National and world events, including the presidential election, ongoing economic struggles, and conflict in the Middle East, dominated headlines in 2012 and engaged citizens in the public debate.

But closer to home, area residents kept watch on the issues in their cities and neighborhoods -- concerns over municipal budgets, tax measures and schools. There was also the news of volunteer efforts, special events, and people in the community.

In the first days of 2013, here's a look back at the stories in the Pleasant Hill/Martinez Record in the past year:

January

  • Astound is investing about $3 million in Pleasant Hill to offer cable TV, high-speed Internet, and home phone service initially to homes located from Boyd Road south to the city limits, with the company evaluating expansion to other neighborhoods.

  • The Martinez school board agrees to spend $6.2 million on solar panels to reduce energy costs and free up funds for the district's other needs. An analysis estimates the district will save $475,000 in the first year panels are operational.

  • Pleasant Hill resident Jon Charles Clayton Carlson, writing under the pseudonym Jonny See, authors a series of children's books inspired by his strolls along the Iron Horse Trail.

  • Marvin Terrell is honored by the California County Planning Commissioners Association as its 2011 Planning Commissioner of the Year. Terrell was unanimously nominated by the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors for his more than 20 years of service.

  • The Sheriff's Office hopes to raise funds for K-9 unit equipment by selling calendars featuring the county's eight-member canine team.

  • Martinez will install about 60 single-space, solar-powered parking meters that accept credit and debit cards along Main Street from Castro to Court streets for a three-month trial.

  • The year-round Sunday farmers market at Main and Estudillo streets in Martinez launches into its first winter season.

  • Cynthia Murdough, the Martinez Chamber of Commerce CEO, resigns for personal reasons. She had taken over the post in 2008 when the chamber was struggling financially, and promoted the city and organizational events.

  • District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover opens his new office in Martinez, in a more central location for the redrawn district 'North Shore' boundaries, which stretch from Antioch and Pittsburg, to Bay Point, Clyde, Pacheco, Martinez and the Alhambra Valley, to Port Costa, Hercules, Crockett, Pinole and Rodeo.

  • At his Martinez store, Joel Steffen repairs clocks and offers customers the option of paying for the work or donating to a charitable organization researching histiocytosis, an autoimmune disease that affects his 8-year-old granddaughter.

    February

  • Pleasant Hill leaders will hold a workshop to assess the goals that shape the city priorities in light of the end of redevelopment and ongoing financial uncertainty.

  • The sixth annual Diamond Classic Catch & Release Sturgeon Derby is held in the Carquinez Strait for kids and adults. Taking first place was Shawn St. Germain of Martinez.

  • Martinez Mayor Rob Schroder acknowledges a tough slog the past few years, but in his 2012 State of the City address, believes Martinez is about to turn the corner to some stability and possible even some economic growth.

  • Zehra Otus, German teacher at College Park High School in Pleasant Hill, is recognized with the German Embassy Teacher of Excellence Award -- one of only three in the nation. She was nominated by the local chapter of the Goethe Institute, which promotes German language and culture, and sponsors events and classes for adults and teens.

  • Pleasant Hill is launching initiatives to help local businesses attract more customers, including a pilot marketing program and survey of business owners.

  • The 61-year-old Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District unveils its updated website, complete with contemporary logo of the oak tree and streamlined access to updates.

  • Martinez extends a program of reduced building permit and impact fees with the hopes of encouraging new projects, creating jobs and stimulating the economy for an additional 18 months.

  • Pleasant Hill's CineArts Theatre will be one of the screening locations for films in the 17th annual East Bay International Jewish Film Festival.

  • A new exhibit at the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez details the conservationist's boyhood inventions while growing up on a Wisconsin farm.

    March

  • Pleasant Hill City Council plans to adopt new rules limiting the size and placement of campaign signs in time for the November election.

