by Pete Mazzaccaro

This issue marks the last that the Chestnut Hill Local will print in 2013. Normally, it’s the time when you sit back, look at the last year’s stories and marvel at all the crazy things that happened.

Again, we’ve looked through a year of Local issues and present part one of a recap of the biggest news items and most memorable tales told in these pages. This week we’ve published excerpts of stories run between January and June of this year. Next week, we’ll continue with stories between July and December.

It’s always an enlightening exercise.

I’m always surprised by what I’ve forgotten. This year, though, I’m struck by how relatively uneventful the year has been. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Remember the Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times?” The suggestion is that the less interesting the times, the better the living.

Chestnut Hill has had its interesting times. Looking back through the stories we’ve published, you can find unusual events, like the fire that burned down Rittenhouse Lumber’s Erdenheim lumber yard or . the story of a young man tasered and robbed on his E. Highland Avenue front steps.

But aside from those events, there hasn’t been a major zoning battle to divide the neighborhood. There hasn’t been a big public issue to stir major public meetings or resident passions.

What we have had is quiet retirements – like that of the venerable Hill barber Frank Salemno. We’ve had small residential zoning disputes, like that of Herbiary, which wanted to use a residential garage on Mermaid Lane for classes.

In addition to those stories, we had news of positive change – from the announcement of $850,000 in funding to start a Chestnut Hill Community Development Corporation, thanks to a redirect of Chestnut Hill Hospital’s Business Privilege Taxes, and the recent news of a major master planning effort by the Woodmere Art Museum.

Other news in the year furthered themes that have been a part of this paper and this neighborhood for a long time. Parents at J.S. Jenks Elementary School face the constant pressure of a public school district that seems consistently on the verge of bankruptcy.

Neighborhood crime – particularly home burglaries and thefts from vehicles – continues to raise concerns for residents.

Also, a new system of assessing properties in the city for tax purposes – the Actual Value Initiative – gripped residents everywhere who weren’t sure what those assessment changes would mean for their tax bills.

And again Hillers confronted these issues. At Jenks, the Friends of J.S. Jenks, an advocacy group of Jenks parents, had an unprecedented year of fund-raising and events that have helped fund enrichment programs at the school that reduced state and local funding were not going to provide.

The Chestnut Hill Community Association held numerous meetings this year in which the public was able to talk with the police to learn how crime was being addressed.

And the CHCA also held a series of meetings to help educate the public about changing property values.

All in all, it might have been an interesting year, but not one worthy of a Chinese curse.

PS: Wishing everyone a not-very-interesting 2014.

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