Wondering what 2009 has in store? So are we. We thought it'd be fun to put that question to some local notables — politicos, journalists, rabble-rousers, psychics, — to get their insights on the year to come. There weren't any guidelines, beyond asking them keep it short and get back to us in a timely manner. The answers we got run the gauntlet from serious to silly, wonkish to lame (ahem, Robert Stuart). The responses are below, edited for space and clarity. We hope you'll find them as entertaining as we did.
First though, here's our prediction: 2009 will be the year Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer's venues plan implodes. The tourist and property taxes Buddy counted on won't be there. Since everyone's poor, nobody (except Stuart) cares about seeing the Orlando Magic in their new Golden Pleasure Dome™, and even fewer people care about the arts. It's a simple equation: No interest plus no money equals no entertainment utopia.
Then again, just because it doesn't make sense doesn't mean Buddy won't do it. Your kids can pay off the crushing debt.
Heather Allebaugh, Orlando city spokesperson: There is no doubt that these are challenging times for our economy both here in Florida and nationally. While everyone's focus in the coming year will be centered on the economy, the story of the year will be about how we as a community worked together to overcome challenges. The story of the year will be how this community innovated and collaborated in an effort to fight for a brighter future even in the face of tough times.
Phil Diamond, Orlando city commissioner: Stock market crashes and Barack Obama elected as 44th president of the United States. Oh wait, those were my predictions from last year. Here are the 2009 predictions: One, the medical city in southeast Orlando will continue to be a bright spot for the area's economy, with Burnham and UCF providing high tech, high paying jobs. Two, the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series.
Nick Egoroff, Orlando Ron Paul Campaign for Liberty organizer: We got within one vote (122-121) of throwing Orange County Republican Executive Committee chairman Lew Oliver's ass out. We are now continuing to pursue legal remedies. Of course we would have won except that Lying Lew decided to disqualify 18 of our members from voting.
Laura Guitar, senior vice president, Edelman Group (speaking for the Dr. P. Phillips Performing Arts Center): Clearly, there is a story coming that will be so big it's all anyone will talk about for years to come. Yes — we've heard something to do with a Harry Potter attraction. But the beginning of the site work on the Dr. P. Phillips Orlando Performing Arts Center in the fall is clearly THE news of 2009. We look forward to having you join us for what (seriously) will culminate in significant milestone for our community.
Jessy Hamilton, steering committee chair of Greater Orlando Team Hillary: The biggest story of 2009 will be the backlash against Amendment 2 by commonsense Floridians who recognize that second-class status for unmarried couples of all sexual orientations is both bad for business and repugnant to American ideals of fairness and equality. Twice in our state's history, hate has been woven into the fabric of our Constitution — once to defend the enslavement of African Americans and again in 2008 to dehumanize members of the GBLT community. One hundred years from now, both will be viewed as shameful acts enacted by cowardly men.
Carl Howard, teacher and political gadfly: What's next is that conservatives finally break their stranglehold on public education. What's next is that they finally get a clue as to how important it is to adequately fund public schools and do whatever it takes to help create a great public school for every child in Florida!
Margot Knight, United Arts president and CEO: The arts and culture stories will/should be: One, the fiscal health and vitality of cultural organizations and their audiences. Two, collaborate or die! (That's UA's unofficial slogan.) Initiatives and planning for the field, particularly important for downtown Orlando groups (DPAC, DAD/City Arts Factory, History Center, Mad Cow, new Carver Theater, etc). Three, benchmarking progress on our downtown Orlando arts and sports venues (large and small). Four, the expansion and success of www.redchairproject.com in building audiences including out-of-town visitors.
Stephanie Porta, Orlando ACORN head organizer: Foreclosures and the economic disaster that will undoubtedly hit our "grow grow grow" community harder than most — and the failure of local government to do anything about it! But the people will unite and force action in any way they can.
Linda Stewart, Orange County commissioner: The state of the economy will be the focus of discussion throughout 2009, and along with that broad concern, the more specific topics will be the consequences of job loss, more home and business foreclosures and the homelessness of families with inadequate safety nets available to them. The new president will have much to bailout and stimulus projects take a long time to get underway before results are seen, but the crisis will be here sooner than we are able to plug the holes. It may be described as a recession in 2008, but it is going to feel more like a depression in 2009.