  • Wendy-Lynn Brown of Pleasant Hill is in the aisles at Scandinavian Designs in Concord when she turns around and meets "Room Crashers" host Todd Davis asking if she would agree to have her bedroom redone and filmed for an episode of the HGTV show. She agrees to three fun-filled days of renovation.

  • The proposed designation of an area in eastern Pleasant Hill to allow an emergency homeless shelter prompts worries about safety from residents in Pleasant Hill, Concord and Walnut Creek.

  • The Creek Monkey Tap House in Martinez is the site for the St. Baldrick's Foundation benefit for young cancer patients. Kids and adults sign up to have their heads shaved to show solidarity with and raise funds for childhood cancer research.

  • The Pleasant Hill farmers market will move to the plaza area between Jack's Restaurant & Bar and Sweet Tomatoes and also have later hours to draw more customers and a wider selection of vendors.

  • The fifth annual Interact Iron Chef Championship pits top chefs from the Martinez Unified School District, Martinez Rotary and Alhambra High School to benefit Interact's service projects.

  • Hundreds of Girl Scouts gather at Pleasant Hill City Hall for a local celebration of the centennial of Girl Scouting.

  • The Martinez Unified School District tries to recoup almost $23,000 in lost funding when more than half the Alhambra High School student body stayed home on the day of a threatened campus shooting the previous fall.

  • David Leynov, a Sequoia Middle School seventh-grader, wins the Northern California/Nevada regional Middle School History Bee and will represent the school at the national bee in Washington, D.C.

  • Some downtown Martinez business owners appeal a Planning Commission decision to lump lice-removal salons in with barber shops and beauty salons under a zoning ordinance.

    April

  • Martinez hosts 150 Sea Scouts at the 32nd annual Seafarers Regatta amid gusty wind and rain. Young mariners from 14 ships match their skills in 22 competitions.

  • The Pleasant Hill City Council reviews a proposed revision to the municipal code the would consolidate the application process for permits for a range of events, including parades, neighborhood block parties, carnivals, commercial filming and festivals.

  • The Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District discusses revising the Blues & Brews Festival, which the previous year brought in only about $2,000, and prompts the district board to find a way to make it more profitable.

  • Alhambra High School Principal Nermin Kamel, a native of Egypt, restores the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance at the school, with the provision that students can participate or respectfully abstain.

  • Star Quest's 20th anniversary youth talent show in Pleasant Hill is a homecoming, with former participants coming back and taking to the stage alongside the talented cast of young performers.

  • Small fry drive their nonmotorized bikes, trikes and Big Wheels through Mini Motorland at the John Muir Amphitheatre in Martinez, making stops at a "carwash" and "gas pump."

  • A proposal to make revisions to the size and placement of temporary signs in Pleasant Hill proves to be so complicated that a subcommittee is established to draft a proposal for displays for City Council review.

  • The dual John Muir Birthday-Earth Day celebration at the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez features nature walks, birthday cake, musical entertainment, recycled fashion show and an appearance by "John Muir."

  • The Martinez City Council is to review an outdoor dining proposal which would allow downtown merchants that serve food to use up to two parking spots for dining space.

  • Pleasant Hill launches a retail marketing incentive program to give a total of $37,500 in grants to small businesses that generate sales tax revenue and to neighborhood shopping centers.

    May

  • The Pleasant Hill City Council must decide how to fill the seat left vacant by the move of Councilwoman Terri Williamson to the Grass Valley area. It is the second time in just over a year the council had to fill a vacancy, the other time when Karen Mitchoff was elected to the board of supervisors in November 2010.

  • The inaugural Amazing Race of Pleasant Hill spurs 50 entires and raises about $2,000 for funds and awareness for local schools through the sponsoring organization, the Foundation for Pleasant Hill Education.

  • The Pleasant Hill City Council OKs an ordinance that requires all hotels and motels to record the name, address and license plate number of each guest and make that information available to police, in an effort to discourage prostitution and other illegal activity.

