We might look back at 2011 and see it was the year where the tide turned back in favor of freedom, free enterprise and the bedrock American values that made the country great.
Nationally, a new Congress was sworn in and was able to put a halt to the destructive socialist policies crippling what should have been by all historical standards a vibrant economic recovery. The ship did not change directions, but it largely slowed our plunging deeper into the abyss.
Locally, there were also changes in the right direction as two new members of the Manatee County School Board began asserting themselves with the tough questions that need to be asked. Lakewood Ranch voted definitively in a straw poll not to incorporate and become a city, ending the debate for at least a few years. And our neighbors in the city of Sarasota elected two new members to the Sarasota City Commission who promised more freedom for job-creators, more accountability in government spending and less government on the city’s taxpayers.
The Sarasota-Manatee economy fought valiantly to recover, battling against debilitating policy decisions out of Washington, D.C. Recovery is still creeping. Official unemployment remains far too high, and the unofficial rate — including those who have given up looking for work — is distressingly high.
This past year saw the elimination of Osama bin Laden from the planet, thanks to President Barack Obama’s decision to send in the Seals to finish the job that Americans have long awaited in the wake of 9/11.
The earthquake and tidal wave that struck a devastating blow to Japan was awful in loss of life and property, but it’s long-term economic impact on that country and the world seems to have been overstated.
Then, there was the phenomenon of the motley crowd making up Occupy Wall Street, which spread to Occupy Sarasota and other local variations. It looks like the whole sad, envy-filled episode may fade away as quickly as it rose.
Now it is time to look ahead. Herewith is our wish list for the coming year:
• That the United States remains a beacon of freedom and prosperity, and we return to the values and belief in capitalism that made us the leading economic engine of the free world.
• That Europeans see the error of their ways in having governments promise too much to too many people.
• A safe and productive year for all of our armed services — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard — for protecting us from the enemies who want to destroy the United States.
• That Israel remains safe and prosperous.
• That Americans awaken to see clearly the difference between two paths of life: liberty vs. the state — good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, freedom vs. servitude.
• That the right candidate is elected to lead the country and reverse the destructive, socialistic, anti-American agenda of the present administration.
• That the miracle of all miracles occurs: Congress ends deficit spending and borrowing.
• Repeat from 2011: That the Federal Reserve Bank quits printing money to keep Congress’ drug habit going — spending money the government doesn’t have. Not only does this mortgage our grandchildren’s future, every day it reduces the value of the dollar’s buying power. It’s an insidious tax.
• That the Tea Party keeps the heat on at all levels of government to balance budgets, defend the Constitution and reduce government intrusion.
• That Americans embrace capitalism. But first they must understand it — that it is the reason we have what we have.
• That the Keystone pipeline is built in the United States — without the baseless opposition of the environmental wackos (i.e. namely, the anti-man Sierra Club).
• That Floridians appreciate Gov. Rick Scott, who is doing the right things for the future of the state and its residents, even though they may be unpopular and offend some special interests.
• That Floridians deliver a resounding rejection of Barack Obama in the presidential election.
• That Florida voters retire U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. It’s time for the ultra-liberal redistributionist to go.
• That Florida’s economy shows surprising growth, leading the nation out its five-year depression and surpassing Texas as the place for business and jobs.
• That school boards across Florida would be allowed to set their own tax rate and spend the money as they see fit. As it stands, the 40-year-old school-funding program de-links who sets tax rates (the Legislature) from those who spend the money (school boards).
• That we would see another hurricane-free year.
• That Sarasota and Manatee counties stop poaching each other’s companies by using taxpayer money as incentives. It is lose-lose for counties whose residents and economies are so tightly linked.
• That Sarasota and Manatee counties’ business leaders and commissioners concede the obvious — the need for only one economic-development organization that serves the entire two- and three-county region (Manatee, Sarasota, Desoto).
• Repeat from 2011: That our region’s retirees — 37% of the population — would recognize that increased business activity and growth is good for them and especially for future generations; and that they would become among the region’s leading supporters of increased economic, business and population growth. We have seen what no growth does — 12% unemployment — and it’s miserable.
• That Nathan Benderson Park at University Parkway and Interstate 75 and Premier Sports Campus Lakewood Ranch become what they have the potential to become — the new rocket fuel for the region’s tourism and economy.
• That Manatee Commissioner Joe McClash at last meets his match.
• That Manatee’s gangs get gonged out of existence. Law-abiding citizens need to take back their neighborhoods, and crime must draw harsh punishment.
• That Schroeder-Manatee Ranch’s plans for its North Sarasota County development finally get under way (no thanks, of course, to the obstructionist County Commission.)
• That the new leaders and tenants at San Marco Plaza and Gateway to the Ranch experience resounding success.
• That Eva Rey, Lakewood Ranch Town Hall’s new executive director, and Rebecca Gutierrez, new manager for the Sarasota Polo Club, each experience productive, successful first years on the job.
• That Don O’Leary, winner of the first Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance Sandies Award for Citizen of the Year, can enjoy a well-deserved vacation (albeit temporary) from his role as the Ranch’s top cheerleader, volunteer and be-there-when-you-need-help guy.
• That more vibrant, successful retailers fill up the storefronts on Lakewood Ranch Main Street.
• An effective, honest campaign trail for all vying for the Manatee County Commission District 5 seat.
• The the quality of life throughout the Ranch and East County remains what it is — a great place to live, work, raise a family and enjoy retirement.