Robert Stuart, Orlando city commissioner: After the Gators win their second national championship in three years, I'll put away the orange and keep out the blue for the 2008-09 championship run for our Orlando Magic. Then, I'll dig out my old "WE BELIEVE IN MAGIC" bumper stickers for good luck.
Mike Synan, political reporter, WDBO 580-AM: There are a couple of things I'll be watching. One, Rep. John Mica, R-Daytona Beach, prevented the state and the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority from going through with the plan to toll new lanes down the center of I-4. Mica may be ready to give in. Will that plan be announced this year? Two, in Seminole County, the seventh-cent of sales tax will expire in 2010. I see no move to end that tax, so the question is what will that money go for next? More road building? Increased parks and school-operations budgets? Perhaps most likely, the money will to go to Seminole Community College (if the law would allow it). Three, will the Citrus Bowl renovation be cancelled?
Steve Triggs, Orange County spokesman: We will see the tightening death spiral of daily newspapers across the country and deepening trouble for local broadcast news outlets. Now that the political advertising season is over and car dealers are on the ropes, expect some stations to jettison high-priced news talent in favor of the never-ending crop of younger, eager, cheaper newbies. Some weaker news operations may fade away altogether or be forced to pool resources with more viable competitors.
Kim Wade, resident psychic at Avalon: I can tell you right now that 2009 is an "11" year and 11 is master number. Eleven is a number of inspiration, and it's also the number of the justice card in the Tarot deck. I think politically we're going to be in for quite a few shakeups along the way. I don't think people really understand what has gone on as far as our (soon-to-be) ex-president is concerned. There's probably going to be some big changes in the banking system. Political things will be front-row center, a whole total start of a restructuring going on. We're going to see more as far as — it's not going to be so much the big guy as far as money, big time. We're going to start tightening the belts, big time. I don't want to preach doom and gloom, because I don't believe in that. But we're in for some big changes.
Jennifer Wakefield, public relations director for the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission: Despite economic hard times, interest in Metro Orlando as a business location remains high. However, the decision-making process has slowed. It is at times such as these that we must increase and enhance our competitiveness, rather than slowing down and waiting it out. The EDC's priority for 2009 is to ensure that the economic development momentum of the past several years continues and that Metro Orlando exits the national recession more quickly and even better positioned than we entered it.
Michael Wanzie, gay raconteur: I predict that gay marriage will become legal in 49 states (Utah notwithstanding), Florida's ban on gay adoption will be lifted, and gays and lesbians will be able to openly serve in the military before Barack Obama leaves the White House. Providing he doesn't leave in a casket — God forbid— but you know how those bigots with three names can get — John Wilkes Booth, James Earl Ray, Lee Harvey Oswald! I suggest a ban on anyone who goes by three names from getting within shooting distance of the president. An exception can be made for Carmella Marcella Garcia, of course.
Dain R. Weister, Orange County Health Department public information officer: With the downturn in the economy, the Orange County Health Department expects the number of struggling uninsured families, who need health department services, to continue to increase. The agency's number of uninsured clients rose by 15 percent from 2007 to 2008, and now a new program is available to help people without health insurance. Starting Jan. 5, the Cover Florida Health Care Access Program will be available for families who can't afford costly medical bills or health insurance. Cover Florida, which was launched by Gov. Charlie Crist, requires no tax dollars to make affordable, quality health insurance available to Florida's 3.8 million uninsured. Through a competitive bidding process, the state of Florida selected six private insurance carriers, which have designed 25 creative health insurance products for those without insurance.
Robert Wesley, Orange-Osceola County public defender: The only thing that I can think about right now is poverty. I see more and more people sleeping around the YMCA on Shine `Avenue`, I mean middle class people. You know because they can take a shower there — "You can get yourself clean/ you can have a good meal/ you can do whatever you feel." I think there's a whole new kind of poverty looming. Everybody wants `the poor` to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and they're all wearing firstname.lastname@example.org