The Niles Daily Star’s 2018 top 10 countdown continues

Published 8:48 am Friday, December 28, 2018

As the remaining days of 2018 whittle down to a new year, the Niles Daily Star reflects on the year’s top 10 stories. Each day will feature one of the biggest stories of the year that brought about significant change for the community and this year there was a lot. From coming together to in times of tragedy to seeing new business developments and legislation change the economic landscape it has been a busy year brimming with accomplishments and events that promise an equally exciting year ahead.

5. Motocross of Nations — Each Independence Day weekend, every corner of Buchanan and much of the surrounding region is stuffed with motocross racers and fans as the track hosts the Redbud MX Nationals. This October, however, the racetrack was home to an iconic event: The Motocross of Nations (better known to racers as MXoN).

This was only the fourth time the international motocross championship had been hosted in the United States, and it was the first time it was hosted in the Midwest. With just one year to pull together the Olympics of Motorsports, Redbud MX owners Tim and Amy Ritchey had their work cut out for them — and they pulled it off.

More than 60,000 people from around the world visited Buchanan for the MXoN during the weekend of Oct. 5. Racers came from 29 countries across the globe.

Motocross lovers were excited to see famous names like Travis Pastrana, Ryan Sipes and Kevin Windham in the lineup. The trio formed Team Puerto Rico and used the race as an opportunity to raise money for hurricane victims still working to rebuild after Hurricane Maria caused mass destruction this past summer.

Despite rainy weather, the event was one to remember for motocross lovers and Buchanan residents.

4. Schools deal with threats of violence — One week after 17 students were killed in a shooting in Parkland, Florida in March, several local school districts hosted walk-outs to demonstrate their support for the victims and their disgust with the ongoing epidemic of gun violence in schools.

Students were not punished for the walkouts so long as they handled themselves in an orderly fashion, and school continued as normal following.

In the aftermath of the shooting, administrators and staff members continued their work to make their respective schools as safe as possible, implementing and reinforcing drills, special entry systems, door locks and more.

School leaders continue to investigate several threats of violence left on shared calculators, bathroom stalls, computers and more. When school leaders have been made aware of cryptic messages suggesting violence, parents and students have been notified and the schools’ public safety teams have worked together with the police to determine the credibility of the threats. With the exception of one BB gun brought to school and surrendered at Ring Lardner, all threats have been deemed not credible.

Following the latest of many vague threats deemed not credible at Niles schools, the district has decided to form a task force of parents and staff to determine the best course of action to deal with these disruptive messages while keeping students safe.

3. Michigan votes to legalize marijuana — In one of the most controversial and anticipated votes of the year, recreational marijuana was legalized in the state of Michigan and won the majority in both Cass and Berrien counties.

Though advocates of recreational marijuana are still celebrating their victory, the state still has a long journey ahead before recreational marijuana facilities can begin to operate. In the new year, local municipalities will need to consider what, if any, facilities they will allow within their limits.

Much like medical marijuana, the decision of whether or not to allow the sale of recreational marijuana is left up to each individual municipality. One week after the vote was passed, outgoing Niles city councilmember Tim Skalla called on city leaders to “put the brakes” on future commercial marijuana industry planting roots in city limits. The council voted in favor of Skalla’s motion, inciting much anger from community members who see the economic potential. Since then, the council has agreed to revisit the issue when there is more clarity from the state.

In Buchanan, commissioners unanimously withdrew an ordinance that proposed an opt-out of recreational marijuana in late November. The proposal put forward by City Manager and Police Chief Bill Marx would have prohibited the sale of recreational marijuana in the same way that the city of Niles had decided to do.