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Top Mid-Columbia Stories for 2013 – Chiawana Wins Title, Hebert Shooting, Aquatic Center Fails

Arlenes Flowers lawsuits
(Arlene’s Flowers Facebook page)

Many events occurred in the Tri-Cities and Columbia Basin during 2013, but these generated the MOST news stories, including Newstalk 870.

In no particular order, because they were all big events,  the biggest local news stories included: (To see additional coverage or the original story, click on the highlighted items in each story).

The fatal shooting trial of Tashia Stuart, who was found guilty of gunning down her mother, Judy Hebert, in her West Pasco home in 2011.   The bizarre events that unfolded included accusations of Stuart’s boyfriend trying to drop a large box on Hebert’s head to kill her weeks before the shooting.  Stuart was sentenced to 45 years in prison in one of the biggest murder trials in decades.

Matthew Hibbard, former manager and bouncer at Jack Didley’s nightclub in downtown Kennewick, was found guilty of assault in January after his trial involving the injury to patron Brian Ensign.   The July 4, 2012 incident involved Hibbard dropping Ensign on his head outside the club after he had been removed for allegedly rowdy behavior.   Ensign is still in a Spokane rehabilitation center, trying to recover from significant head trauma from the incident.  The incident polarized and galvanized the Tri-Cities, with outspoken supporters on both sides.  The story recently resurfaced as Hibbard had recently petitioned the court to have his sentence overturned.

The ongoing battle between Arlene’s Flowers owner Baronelle Stutzman and the State Attorney General’s office and the ACLU.   Stutzman is fighting lawsuits claiming she violated discrimination laws by refusing floral services to a same-sex couple who were planning their marriage.  The case is being viewed by many across the country as a battle of 1st. Amendment rights, as well as freedom of religion.  The case is still being battled in court.

Although it was a state-wide vote,  the legalization of marijuana in Washington by way of I-502 has captured headlines, as the State Liquor Control Board struggles with how to implement recreational marijuana.   The stores were supposed to be open by December of 2013,  now it appears it will be March or spring at the earliest.   The medical marijuana industry is howling over regulations and laws from I-502 that they say will drive them to extinction, making it impossible for people who legally possess medical marijuana cards to receive treatment.   This was by far the most reported story on Newstalk 870′s website, with some 31 updates about the various facets of the law.

 Chiawana wins the state 4A Football title in dramatic fashion.  The Riverhawks,  in less than five years, have gone from a brand-new school to champions.  They de-throned #1 Camas by scoring two touchdowns in less than a minute, including an onside kick that led to the second.  The winning score came on the last play of the game!

 The failure of the Pasco (Regional) Aquatic Center in August.  The Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities district put a multi-million dollar aquatic center-waterslide park on the ballot, which supporters said would not only increase tourism, but fill the void left years ago when Oasis Waterworks on Canal Drive in Kennewick was closed.    The City of Pasco and much of Franklin County supported it, but Kennewick, Richland, and Benton County soundly rejected the idea.  It failed by a margin of about 55-45%.    Facilities district officials say it could be reworked and appear on the ballot again in the future.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced earlier this year that six underground storage tanks at Hanford were leaking waste into the soil.  It was not considered a major surprise as the tanks had far exceeded their lifespan.   There had been previous indications this might have been happening, but according to DOE officials, this was the first conclusive evidence of leaking.  However,  Inslee and the DOE said they currently do not pose any threat to people, water supplies or other environmental life.

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