Let's get serious: For many Portlanders, 2009 was a crap year. Shuttered restaurants and shops lined streets in the Arts District and the Old Port, gas prices soared (again), and everyone knew someone who was under- or unemployed. Crime both petty and petrifying seemed to be on the rise. The result of the November 3 vote on same-sex marriage was disappointing to 73 percent of the city; tuition rose within the University of Maine system; and swine flu relegated many of us to our couches for weeks at a time, reminding us of how the national health-care debate (debacle?) affects us individually.
But there were bright spots, too. January 20 (Inauguration Day) was inspiring and festive (remember Aretha Franklin's hat?), even for those of us who observed from 540 miles away. Medical-marijuana users and a few municipal candidates achieved victory on Election Day. And our nights out on the town were enhanced by solid new eateries, exciting arts events (Wilco on the Maine State Pier! Shakespeare in Deering Oaks Park! "Distance Don't Matter" at SPACE Gallery!). And let's not forget the Portland Phoenix's 10th anniversary (celebrated by both parties and stories reflecting on a decade of arts, entertainment, and alternative-news reporting).
Before we (somewhat gratefully) bid farewell to 2009, let's revisit some of these memories:
It's telling that Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve (which oversees banking in this country) was chosen as Time magazine's 2009 Person of the Year. So many of America's concerns and cover stories over the past 51 weeks have been about money — who's spending it, who's losing it, where it's all gone, and when it'll come back. Certainly this was true locally. In Maine, the unemployment rate hovered around 8 percent in 2009, lower than the national average (which is at 10 percent right now) but up from previous years. Those in Cumberland County fared better than in other parts of the state (with an average unemployment rate of 6.4 percent for the year), but many young people were patching it together with disparate part-time jobs. The state legislature didn't have it any easier, as it faced a massive budget deficit and "solved" its problem by slashing education funding and services to the elderly, poor, and ill.
: This Just In
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