The holidays are a time to get together with friends to drink eggnog and eat cookies before the New Year’s dieting season begins. It’s also the season of 10 best lists. 

I’m a sucker for both of them — the cookies and the lists — so here’s my take on the juiciest, most encouraging news stories of the year.

Drumroll please.

Number 10: State Sen. Kevin Priola announced in August that he would sever his increasingly tenuous ties with the Republican Party and register as a Democrat. 

He said he could no longer abide the party’s unwillingness to condemn the actions of insurrectionists at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and their leader, former President Trump. 

“There’s too much at stake right now for Republicans to be in charge,” he said, roiling his former colleagues into a proper frenzy.

He also said Republicans “would rather deny the existence of human-caused climate change than take action.” 

I don’t recall anyone challenging that.

Priola bravely called BS and moved on, risking a recall and staring down the full-blown hissy fit by his former buddies. 

Bravo.

Number 9: A year ago today, the James Webb Space Telescope, designed by engineers from across the country including Colorado, was launched and, yowza, has it expanded our understanding of the universe.

Images from this amazing contraption have offered our first glimpses of five galaxies, Jupiter’s moons, a dying star, a moving asteroid and light thought to be emitted 13.8 billion years ago.

It may seem ordinary to folks accustomed to sci-fi fantasy depictions of space, but to the nonfiction scientists at Ball Aerospace, watching the images appear from the telescope after years of intricate design work moved them to tears of utter joy. 

Number 8: Coloradans finally started overcoming range anxiety and are buying electric cars.

The Colorado Automobile Dealers Association reported that growth in EV sales jumped 60% in the first nine months of the year.

☀ MORE IN OPINION

High gasoline prices last summer, an education campaign by the Colorado Energy Office and the state Department of Transportation, and a barrage of TV commercials during major sports events are the likely some reasons for the uptick in EV sales.

No matter what inspired the movement, it’s a small but promising sign for the future of our children and the planet.

Number 7: Voters in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District shocked the nation by almost electing Democrat Adam Frisch, a former Aspen city councilman who attracted scant national attention or money in the race against the pistol-packing incumbent QAnon darling, Lauren Boebert.

Boebert, who was expected to skate to re-election in the overwhelmingly Republican district, barely survived, winning by a measly 551 votes.

Clearly, even in Republican strongholds, voters are tired of the circus.

Number 6: The University of Colorado Regents this month grew a backbone after more than two years of sticking it to university administrators to deal with the John Eastman poop-show and finally called it like it is — “an embarrassment.”

The former visiting, um, scholar in conservative thought at CU was referred by the House Jan. 6 committee for potential prosecution for his alleged role in perpetrating the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, enabling the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and leading efforts to undermine democracy and the rule of law.

Regent Lesley Smith’s statement said: “We respect both the January 6 Committee’s right to make a referral to the Justice Department and the department’s ability to evaluate the evidence and determine whether to seek charges against him.”

Just a guess here, but I suspect the university will apply far greater scrutiny in its selection of scholars in conservative thought in the future. They might start by weighing academic bona fides above rank partisanship, which would be a step toward avoiding future embarrassments.

Number 5: The Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 21 years and did it with exceptional style.

One of the best moments occurred after Nazem Kadri was subjected to threats and racist attacks following a game with the St. Louis Blues and responded by delivering his first-ever playoff hat trick. 

“I know those messages I got don’t reflect every single fan in St. Louis. But for those that hate, that one’s for them,” he told ESPN.

Some call it karma. Others say it’s revenge. 

For athletes, it’s inspiration.

Number 4: Voters in November approved a ballot measure to fund school lunch programs for all students across the state.

I know, I know. For most people, lunch is not the most pressing problem in our schools. Maybe financing education so that kids can all attend class five days a week would rank higher. Or paying teachers a living wage.

But Proposition FF goes a long way toward reducing the stigma of being a kid from a low-income family, and that’s a very big deal.

Politics is the art of the possible after all. Let’s quit bickering and celebrate a win.

Number 3: The promise of clean fusion energy has come closer to reality with the recent announcement of a breakthrough dubbed the “scientific energy breakeven.” For the first time, a lab was able to produce more energy than was consumed by fusion ignition.

Applied mathematicians at CU Boulder are working with scientists from eight other institutions under a $15 million grant to advance fusion research in the hope of bringing fusion energy to commercial use within the next decade — or sooner.

Fusion is considered a game-changer in the quest to mitigate climate change, so, hey, fingers crossed.

Number 2: As COVID-19 moves from the pandemic stage to the endemic, Coloradans continue to work proactively to protect themselves and each other by having among the highest vaccination rates in the country. 

Some 82% of us have had one dose of the vaccine and 72% are fully vaccinated.

A study released in the Lancet found COVID mortality rates were 11-26% higher in congressional districts dominated by Republicans, places where anti-vaxx messaging was rampant. 

Bummer for them.

And finally.

Number 1: This one’s personal.

In the wee hours of Oct. 10, my cousin, Douglas Diamond, was awakened by a call from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to inform him that he had won the Nobel Prize in economics. 

Known as the “father of modern banking theory,” he won for his seminal research on the critical role banks play in the economy, particularly during financial crises. 

The family has been celebrating with pride and abandon ever since, even though most of us don’t pretend to understand his research beyond the most basic level.

We know him as a kind and generous guy who just happens to be a genius.

What a year.


Diane Carman is a Denver communications consultant.

The Colorado Sun is a nonpartisan news organization, and the opinions of columnists and editorial writers do not reflect the opinions of the newsroom. Read our ethics policy for more on The Sun’s opinion policy and submit columns, suggested writers and more to opinion@coloradosun.com.

Diane Carman

Special to The Colorado Sun Twitter: @dccarman