  • Martinez approves a tax-sharing deal with the Contra Costa County Local Area Formation Commission in preparation for a hearing on its proposal to annex 140 parcels in the Alhambra Valley spread across 400 acres.

  • A Friday afternoon teen chess club is started at the Pleasant Hill Library by 13-year-old Emmet Brast-McKie, a Pleasant Hill Middle School student.

  • David Leynov, a seventh-grader at Sequoia Middle School in Pleasant Hill, heads to Washington, D.C. to compete in the National History Bee Middle School Competition.

  • More than 3,000 Bay Area students come to the John Muir Amphitheatre in Martinez for a live theater experience, watching "A Year With Frog and Toad."

  • Vicente Martinez High School teacher Rona Zollinger is the Martinez Unified School District Teacher of the Year and a semifinalist for the county Teacher of the Year.

  • Sequoia Elementary School in Pleasant Hill is home to Mona Lisa Ricard, the Mt. Diablo Unified School District Teacher of the Year.

  • Regulations are approved by the Pleasant Hill City Council to streamline the certification process for massage therapists and practitioners in the city and deter illegal activity.

  • Memorial Day ceremonies are planned in Martinez and Pleasant Hill to honor the military personnel who have given their lives in service to the country.

  • The ribbon cutting marks the $4 million upgrade to Rankin Park, which includes new restrooms, concessions area, parking lot, and remodeled picnic areas, and repaired drainage problems. There are also play structures and a climbing wall.

  • John Swett and Morello Park elementary schools in Martinez earn Distinguished School status from the California Department of Education.

    June

  • Alhambra High School students Bailey White and Brett Enke took first place in the Northern California finals of the Ford/AAA Auto Skills competition.

  • The Pleasant Hill City Council is in limbo waiting for City Councilwoman Terri Williamson, who moved from the city, to officially resign from her seat before it can decide how to fill the vacancy.

  • Dee Wood steps down from the Martinez Community Chorus after 10 years as its director, and leads her final concert with the group.

  • Free Wi-Fi will be coming to the swimming pool, marina and new indoor sports complexes in Martinez with the increased coverage by AirCloud, which also increases coverage at Martinez City Hall.

  • Seniors at Alhambra, College Park and Vicente Martinez and Briones High School, as well as independent study and home-school students mark their graduation from high school with commencement ceremonies.

  • Pleasant Hill OK's a $41 million two-year budget. While sales tax projections are up, the budget still includes projected deficits, with property taxes expected to be flat, as well as the general fund having to absorb $330,000 in salaries and $650,000 for economic development programs previously paid by the Redevelopment Agency.

  • The Martinez school board agrees to place a measure to extend the $50 annual parcel tax -- for five years -- on the November ballot.

  • King of the County BBQ is held at Waterfront Park in Martinez, with winners in chicken, ribs and chef's choice categories coming from across Contra Costa County.

    July

  • The $37 million two-year budget adopted the previous year by the Martinez City Council comes up $51,000 short due to flat sales and property tax revenues and a few other sources.

  • Martinez holds a Downtown Ghost Walk on the last Friday of the month, allowing participants to work with the same equipment used during a real paranormal investigation, including cameras, voice records, flashlights, ghost detectors and dowsing rods to capture evidence of paranormal occurrences.

  • Martinez City Councilwoman Janet Kennedy announces she will not seek re-election. She was originally appointed to the council in 2002 to complete the two years left on the term of Rob Schroder, who was elected mayor.

  • Friday the 13th is lucky for Pleasant Hill brothers Brian and Jeremy Kerfs, who win the annual Derby Day cardboard boat race at Pleasant Hill Aquatic Park.

  • Martinez native Joe DiMaggio is immortalized on a commemorative U.S. postage stamp, one of four icons of Major League Baseball, including Ted Williams, Willie Stargell and Larry Doby, to receive the honor.

  • The Pleasant Hill City Council approves a four-year contract with the police union that includes raises as well as health and retirement benefit cuts.

