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Looking back at Central Virginia's top stories of 2021

Posted at 7:40 AM, Dec 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-31 07:40:51-05

RICHMOND, Va. — Friday night, people will be saying goodbye to 2021 and welcoming in 2022. But before we go into the new year, it's important for us to take a look back at the stories that shaped 2021.

2021 was a violent year in the City of Richmond, as police investigated more than 90 homicides, approaching a 17-year high in the city. City Council is spending $1.1 million in 2022 to try to address social, economic and health inequities that often lead to violence. This comes as the Richmond Coalition of Police said they don’t have trust in their leader and have called for Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith to resign.

In June, a story of a Richmond dad dumping 80,000 pennies on his child’s mom’s lawn as a final child support payment went viral online. But Avery Sanford and her mom turned a bad situation into a positive one and donated every penny to Safe Harbor, a domestic abuse center.

On July 1, marijuana became legal in the Commonwealth. Adults age 21 and older are allowed to grow up to four plants at their home, and they can also “gift” seeds, but selling the plant is still illegal. The process of legalizing the sale of cannabis is still expected to take some time.

The start of the school year for Chesterfield students in August came with major frustration for parents, as the district faced a shortage of more than 100 bus drivers, leaving children waiting nearly an hour for the bus in the morning and getting home from school almost three hours late in the evening.

In September, Richmond students returned to the classroom for the first time in more than a year and a half. There were some woes over the district not serving hot meals for lunch, with some parents saying the meals that consisted of cheese sticks, Doritos and a few strawberries lacked nutritional value. But that issue has since been resolved.

Also in September, the Robert E. Lee statue that stood tall over Monument Avenue for more than 130 years was taken down following months of protest and an unanimous ruling from the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the state could remove the statue.

Crews were unable to find an original time capsule that was placed under the pedestal until just this week when crews found the box which contained books, money, ammunition and documents.

In October, Virginia’s race for governor gained national attention. For weeks, polls showed the race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin too close to call. Youngkin came out victorious that Nov. 2 night, and Republicans took back control of the state’s top three offices as well as the House of Delegates.

Issues with the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) are also top of mind as Virginians reflect on 2021. The agency finally launched a new online system in November, which was more than a decade in the making. That site has been down several times since it launched for routine maintenance according to the VEC.