Ten Top Headlines of 2010
A look at the biggest stories from the last six months.
With New Year's just around the corner, we thought we'd take a look back at some of the stories that shaped Brookline in 2010, for better or for worse. From new town leaders and budget-busting educational challenges to tree-killing beetles and career pedophiles, we had plenty of headlines to choose from.
Speaking of big news, we pulled the lever on Brookline Patch back in early July, so our list only includes stories from the last six months. We'll get you a full 12-month recap next Decembver.
Town Administrator Leaves Job After 15 Years at the Helm
Two monumentally important things happened on July 1, 2010: Brookline Patch blinked into existence and immediately changed the town's media landscape forever; And Town Administrator Richard Kelliher never showed up for work.
That's because the night before, in a packed Town Hall lobby, Kelliher bid farewell to the town he had led for 15 years and prepared to launch a career in academia. The occasion brought out many of Kelliher's supporters, including some who credited him with leading the town out of the budgetary morass of the post Proposition 2.5 years in the 1990s.
Kleckner Tapped to Lead Brookline After Losing Similar Job in Winchester
With the corner office empty, Brookline officials cast a wide net in search of someone to fill Kelliher's shoes. First came a short list of municipal leaders from around the country, followed by the announcement that a single man had been chosen: Mel Kleckner, the recently ousted town administrator of Winchester. Brookline selectmen said they were confident Kleckner was the man for the job, despite the fact that their counterparts in Winchester had dismissed him just a few months earlier with little public explanation. In the words of Brookline Selectmen Dick Benka: "Winchester's loss is Brookline's gain." Kleckner started his job Sept. 15.
Tree-Killing Beetles Spark Massive Bug Hunt
Arborists across Eastern Massachusetts suffered a collective heart attack in early July when workers discovered that the tree-ravaging Asian Longhorn Beetle had started feasting on the grounds of Jamaica Plain's Faulkner Hospital, just across the street from the historic Arnold Arboretum and less than a mile from Olmsted Park and all the street trees of Brookline. Upon discovering the evil bugs, which have already destroyed thousands of trees in the Worchester area, state officials declared a wood quarantine across much of Boston and Brookline and sent beetle hunters out to comb tens of thousands of trees in the area. The good news: To date, not a single beetle has been discovered since that first terrifying day.
Alleged Pedophile Caught in North Brookline, Accused of Secretly Recording Brookline Children in Their Homes
Speaking of terrifyingly creepy pests, Brookline Patch has spent much of the last few months following the deeply disturbing case of an alleged career pedophile and Peeping Tom named Robert Higgins. Patch was first to break the news back on Aug. 13 when police arrested the 47-year-old Brighton man outside a North Brookline home and accused him of secretly filming people in the nude. Officials were initially tight-lipped about the investigation, but we soon learned that Higgins was also carrying two Brookline school directories, complete with names and addresses of students, when he was arrested. With in a few weeks, he had racked up 42 criminal counts on various charges related to keeping and producing child pornography, along with a variety of other crimes.
Once the case was transferred from Brookline to Norfolk Superior Court, prosecutors also revealed that officers had recovered a computer hard drive from Higgins that allegedly held thousands of images and video, many of them showing Brookline women and children bathing and changing in their homes. And several photos reportedly showed Higgins wearing a 15-year-old girl's underwear and pajamas inside her bedroom.
Earlier this month, a judge ruled that Higgins posed a danger to the public and ordered him held until his trial he is due back in court next month.
Influx of Kiddies Sparks School Building Spree
The year 2010 was a decisive one for the Brookline school system, which broke ground on the Runkle School expansion, got the ball rolling on renovations at the Heath School and began what is likely to be a long discussion about a massive overhaul of the Devotion School. The building boom is being driven largely by the seemingly unstoppable growth in Brookline's public school enrollment, which has grown by 581 students, or the equivalent of a large elementary school, in the last five years. To top it off, the schools officials are struggling with a $2.9 million budget gap for next year after losing around $1 million in federal stimulus money. This is a story we expect to be reporting on for years.
Town Looks to Extend Local Voting Rights to Non-Citizens
Brookline Town Meeting weighed in on the national immigration debate in November when it approved, by a large margin, a measure that would extend local voting right to legal, non-citizen residents. Though the home rule petition sailed through Town Meeting, it still requires the approval of state lawmakers who have been reluctant to support similar measures from other towns, so the Town Meeting vote amounts to little more than a gesture of good will. Some, however, say that if towns like Brookline keep sending local voting petitions to Beacon Hill, lawmakers will have to act sooner or later.
Bridge Project Blocks Streets, Disrupts Trains Service, But Is Completed Ahead of Schedule
The renovation of the aging Dean Road Bridge—a 19th century span that connects Fisher Hill to Beacon Street over the D Line train tracks—proved to be a headache for neighbors who lost power and water, commuters who had to take bus shuttles instead of the trains and drivers who had to take the long way to get into Fisher Hill. But it was completed more than a month ahead of schedule and sparked few serious complaints, which for the MBTA, makes it an unqualified success.
Teen Center Takes a Giant Leap Toward Reality
After years of work and talk, the Brookline Teen Center finally became more than just an idea in 2010. Back in early August, Patch reported that organizers were close to signing a lease on a location for the center and had even drawn up architectural designs and renderings of the space. Leaders asked us not to say too much more, but they did take us on a tour of the empty industrial building where the center could soon be. Little else has happened in the months following the big news, but we hear there's going to be a huge announcement in early 2011. Stay tuned.
Brookline Tries to Make Recycling Easier, Creates Only Minor Headaches
Hundreds of big blue bins landed on Brookline doorsteps last September and left many wondering where they were going to put the dang things. Public works officials fielded dozens of complaints about the containers, which were part of the town's switch to no-sort recycling collection, and insist they were able to address most of the concerns. And though the program was only tested by a major snowfall last week, officials say they now receive few complaints and have seen the town's recycling output increase dramatically.
Oh no, we only have nine top stories! Help us round out our selection by suggesting a big headline we missed in the comments!