year.

On the city front, the proposed Crystal Spring mixed-use development, the adoption of a forest conservation law and development issues in general were magnets for letters and columns throughout 2016. So were anxieties about crime — the number of homicides in the city spiked — and issues about policing that led to a no-confidence vote in the police chief from an African-American organization. Mayor Mike Pantelides, passing the halfway mark of his term, drew attention as he shifted the city to a new parking contractor, pushed to sell the city-owned Eisenhower Golf Course and used his appointments to try to give new direction to the troubled Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis.

The school system, under Superintendent George Arlotto, finally took action on moving back high school start times and dealt with a variety of policy changes, including a controversial one about the use of bathrooms and other facilities by transgender students. At the Naval Academy, the superintendent, Vice Adm. Ted Carter, marked the 40th anniversary of the admission of women to the school and presided over the groundbreaking for what is likely to be the last major academic building on the Yard — one named after a female admiral.

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