Fast cars zipped around downtown Baltimore streets and, it turns out, the race promoters' financial messes. A robocall that urged voters to relax and stay home led jurors to a vote of their own: guilty of election fraud. We bade farewell to an iconic mayor, and began ushering out the city's last Fortune 500 company.
As we re-wind the year 2011, these were some of the events that make us pause the fast-reverse button. It may not have been an earth-shattering year — although an out-of-nowhere quake did rock our part of the world in August — but it was a memorable one.
Here, then, is a story about the stories of the year.
The year had barely gotten underway when gunfire erupted outside a downtown club early Jan. 9, leaving a police officer and a patron dead. In a friendly-fire incident, plainclothes officer William H. Torbit had been shot by fellow police responding to the scene. In August, States Attorney Gregg Bernstein would decide not to file charges, although a couple months later, an independent panel faulted police supervision of the chaotic scene.
In February, First Mariner Bank CEO Ed Hale was detained at BWI airport when a loaded gun was found in his briefcase. (Not to be outdone in celebrity arms news, Tom Clancy sought to build a gun range in his spread at the Ritz-Carlton Residences at the Inner Harbor.)
While Hale eventually got off with a $342.50 fine and probation, 2011 would prove to be a bad year from him all around. In April, he accepted an infusion of cash to save his faltering bank but agreed to step down as chair and CEO, which he did by year's end.
February was also not a good month for Baltimore, with 17 cops charged in a kickback scheme with a towing company and the city losing federal funds for lead abatement after what officials said was a mismanagement of the program.
March brought the Supreme Court ruling that the First Amendment allowed the Westboro Baptist Church to wave hateful, anti-gay signs at military funerals such as that of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder in Westminster, prompting his father to sue the group.
Efforts to bring same-sex marriage to Maryland took a hit after last-minute machinations led to the measure dying without a vote in the House on March 11. But in July, Gov. Martin O'Malley threw his support behind the effort, making it one of the big issues before the General Assembly next year.
Nancy Grasmick, whose soft-spoken manner masked steely political skills, announced her retirement after two decades as Maryland's schools superintendent, the longest of any in the nation.
In a case of life imitating art that imitated life, Felicia "Snoop" Pearson of "The Wire" fame was among 63 people arrested in a drug raid. In August, she would plead guilty in exchange for a suspended sentence.
Finally, March also was when we ran out of time. Or, at least, the recording at (410) 936-1212 that used to give the confused and clockless the official time, a service Verizon decided to discontinue.
April dawned with the usual, and unwarranted, hopefulness of spring: The Baltimore Sun's headline on, appropriately, April Fool's Day trumpeted, "Optimism Abounds" for the Orioles' season opener. The Os won, but would end the season with its 14th consecutive losing record.
Meanwhile the General Assembly raised liquor taxes for the first time in decades and, in another issue the will dominate next year, granted in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants. Opponents successfully petitioned to send the issue to voter referendum, but supporters have filed suit to block the ballot measure.
Crime would also draw headlines in April: A video of a transgendered woman being beaten in a McDonalds in Rosedale went viral and led to a hate-crime conviction. And, sadly, Phylicia Barnes, a 16-year-old who vanished in Baltimore at the end of 2010, was found dead in the Susquehanna River.
The first word that Chicago-based Exelon was attempting to take over Constellation Energy came at the end of April. The plan, which would put Baltimore's sole remaining Fortune 500 company, and the parent company of local utility BGE, under an out-of-town corporation still faces regulatory hurdles. But it got a boost at the end of the year when O'Malley wrestled what he said was more than $1 billion in concessions in exchange for his support of the $7.9 billion buyout.
The biggest news in April, though, came on the 18th, when William Donald Schaefer died. The famously cantankerous former mayor, governor and comptroller left behind Harborplace, the downtown stadiums and other major projects that he propelled during the Baltimore Renaissance and in return, the city warmly sent him off, with hundreds lining the streets for his posthumous motorcade and then packing his downtown church for the funeral.
The following month, Schaefer's longtime partner in downtown development, Willard Hackerman, would propose one more landscape-altering project: an expansion of the convention center that would bring a new hotel and replacement for the First Mariner Arena.
Also in May, Terps basketball coach Gary Williams announced his retirement after 22 years of suit-soaking courtside operatics.