By Marisa Demarco
—People like ordered lists, one through 10, least important to most important. Distilling a year’s work into a “Top 10” is a task that befalls many an editor. But how do you evaluate a news story’s numerical importance? Scope of impact? Narrative quality? Difficulty of acquisition?
So, without the numbers, here are some of my favorite local stories from 2012. A sequel, Greatest Hits Vol. 2, is forthcoming.
Minimum Wage—Two-thirds of Burqueño voters cast a ballot in favor of raising the city’s minimum wage by $1. (The measure also increases tipped workers’ pay to $5 by 2014 and ties everyone’s hourly rate to the cost of living.) Minimum wage made it on the ballot after a legal battle over a typo that went all the way up to the state’s Supreme Court. It survived an expensive campaign conducted by local business associations that said higher pay for workers would increase costs and cut into the number of available jobs. Conservative councilors toyed with the idea of overturning the wage hike, but it was dubious at the end of November that such a measure would be seriously considered.
Wienergate—Primary election season brought us a photo of Republican County Commissioner Michael Wiener posing with four young women in the Filipino sex-cation destination of Angeles City. The photo is not explicit. But it handed his opponent, Lonnie Talbert, an easy victory. (Talbert, by the way, had some of the best YouTube campaign clips.) A couple of weeks ago, the always-thinking Wiener announced that he’s writing a screenplay about his experience and hopes Charlie Sheen will play him in the movie. Perhaps more importantly, Wiener’s photo launched a broader conversation about sex slavery and sex tourism.
SOB Ordinances—The City Council used human trafficking as motivation for cracking down on Albuquerque strip clubs. In addition to outlawing private VIP rooms, the rules require that clubs keep detailed employee records subject to search by city representatives at any time. This raised a red flag for the local chapter of the American Civil LIberties Union. It could make it easier for someone to stalk a dancer, suggested Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU. Similar laws have been drafted around the country, and they’re often replicas of one another language-wise.
Mary Han—The family of a prominent local attorney filed suit against the city and the Albuquerque Police Department, saying the scene of her death was trampled under the feet of city brass. Han made a career of taking on government and APD, and fighting for civil rights. When she was found dead in her garage two years ago and it was deemed a suicide, many questions surfaced. Among them: Why did so many top city administrators and high-ranking APD officials show up to the crime scene? Her family and friends say there’s no way the lifelong truth-seeker and exercise nut would have killed herself. Lawyer Rosario Vega Lynn promises to take the case to trial on behalf of Han’s sister and daughter.
Native American Knockoffs—Designers often stole from Native American culture in 2012. The trend has been increasingly popular over the last few years. Still, this year it seems more people are objecting to the appropriation of Native culture. In February, the Navajo Nation filed a lawsuit against hipster clothing chain Urban Outfitters for selling faux Navaho panties, flasks, earrings and other sundries. Then, in November, No Doubt yanked a music video from the Internet after many objected to its racist content.