1. Juniper Ridge Buyout: After earning the ire of the local business and real estate development community, the city of Bend cuts ties with its "Mater Developers" at the beleaguered Juniper Ridge high tech business campus. Juniper Ridge Partners agrees to hand over its "Master Plan" for the project in exchange for a roughly $2.6 million buyout and retains a portion of the profit from some future real estate sales. The deal follows reports that one of JRP's principals was negotiating side deals with property owners adjacent to Juniper Ridge. Who you calling "Good Ol' Boy"?
2. Merkley - Smith Campaign: In the most costly and arguably snarkiest campaign ever conducted in Oregon history, Former state representative, Jeff Merkley rides a wave of voter discontent with Republican rule to victory over Sen. Gordon Smith.
Careful what you wish for... Smith's name has been floated as the likely Republican candidate for governor in 2010 when incumbent Ted Kulongoski will have to step aside because of the state's term limit law.
3. Obama Mania: Okay so this isn't a local story per se, but the fact that Barack actually came to Central Oregon during the primary campaign stoked local Obama mania, helping "Obama 08" officially unseat Not Another Wal-Mart as the preferred bumper sticker of Bend progressives.
4. Cascade Festival of Music's Swan Song: In a sign of how broadly the impacts of the house market slump were being felt, the Cascade Festival of Music announced that it was moving this year's festival to a high school auditorium and needed an emergency injection of cash to cover expenses. In June, Bend's longest running cultural festival announced that it was canceling the season and preparing to file bankruptcy after a 26-year run. Other music and cultural fests take a similar hit. To wit: The Sisters Jazz Festival folds. And BendFilm board splits with Executive Director Sandy Henderson, and announces it is restructuring for the 2009 season after attendance falls well short of expectations. Thank God for Netflix...
5. Renaissance Homes Goes Belly Up: After blowing into town with other national and regional heavy hitters including D.R. Horton, Randy Sebastian's Renaissance Homes begins gobbling up vacant land and tossing up its high-end homes in neighborhoods with self-aggrandizing names like Renaissance Ridge. But as the local and national housing market cooled Renaissance Homes' fortunes took a turn. By spring of this year contractors were lining up to file liens against Renaissance. By early summer the company had defaulted on its bank loan. By fall Renaissance admitted that it was filing for Chapter 11, illustrating that, in fact, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
6. Mt. Bachelor Clears House: The 2007-2008 season saw a near record snowfall on the mountain complimented by a record amount of criticism from guests and other disgruntled skiers and boarders about Mt. B's high prices, poor service and ho-hum approach to lift maintenance. Bachelor's parent company moved swiftly in the off-season, ousting their handpicked G.M. Matt Janey and most of the remaining top brass. After an aggressive off-season maintenance regimen, the new managers announced that they were lowering season pass prices. Skiers and boarders rejoice, however winter doesn't get the memo and a lack of snow prevents the mountain form opening until the second week of December. Doh!
7. Gas Tops $4: In something out of a Mel Gibson, or possibly, Kevin Costner, post apocalypse flick, oil reaches nearly $150 a barrel and pump prices spike on a surge of worldwide demand for light sweet crude. Locally, drivers drop their SUV's faster than a lighted firecracker as their eyes pop at, and wallets empty for, $100 fill-ups. Bus ridership soars, scooters take over the (summer) roadways and helmet head becomes the hairstyle of the season. Hmm. What happened next? Oh yeah, the economy totally implodes and oil tumbles to $39 a barrel. Problem solved. Now what to do with that scooter...
8. Trader Joes Opens: While a few fringe wing nuts were focused on things like ending the War in Iraq and curtailing global warming, most of the rest of us were using our prayers to summon Trader Joes to Bend. The exaltations finally paid off this past May when the alternative grocer opened its first Central Oregon store at the Cascade Village Mall. A few heretics point out that everything in the store is pre-packaged and wrapped in a non-biodegradable plastic. They recant after learning that you really can get a $3 bottle of wine inside.
9. Beattie Baby Born: We knew we were in for a ride when we got a call last spring from a reporter at the UK Guardian looking for information about Bend's pregnant man, Thomas Beattie.
Beattie who was born as a woman, but lived as a man with his partner in Bend, turned out to be the real deal and had a baby girl in June at St. Charles Hospital. In November Beattie, who detailed his first pregnancy on Oprah, told Barbara Walters that he is pregnant with the couple's second child. Paging National Enquirer...
10. Bend UGB Finalized: After five years of wrangling, the Bend Planning Commission and City Council finally agreed on a footprint for Bend's next 20 years of residential and commercial growth. City planners addressed landowners' and builders' concerns by simply acquiescing to their every demand. Hey, it's called a compromise...
The final product: a nearly 10,000 acre expansion that state regulators say is fraught with problems. Can you say back to the drawing board?