  • The Pleasant Hill City Council OK's a San Francisco law firm to act as the city attorney while city leaders search for a short-term replacement for Debra Margolis, who resigns.

  • Some 150 families join their neighbors for overnight camping at Pleasant Oaks Park and enjoy communal activities, games and campfire.

    August

  • Former Martinez resident Keris Dahlkamp swims the 22-mile length of Lake Tahoe to raise awareness and support for families suffering from violence in the Congo.

  • The first new commercial complex built in Martinez in more than a decade is slated to open on the formerly vacant 1.5-acre site on Arnold Drive where the popular pumpkin patch and Christmas tree lot used to appear every year.

  • The annual Martinez Beaver Festival attracts visitors from across the region to get a look at the shy guests of honor -- the family of beavers living in Alhambra Creek.

  • Martinez Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer Mary Peinado is ousted after just three months on the job.

  • Ann Kelt of Pleasant Hill is honored by the National Braille Association with the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award for transcription during her 40-year career.

  • The Pleasant Hill Library holds its "Night of 1,000 Inventions" featuring the innovative and whimsical ideas submitted by local children.

  • Candidates for Martinez school board differ on how to allocate $45 million in bond funds to cover a long list of projects across many campuses.

  • Children follow in the footsteps of naturalist John Muir at the weeklong John Muir Mountain Day Camp which offers them nature study, history and entertainment.

  • Denver Mills of Pleasant Hill is named 2012 Veteran of the Year by Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla (D-Concord) in the 11th Assembly District. Mills founded and is chairman of East Bay Stand Down, which provides assistance to veterans in need.

  • The Martinez City Council agrees to make a $71,266 interest-only payment to the state Department of Boating and Waterways on the marina loan, rather than replay the city's general fund. Since 2005, the city has loaned the marina $624,592 and the marina still owes $473,849.

  • Schools in the Martinez and Mt. Diablo school districts open for the first day of classes of the fall semester.

  • Alhambra High School holds a five-decade reunion -- classes from 1940-1989 -- and some 1,600 people turn out for the Saturday night celebration.

  • The Concord Blue Devils' "A" Corps, with members from across the region, are world champs for the 15th time, taking the title at the Drum Corps International World Championship in Indianapolis, and wrapping up an undefeated season. The "B" Corps takes the silver medal in the open division.

  • The Pleasant Hill team of Mayor John Hanecak and Chef Lesley Stiles win the fourth annual Mayors' Healthy Cook-off.

  • The Pleasant Hill City Council agrees to retain the San Francisco law firm Richards Watson & Gershon to provide legal services while it searches for the best way to permanently replace Debra Margolis, who resigned.

  • Matt Powers, of Pleasant Hill, is elected as secretary-treasurer on the board of directors of the Emergency Nurses Association, which has a worldwide reach of 40,000 members.

    September

  • Paleontologist Andie Lichtman brings fossils and bones to the Dinos Rock! program at the Pleasant Hill Library, thrilling a large crowd of youngsters.

  • The Contra Costa Local Agency Formation Commission will hear the amended plan by Martinez to annex 316 acres and 104 parcels in the Stonehurst, Alhambra Valley Ranch, Deer Creek and Valley orchard subdivisions.

  • Nine-year-old Madelyn Gamble of Pleasant Hill, ties for second place at the U.S. Kids World Tournament in North Carolina, competing against players in her age group from around the world.

  • The annexation bid by Martinez to include part of North Pacheco within its boundary falls short. Martinez officials may seek advice from an elections law expert on the implications of the tie vote, which the county elections division says its tantamount to a loss.

  • Pleasant Hill is the first stop on a roving exhibition of photographs depicting rare excavation views of the fourth bore project of the Caldecott Tunnel.

  • The Contra Costa Chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence steps into the Pleasant Hill City Council race, endorsing three candidates who support a ban on home gun sales -- Jim Bonato, Ken Carlson and Jeremy Cloward.

  • Martinez holds the ninth annual Italian Street Painting Festival.

