The year 2012 was a time of change and conflict in the Rogue Valley, from Medford's cityscape expanding with the completion of a four-story, glass and concrete headquarters for Lithia Motors to several officer-involved deaths and disputes over leadership of local institutions.
Here are the Mail Tribune's picks for the Top 12 stories for 2012:
1. Downtown Medford sprouts several multimillion dollar projects, including the opening of Lithia's headquarters, the anchor of The Commons revitalization project at Bartlett and Sixth streets; a $9 million, four-story office building proposed for the Evergreen parking garage at West Main and South Fir streets; the relocation of the post office to Riverside Avenue and 10th Street; and plans to build a $28.5 million county health services complex in the former federal building at Eighth and Holly streets. Also still in the works are plans to remodel and reopen the Holly Theatre at Sixth and Ivy streets to provide a second major live performance stage in the city.
2. William Simmons, 32, is found guilty in February of first-degree manslaughter in the 1996 death of 15-year-old Kaelin Glazier of Ruch after two weeks of testimony and 10 hours of jury deliberation. He is sentenced to a decade in prison for the Measure 11 crime, plus a $2,765 fine and three years' post-prison supervision.
3. Police shoot and kill two young men — 20-year-old James "Jimmy" Georgeson and 18-year-old Elias Angel Ruiz — in separate incidents in January. In both cases, the first involving U.S. marshals, the second involving Medford police, a grand jury finds the officers were justified in using deadly force.
4. A dispute between Jefferson Public Radio and Southern Oregon University in Ashland in June ousts Ron Kramer, the head of the stations and the separate foundation, redivides assets and forms a new entity — Jefferson Live! — to take on additional projects. The JPR Foundation vows to continue restoration work on the Holly Theatre in Medford but has put Jefferson Square, a new headquarters proposed for an old warehouse on 10th Street, on hold for now.
5. Three men die in police custody after officers try to stop them with stun guns in separate incidents: veteran Scott Chappell, 44, in Eagle Point in June; Joseph Matthew Vavrosky, 42, in Medford in August; and Christopher Ladue, 23, in Talent in September. Drugs are suspected to have played a role in the deaths.
6. Rogue Valley Manor and Pacific Retirement Services clash over fees and the direction of the parent company, but reach an 11th-hour tentative agreement on Dec. 21 to avert a $30 million lawsuit.
7. Ashland Community Hospital's board of directors selects Dignity Health of San Francisco to take over operations of the hospital, but Dignity withdraws in late October amid community criticism over its policies on abortion and physician-assisted suicide. The ACH board then chooses Medford-based Asante Health System on Nov. 15 as its new operating partner.
8. Medical marijuana growers in Southern Oregon find themselves at odds with both local and federal police agencies as some growers are accused of illegally selling excess marijuana, sometimes shipping it across the country. Federal agencies have raided large grow sites in Jackson and Josephine counties and also have launched forfeiture cases against growers and others accused of involvement in illegal operations. A Central Point man, Brian Wayne Simmons, 38, was convicted Nov. 14 of manufacture, distribution and possession of marijuana after a federal raid turned up 2,000 pounds of partially dried marijuana.
9. Fourteen months of negotiations between the Eagle Point School District and its teachers union culminates in an eight-day strike of more than 250 classified and licensed employees in May. In the end, on the major sticking points, employees don't get full say in how teacher prep time is scheduled, part-time employees are given pro-rated insurance, and the district is allowed to renegotiate subcontracting transportation before the contract period is up.
10. After years of wooing by Medford developers and residents who even created their own Facebook fan page, Trader Joe's opens Oct. 19 in the trendy Northgate Marketplace. Also in the complex are REI, Ulta, Chipotle Mexican Grill and other shops.
11. The Coquille Indian Tribe announces in September that it has purchased Roxy Ann Lanes and the former Kim's Restaurant on South Pacific Highway with the hopes of opening a casino in Medford. Other tribes have vowed legal challenges if the U.S. Interior Department agrees to place the purchased land in federal trust.
12. Homeowner Norm Thomas shoots and kills Mark Corsbie, 49, who was banging on doors and trying to force his way into a White City home on Aug. 20. A grand jury concludes the shooting was in self-defense.
Other top stories: