What was Greater Taunton's biggest story of 2021? Use this form to cast your vote

December is drawing to a close, ending another strange year in Taunton history. It was a time of political and social struggle, a time of tragedy and possibility, of endings and new beginnings. This was the second year of the COVID pandemic that still has the world in its grip, casting a specter over every aspect of life in the city. And yet there were some positive developments too.

We looked back at the past 12 months of Gazette stories and came up with a list of 10 of the most important issues and stories that affect us all. Let’s look at them all briefly — and we’d like you to choose which are the top three stories of 2021. Vote using our form at the bottom of the story.

Taunton Police Officer Jeremy Derosier, right, and his wife Jamie hold their daughter Aubriella, who holds a photograph of her brother Bryce. Bryce lost his battle with mitochondrial disease on June 27, 2018 and Aubriella lost her battle with the same illness on Oct. 8, 2021.
Taunton Police Officer Jeremy Derosier, right, and his wife Jamie hold their daughter Aubriella, who holds a photograph of her brother Bryce. Bryce lost his battle with mitochondrial disease on June 27, 2018 and Aubriella lost her battle with the same illness on Oct. 8, 2021.

Taunton officer walks daughter down the aisle before she loses battle with disease

Perhaps the most touching article of the year is the story of a radiant little girl who loved life so much she crawled when she could no longer walk and never, never stopped dancing. Taunton Police Officer Jeremy Derosier and his wife, Jamie, lost their 6-year-old daughter Aubriella to mitochondrial disease, only a few years after they lost their son to the same illness. They held a fairy-tale wedding for Aubriella before her passing.

Tragedy strikes: Taunton cop walks 6-year-old daughter down the aisle before she loses battle with illness

The iconic main entrance was pretty much all that was left standing of the Silver City Galleria in Taunton when local pilot Mike Dupont took this aerial photo of demolition work on April 30, 2021.
The iconic main entrance was pretty much all that was left standing of the Silver City Galleria in Taunton when local pilot Mike Dupont took this aerial photo of demolition work on April 30, 2021.

Taunton says goodbye to the Silver City Galleria

After years of lingering decline, the Silver City Galleria mall finally closed and was demolished, another victim of the retail apocalypse. The two-story mall had opened its doors in 1992, and by 2021 the front door was the only part still standing from the 1.1 million square-foot building. The site was sold in the summer, and could see industrial development.

Saying goodbye to the Galleria: How many times have you walked through this door? Taunton Galleria entrance last to go

Undated publicity photo of the retail area at Commonwealth Alternative Care's Taunton location.
Undated publicity photo of the retail area at Commonwealth Alternative Care's Taunton location.

Taunton’s long struggle to get into retail marijuana business

Taunton has taken the scenic route on the road to the recreational marijuana industry. Would-be marijuana business owners have long had complaints about delays, made allegations of unfairness, and faced cease-and-desist orders. It’s only after two years of red tape that the city’s first recreational pot shop has opened its doors.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em: Taunton's first recreational retail pot shop is open — here's what the first day was like

In this still from an Instagram video, a rider does stunts along North Walker Street in Taunton.
In this still from an Instagram video, a rider does stunts along North Walker Street in Taunton.

Taunton creates new ATV rules, angering ATV riders

Reckless riding of dirt bikes and ATVs on public roads has been considered a continuing nuisance in Taunton. After years of complaints, the city government created a new ordinance governing the use of these recreational vehicles, and what the city can do to those who violate the law. But some ATV riders said they have a side to the story too.

'Zero tolerance': Here are Taunton's new rules on reckless ATV driving

All American Assisted Living in Raynham resident Barbara Anderson gets her COVID-19 vaccination from pharmacist  Jessica Patel on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021.
All American Assisted Living in Raynham resident Barbara Anderson gets her COVID-19 vaccination from pharmacist Jessica Patel on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021.

COVID vaccines developed, come to Taunton area

The COVID-19 pandemic rolled along in its second year, but people were armed with a new weapon in the fight against the highly contagious illness: three new vaccines were developed. Initially rationed to give first-dibs to those at highest risk, eventually vaccines were authorized for everyone ages 5 and older. Early shortages of vaccines have given way to public clinics, like the VaxBus, and doses available at most pharmacies and clinics. But while COVID cases dipped in the spring and summer, new variants have emerged and new cases are soaring once again.

Take your shot: Taunton lags behind Mass. in vaccinating kids against COVID; here's how to get the vaccine

FILE - In this April 1, 2020 photo, a "For Sale" sign stands in front of a home The economic shutdown of March and April stalled it, but the spring real estate season eventually reached full bloom amid "super strong" demand that drove prices up to new highs, data on home sales in July shows.
FILE - In this April 1, 2020 photo, a "For Sale" sign stands in front of a home The economic shutdown of March and April stalled it, but the spring real estate season eventually reached full bloom amid "super strong" demand that drove prices up to new highs, data on home sales in July shows.

Taunton homebuyers struggle in a seller’s market

The local real estate market exploded in 2021, with home prices soaring – the average home price in 2018 is what the least-expensive houses are selling for now. We've been keeping an eye on the latest moves in the real estate market in our weekly updates. And while this trend has been great for sellers, it’s been difficult for homebuyers to find new digs.

'It was horrible': Taunton homebuyers struggle in seller's market

Taunton Police Sgt. Shawn Smith, as seen in a 2016 Gazette file photo
Taunton Police Sgt. Shawn Smith, as seen in a 2016 Gazette file photo

Police sergeant retires after OUI incident

An off-duty Taunton police sergeant was charged with seriously injuring a motorcycle rider while driving drunk. Shawn Smith of Raynham, with 21 years on the force, was arrested in the off-duty incident. He allegedly sideswiped motorcyclist George Haskell, 52, who faced serious injuries and underwent multiple surgeries during his over seven weeks in the hospital. Smith said he would retire from the force, and his case is pending.

OUI incident: Longtime Taunton cop to retire after alleged drunk driving crash with motorcyclist

The American flag, Gay Pride flag, POW/MIA flag and state flag are seen flying in Boston's City Hall Plaza.
The American flag, Gay Pride flag, POW/MIA flag and state flag are seen flying in Boston's City Hall Plaza.

Gay pride flag debate in Dighton and Taunton

A homophobic piece of hate-mail received by the town of Dighton sparked a debate in town over whether the gay pride flag should fly at town hall — a debate that lasted for months, with a local election hinging on it. In the end, Dighton Town Meeting ended up shutting down the debate definitively, by passing a restrictive flag bylaw after a four-hour meeting. Taunton got in on the gay pride flag debate as well, with Mayor Shaunna O’Connell opting not to fly the rainbow banner over city hall, sparking a small gay pride rally in protest.

Gay pride flag ban: Dighton Town Meeting bans flying LGBTQ and other flags on town property

Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter protests divide the region

The political divide was wide on other issues, as well. A mural at Taunton High School depicting the “thin blue line” drew complaints. Supporters called the flag a tribute to fallen police officers and a sign of support, while detractors noted that the flag has been flown in opposition to Black Lives Matter protests and has been used at white supremacist rallies. On Taunton Green, supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement and those holding Blue Lives Matter flags had dueling but peaceful rallies. In the end, the school replaced the mural with an American flag and a quote from a black soldier.

Dueling rallies: Taunton BLM and thin blue line supporters face off during peaceful but heated rallies

From left, Vinne Rege, Alan Ventetuolo, Sherrie Niedziocha and Nancy Labonte listen to Dean Robert Rezendes describe each classroom on Aug. 25, 2021 during a tour of the new Bristol Community College Taunton Center at the old Coyle & Cassidy High School and Middle School.
From left, Vinne Rege, Alan Ventetuolo, Sherrie Niedziocha and Nancy Labonte listen to Dean Robert Rezendes describe each classroom on Aug. 25, 2021 during a tour of the new Bristol Community College Taunton Center at the old Coyle & Cassidy High School and Middle School.

Bristol Community College opening in old Coyle-Cassidy school

A year after the closing of Coyle & Cassidy, the old school got new life, as Bristol Community College opened its Taunton Center in the building. Bristol had been leasing space inside the Silver City Galleria, but the new space gives the community college access to features that weren’t available in the mall space.

Peek inside: Here's a look inside Bristol Community College's new Taunton Center at Coyle & Cassidy

What's the biggest story of the year?

Use this form below to cast your vote for first, second, and third place.

Dan Medeiros can be reached at dmedeiros@heraldnews.com. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Herald News today.

This article originally appeared on The Taunton Daily Gazette: Goodbye Galleria, BLM protests, gay pride: Pick Taunton's 2021 story

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