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Sister Cities Under Stress (March 9)

The Seattle-Perugia Sister City alliance — which, because of the unfortunate events surrounding Seattle’s Amanda Knox, might be considered one of the world’s more twisted sister-city pairings — has managed to hum along in the past year, despite that omnipresent distraction.

“The Knox thing is always out there, ready to cast its shadow,” observes Mike James, a longtime curator of Seattle’s friendship with the Italian city. “Too much of Seattle can’t imagine Perugia as any more than a murder scene.”

James and others have soldiered through that by focusing on the many upsides of the relationship, including a successful Italian Film Festival here, and a possible visit there by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray (who is being hailed as a breath of fresh air for city international relations in general).

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For her part, Knox awaits yet another ruling on her overturned/reinstated murder conviction while managing to live a relatively normal life in Seattle: She’s been working as a writer for the West Seattle Herald.

— Ron Judd

Carless in Seattle (June 1)

Since our car vs. car2go vs. bike vs. taxi race earlier this year, Seattle has another mode of transportation that should be included in future contests: the Pronto bike. The bike-share service debuted in October with a fleet of 500 bicycles at 50 stations around the city.

With two months under its tires, the most popular stations have been in Capitol Hill (Harrison and Broadway, 11th and Pine, 16th and Pine), downtown (3rd and Pike) and South Lake Union (Yale and John). We imagine some riders have discovered the joys of cruising up and down Seattle’s slopes, despite the winter rain.

Speaking of splashes, Uber, the fastest ride in our race, has been in hot water recently. During the summer, ride-service competitor Lyft accused Uber of ordering and then canceling thousands of Lyft rides. (Uber denied this.)

Meanwhile, the budget options in our transportation race continue to make strides: King County Metro Transit is set to expand its bus service, adding extra buses on overcrowded routes, after voters in November approved $45 million per year in additional revenue. And the notorious Second Avenue bike lane received a much-needed makeover with the hope of better protecting cyclists.

Maybe in a year we’ll survey the latest transportation contenders and replicate our race with renewed competition.

— Katrina Barlow

Beyond the Betting (Aug. 17)

In August, Ron Crockett, president of the group running Emerald Downs, was worried about having enough Thoroughbred horses to sustain racing at the Auburn track.

But Crockett said the track was holding its own, thanks in part to the 15 percent share of purse money contributed by the Muckleshoot Tribe, which owned the land under the track.

Now the tribe is about to become owners of the track, too. In November, the tribe announced it was buying the whole shebang from Northwest Racing Associates.

Track officials say the 2015 season, the 20th at Emerald Downs, will run 70 days from April through September; the 80th running of the Longacres Mile, the richest race in the Pacific Northwest, is on for August.

The sale does not mean a complete exit from racing for Crockett. He’ll stay on as a consultant, and he still owns horses that will race at Emerald. But Crockett, 75, says he has other plans as well.

“I’ve got three grandchildren that will occupy some of my time.”

— John B. Saul

Waterfront Dreams (Sept. 14)

No sooner had we showcased the ambitious plans to remake Seattle’s downtown waterfront into a park as inspiring as its Elliott Bay setting than Mayor Ed Murray announced he was scaling back. No seasonal swimming pool barge. No view overlooks at Blanchard Street, or at First and Union. The concert piers could be repaired, but they wouldn’t be rebuilt, at least not as part of the project’s first phase.

With the tunneling machine Bertha stalled and cost estimates for the new park running about $200 million more than original projections, the mayor reasoned that some parts of the redesign could be put on hold and others phased in. He said he’d put a priority on the new pedestrian walkway along the western edge of the seawall, now being rebuilt. He also said design work would continue for the Overlook Walk connecting Pike Place Market and Seattle Aquarium.

But even those plans are being challenged by a group of waterfront condo owners and businesses who say the city shouldn’t have issued a permit for a new elevator and stairs at Union Street. They say the city hasn’t completed the environmental-impact review for the entire park and shouldn’t issue permits one project at a time. Condo owners also are worried about increased noise and their views.

As a practical matter, the new seawall, which includes the rebuilt promenade with its translucent pavers, is supposed to be finished in 2016. And Pike Place Market will start building its part of the waterfront entrance this spring. Look for excavation of the dirt hillside below the market and for juvenile salmon finding their way along the waterfront’s restored shoreline.

— Lynn Thompson

On the Rights Path (Oct. 26)

The fights both for and against gay rights in Africa gained momentum this fall, adding to an already chaotic year in the campaign for equality on the continent, an issue we explored in a story about the relatively accepting climate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in South Africa.

In Uganda, government officials were threatening to enact a tough new anti-gay law to replace a previous anti-gay law the country’s high court struck down on a technicality in August. Gay activists in that country feared the new law, intended to suppress the “promotion of unnatural acts,” would be even harsher than the previous one.

Strict new anti-gay laws proposed in Gambia and Chad this fall also drew condemnation from gay-rights advocates.

In Botswana, rights champions had brighter news. The high court there overturned a state ban on the country’s first gay-rights lobbying group, saying the government’s 2012 decision to not allow the group to formally register as an advocacy organization violated its constitutional rights to free expression, association and assembly. Human Rights Watch called the decision a “milestone” for the continent’s gay-rights movement, but there was a possibility of the government appealing the ruling.

Tyrone Beason