1. COVID-19 at long last began to recede from our lives and our headlines as more people came around to getting vaccinated and taking common-sense precautions.
2. Casper the Great Pyrenees recovered to guard his beloved flocks of sheep and chickens in Decatur, Georgia, after he took on a pack of 11 coyotes aiming to have a farmhouse dinner. The 85-pound Casper, with one blue eye and one brown eye, killed eight of the invaders but not without losing his tail and suffering so many wounds it took $15,000 and weeks of vet work to save him. Well-wishers crowd-sourced the vet bills. Long live the good-news animal story!
3. Republican-leaning Hamilton County survived an ugly county mayor's race in which one of the main primary politicking points was who really won the 2020 presidential election. The only GOP candidate willing to acknowledge that Joe Biden won, and won fairly, became our new county mayor.
4. That new mayor, 35-year-old Weston Wamp, was also the only candidate listening to a majority of Hamilton Countians who'd rather see tax dollars spent on schools rather than on a new Lookouts stadium. He was sworn in as Hamilton County mayor on Sept. 1, bringing a breath of fresh air and younger thinking to the offices of a county too long dominated by old men.
5. On the downside, the county commission is also a bastion of guys (no women won this time), and ego warring between the commission and Wamp has becoming routine. BUT even this had a silver lining! All that commission/mayor middle-school pettiness is making plenty of entertaining headlines.
6. Speaking of schools spending, it's finally official: Tyner Middle/High School will get a wholly new facility -- despite the price ballooning to nearly $96 million over what was expected to be $68 million. The 1,400-student facility will be the first new high school built in Hamilton County since 2009.
7. Five new school board members joined the now 11-member Hamilton County Board of Education, giving us new hope after a year when so much school news was just crazy wrong stuff -- from falling scores to book bannings to state-required classroom library lists.
8. The old guys on the Hamilton County Commission, just before Christmas and after an hour's grousing, joined the Chattanooga City Council to collectively allocate $100,000 in "emergency funds" to pay for hotel rooms to temporarily house 106 children and their families who were evicted from the East Ridge Budgetel after city officials there petitioned it be closed as a "nuisance." The commissioners proved that, yes, some Scrooges can be redeemed.
9. The average price of regular gas in Chattanooga fell this month another 9 cents a gallon to $2.63 -- the lowest price since early 2021. Take that, inflation criers!
10. Georgia voters did not put former football star Herschel Walker in the U.S. Senate.
11. Our Congress members found some bipartisanship. Noteworthy numbers of Republicans joined Democrats to pass the most significant gun-law tightening in decades, as well as historic legislation protecting same-sex marriage across state lines and major new subsidies for U.S.-made semiconductor chips.
12. Chattanooga is hoping to land some of that chips money. Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly is trying to bring us a slice of the $52 billion aimed at spreading tech corridors around the interior of the country.
13. Batteries and their components -- the kind that power big stuff like cars and alternative energy -- have become job makers in our city and state. We have Novonix in Chattanooga and more announced EV battery makers across Tennessee.
14. Why? To help supply our growing EV manufacturing businesses. We have Volkswagen here, and last year Tennessee landed an all-electric Ford F-150 plant in West Tennessee.
15. Trump -- you know, the other guy -- is falling. Even in Tennessee, a Vanderbilt survey found only 36% want Trump to run for U.S. president again.
16. The bloom also seems to be off a planned Hillsdale/Tennessee charter school partnership after the oh-so-pious Hillsdale President Larry Arnn denigrated Tennessee teachers and our teaching schools in front of Gov. Bill Lee. Lee let it stand with no pushback. But lawmakers? Not so much. It's good news to those who are not fans of church-based charter schools.
17. A new funding formula was approved for Tennessee schools with the aim of allowing money to follow the students, not schools. Here's hoping it will be a more equitable funding effort.
18. Chattanooga's mayor and council selected our first female police chief: Celeste Murphy, a former deputy chief with the Atlanta Police Department.
19. Mayor Kelly allocated $100 million for affordable housing. It's a five-year plan to build and rehabilitate affordable housing in a city that leads the nation in rising housing costs.
20. Twitter is dying. Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle put it well: "I spend less time than I used to yelling at people on social media. ... People seem to have gotten bored with the pathological rage-seeking and virtue-signaling behavior ... ." Fingers crossed.
21. Democracy won. It won in our local elections. It's winning in Washington where the Jan. 6 committee asked the Justice Department to criminally investigate our former president. It won with a Democratic-majority Senate and with but the slimmest sliver of GOP control in the House. And, yes, democracy is winning in Ukraine.
22. With democracy winning, hope is winning, too.
Here's to 2023!