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2008: a year to remember



Even before this year arrived, we knew 2008 would be special, just from the calendar of prescheduled events. We could see it in the political world, in sports and even in construction projects nearing completion around the city.

All of the anticipated came to pass, and hardly a month went by in 2008 without some kind of significant occasion, whether thrilling, heartwarming or sad. We also saw evidence of progress, such as the new St. Francis Medical Center, the Austin Bluffs Parkway-Union Boulevard interchange, the rebuilt Cimarron Street bridge and the Woodmen Road-Powers Boulevard interchange.

For this space's final installment of the year, here's a Top 10 list of what to remember from a local perspective. Drum roll, please:

10. Economy. Sure, this could rank higher, but let's just call it the story that never would go away. City and county budget cuts, job layoffs in government and at businesses throughout the area, Frontier Airlines backing away from building that large maintenance facility here, more than 4,000 foreclosures that's enough.

9. Losing Grace. For nearly two years, a searing internal war has splintered Grace Church, one of the city's most powerful congregations for generations. But the most indelible moment came Nov. 26, when local police, still investigating the Rev. Don Armstrong, Grace's rector, lined the church property with crime-scene tape while seizing computers inside.

8. John Newsome. His implosion as district attorney, sparked by media coverage of drinking escapades too closely related to work, was a classic soap opera. He went from unopposed to beaten in the Aug. 12 Republican primary by Dan May.

7. U.S. Senior Open. The world's premier 50-and-older golf event came to town in late July, with NBC showing the scenery to millions. Crowds flocked to The Broadmoor, seeing such big names as Greg Norman and Fred Funk make strong runs before Argentina's Eduardo Romero ran off with the title.

6. Farewell. On a sunny day in May, a horse-drawn hearse rolled through downtown as Colorado Springs said its last goodbye to longtime Mayor Bob Isaac, who dominated city politics for nearly two decades (1979-1997).

5. State Democratic Convention. It seemed so, well, inappropriate, for Colorado's largest conservative stronghold to host the state's Democrats. But when more than 8,000 people, including hordes of local volunteers, crammed into the World Arena on May 17, the experience energized this county's Dems like never before. The excitement continued through the campaign, with Barack Obama, John McCain, Joe Biden and Sarah Palin all making stops in the Springs.

4. Doug Bruce. The self-proclaimed government enemy began 2008 at his zenith, joining the state Legislature. But his ego, and bully tactics, soon alienated him from even his own party, and political rookie Mark Waller knocked off Bruce in a stunning primary upset cheered by GOP leaders. Then in November, Bruce's two ballot issues, aimed at destroying the city's stormwater operation and other enterprises, lost convincingly.

3. Goose's dream. Legendary pitcher Rick "Goose" Gossage finally reached the ultimate career destination as the only player elected to the 2008 class of the Baseball Hall of Fame. When the call came in January to his Colorado Springs home, a tearful Gossage said, "I hope this gives other kids inspiration to know that if you work hard, anything can happen."

2. Olympics. Colorado Springs had learned in 2007 the U.S. Olympic Committee was looking to leave. But the response was determined, with Mayor Lionel Rivera and City Council leading the political push, assistant city manager Mike Anderson forging the deal, and local developer Ray Marshall making bold commitments, and the announcement came March 31 that the USOC would move its headquarters downtown. The capper, showing what the Olympic presence really means, came in August when local wrestler Henry Cejudo won a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Games.

1. Election night. As the nation watched Obama's victory speech, the amazing Nov. 4 celebration even touched Colorado Springs. Shouts, screams and honking horns echoed throughout downtown, and almost 1,000 Obama supporters paid $20 each to share in a euphoric party at the Antlers Hilton. Said longtime local black leader Norvell Simpson: "I'm so glad I lived to see this day."

We should all feel the same way about 2008.

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