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Signs of economic recovery among top Sonoma County stories in 2012

  • Boni Cardona paints a home under construction, by Lennar, on Chokeberry Court in southeast Santa Rosa on Monday, Jan. 30, 2012. ((Christopher Chung / PD))

The blanket of economic pain covering the North Coast for three long years started to lift in 2012 as the battered housing market began to revive and more people found work again.

But those welcome developments seemed at times to occur at a painfully slow crawl. By contrast, the Petaluma Little League all-stars delivered an exhilarating experience that passed all too quickly.

The team of 12- and 13-year-olds made a historic, improbable run to the national Little League World Series title game, ultimately finishing third in the world.

That innocent pleasure cast in dark relief the admission by hometown cycling celebrity Levi Leipheimer that he had been part of a doping ring managed by Tour de France legend Lance Armstrong and his team's managers.

Rohnert Park occupied an unusually large place in the year's news, as the place where two long-held and controversial visions achieved reality. Sonoma State University opened the Green Music Center to the public. And across town, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria broke ground on what is set to be the Bay Area's largest casino.

In government, circumstances appeared at times to be nears intractable, as Sonoma County officials made incremental progress in their attempts to come to grips with a heavy public pension burden while facing off with employees resisting further cuts.

In other political arenas, there was swifter change.

November's elections remade the county Board of Supervisors, toppled influential Democrat Assemblyman Michael Allen and elevated a familiar face to replace retiring Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, who stepped down after 20 years in Washington.

Movement was recorded on the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit commuter train system. Nearly four years after voters approved tax increases to pay for it, the train agency started laying and renovating 38.5 miles of track.

Troubling trends were evident in Santa Rosa schools, where an analysis of data showed that school choice policies have led to schools that are increasingly segregated by race.

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