  • Residents turn out in force to help clean up and beautify Pleasant Hill in the city's annual Community Service Day.

  • Candidates for Martinez school board participate in a pre-election forum, discussing the impact of the statewide tax measures on the November ballot, and agreeing the district would be hard-pressed to find places to cut costs.

  • John Muir Elementary School students work with professional musicians in a TuneLittle songwriting workshop, composing lyrics, selecting a tune and recording it for a compilation CD.

    October

  • The Pleasant Hill City Council agrees to borrow money to pay off $4.1 million of pension debt, with the goal of saving more than $700,000 in interest.

  • Workplace professionals share information with College Park High School students about careers during the Cutting Edge Careers event to inspire the young people to follow their interests into satisfying jobs.

  • Seven homes on the annual Martinez Home Tour represent styles from John Muir's Italianate Victorian to Craftsman bungalows.

  • Pleasant Hill's One City, One Book event takes on "The Hobbit," J.R.R. Tolkien's classic, which is being released as a movie in December.

  • Martinez and Pleasant Hill City Council candidates discuss their visions and priorities in pre-election forums: in Martinez, key issues include the marina and downtown. In Pleasant Hill, its' closing the deficit, naming a police chief and legal services consultant.

  • Day and night -- and Halloween -- tours are planned at the Alhambra Cemetery, offering participants stories about local war heroes, personalities and politicians.

  • The new $3.4 million 4,900-square-foot Pleasant Hill Teen Center holds its grand opening. Bond funds were used for construction, but a grant and fundraising effort of $160,000 was needed to purchase the furnishings.

  • The Martinez school district fails to meet achievement standards under the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, but shows strong test scores and a ranking of 839 on the state's Academic Performance Index, above the proficiency goal of 800.

    November

  • The first Kids Cook Off has teams from four area elementary schools making and plating their best dishes based on taste, presentation, nutrition and most kid-friendly entry. It is a way to get kids involved in wellness and nutrition. Gregory Gardens (Pleasant Hill), Bancroft (Walnut Creek), Mt. Diablo (Clayton) and Westwood (Concord) teams each work with a local chef.

  • A prolonged wait to determine who takes the third seat on the Pleasant Hill City Council is still ongoing as Tim Flaherty leads Jim Bonato by only 71 votes with only a handful of uncounted mail-in ballots. Bonato, however, is waiting until the Contra Costa Elections Division counts the remaining provisional ballots and certifies the election Dec. 4.

  • With an early Thanksgiving this year, both Martinez and Pleasant Hill hold their annual holiday kickoff celebrations in November, featuring carriage rides, caroling, snow park and Santa. Martinez was forced to cancel its parade due to severe storms that rolled through the area.

  • For almost 30 years, Jan Depuy has helped area residents restore their dolls and taught doll making at her Nature's Way Doll Centre in Martinez.

  • Martinez residents re-elect Rob Schroder as mayor, and return incumbent Mark Ross to the City Council, along with newcomer Anamarie Avila Farias.

  • Longtime Martinez school board member Vicki Gordon wins a seat on the Contra Costa Community College District governing board, which leaves the four other Martinez school trustees with the decision to appoint someone to finish the two years left on Gordon's term.

  • Street-crossing improvements on six sites along the Contra Costa Canal Trail in Pleasant Hill are officially opened when Mayor John Hanecak switches on the new stoplight on Gregory Lane.

    December

  • Tim Flaherty wins the third seat on the Pleasant Hill City Council by 108 votes over Jim Bonato. Incumbent David Durant is returned to the dais, along with newcomer Ken Carlson.

  • Sales tax revenue in Pleasant Hill is higher by 6 percent in the first quarter of the fiscal year that began July 1, than it was at the same point the previous year.

  • Martinez resident Mary Perez, founder of Christmas for Everyone, is still at the helm after 27 years, with plans to reach out to the needy in the community with a meal, clothing, gifts and entertainment on Christmas Day.