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Looking back at D.C.’s biggest news stories from 2017 might give you a sense of déjà vu: The Metro still sucks, D.C.’s population continues to grow steadily, and it’s still trying to figure out some of the biggest issues plaguing the city, like access to affordable housing and ending chronic homelessness. But in a year marred by darkness across the nation—the largest mass shooting in national history, a string devastating natural disasters—some signs of hope emerged in D.C. as its residents braced themselves under the weight of 2017.
Biggest Shakeups in Local Media
While the world focused its attention on the national media reporting from the White House, Capitol Hill, and Mar-a-Lago, significant shakeups altered D.C.’s local media scene. Some had less to do with news and more to do with beloved local traditions. When The Washington Post announced it was doing away with its annual Peeps diorama contest, Washington City Paper renamed itself Washington City Peep-er for a week and partnered with National Harbor to keep marshmallow art alive. (Always eager to capitalize on a news event, Dan Silverman of PoPville ran a contest of his own.) Other changes had greater consequences: When Joe Ricketts shut down DNAInfo and the Gothamist network of sites, the District lost a great source of local news in DCist. Here at City Paper, we weren’t sure we’d survive 2017 when we went up for sale in October—thankfully, we were spared at the last second. Even a traditionally stable outlet like NBC4 experienced great turnover this year, with the death of longtime anchor and D.C. icon Jim Vance in July and the retirement of reporter Tom Sherwood in December. —Caroline Jones
Most Consistent Crisis
The opioid crisis that has gripped the nation continues to ravage D.C. People in the hospitality industry have been severely impacted, as have older adults in D.C., many of whom have been addicted for decades. More than three-quarters of the people enrolled in the District’s medication-assisted treatment programs are over the age of 50. —Caroline Jones
Most Reliable Disaster
Metro continues to be a disaster. Prices on buses and trains increased in June, while Metrorail’s hours of operation decreased. The agency and the District fought over who would pay for late-night service when a Nats playoff game ran long and multiple shutdowns on the Red Line delayed commuters for weeks. To make up for a funding shortage, passengers won’t be able to carry negative balances on their SmarTrip cards in the new year, but leaders in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia can’t seem to agree on a long-term agreement to pay for the transportation. —Caroline Jones
Biggest Boon for Firearms Instructors
An ongoing debate over whether the District would allow residents to apply for licenses to openly carry handguns came to an end in October, when a federal appeals court ruled that D.C. residents no longer needed to provide a good reason for doing so. Local firearms instructors have seen an uptick in business as residents prepare to bring their weapons everywhere they go. Illegal guns, which make their way into D.C. through traffickers, are routinely rounded up by the Metropolitan Police Department, but those bringing the guns in aren’t often apprehended. —Caroline Jones
Most Consequential Reaction to the Inauguration
January 20 was among the most polarizing days in America this year, and that polarization was felt acutely in D.C. While Donald Trump took the oath of office on the steps of the Capitol, protests in other parts of the city turned violent. At the end of the day, 234 people were arrested on charges of felony rioting. About 19 pleaded guilty to misdemeanors, and one to felonies, while charges were dropped against 20 other arrestees, leaving 194 facing significant jail time. Their case, which has been marked by allegations of unethical and illegal detainment and questioning by the Metropolitan Police Department, has been one of the most controversial cases and discussion topics in D.C. this year. Late this month, the jury voted to acquit the first six defendants on all charges—a big victory for the protesters—but there’s still 188 to go. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C. indicates it is intent on following through with prosecutions. —Matt Cohen
Most Encouraging Sign that Good Still Exists
President Trump’s crackdown on immigration this year sparked intense fear and anxiety among immigrants all over the country. Immigration and Customs Enforcement began raids on places that were, until now, considered off-limits, like schools, churches, and hospitals—safe spaces that undocumented immigrants could go to and not worry about being detained and deported. In D.C., houses of worship recreated a decades-old support system to protect immigrants and created Sanctuary DMV, part of a nationwide sanctuary movement aimed at protecting the rights of local immigrants in the face of surprise ICE raids. Most recently, Sanctuary DMV launched a rapid response network to intervene in such raids. —Matt Cohen
Biggest 180 From Good to Bad News
Ballou High School first made headlines this year when it announced that every member of its senior class would graduate and had been accepted to college. Months later, the school was back in the news when a WAMU and NPR report revealed that administrators pressured teachers to pass students who didn’t meet graduation requirements. This concern about forced passing was recorded by DCPS teacher Rob Barnett in City Paper in May. Chancellor Antwan Wilson, who started his role in February, continues to deal with the aftermath of this saga. —Caroline Jones
Most Disturbing Messages and Crimes
Another unfortunate sign of the Trump effect in D.C.: Hateful messages that appeared throughout the region this year. At American University, racist flyers and even nooses were found in central locations on campus. On the campus of the University of Maryland, a young black man was stabbed to death by a white student at a bus stop. Places of worship and nonprofit organizations that work to help some of the District’s most vulnerable residents, like Casa Ruby, HIPS, and the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association’s downtown office, were also vandalized this year. If there’s one thing we hope to see less of next year, it’s these hateful messages. —Matt Cohen