Wham! And with that, the Pandora’s Box of 2016 slams shut. What a year it has been.
Pop icons of the baby boomer generation passed away; George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Muhammad Ali, Alan Rickman, among others.
In politics, a brash New York billionaire won the race for the presidency. He beat a brazen New York millionaire to do so. Both candidates reached record heights of unlikability. The victor, prior to Election Day, questioned the integrity of our voting system. The vanquished chastised him at that time.
Now, with the election come and gone, rumors and reports abound about Russia’s involvement with the election. People of all stripes are rightly concerned about this apparent game of geopolitical intrigue, with Democrats sounding the loudest alarm about the integrity of the vote. We’ve come a long way from President Obama mocking Mitt Romney for saying Russia is our most prominent rival.
Internationally, Britain voted to leave the E.U., while “Margaret Thatcher-in-a-suit” seems likely to be the next leader of France. Italy’s leftist prime minister fell after staking his future on a failed referendum. And turmoil in the Middle East continues; the Syrian regime continues to use weapons of mass destruction with impunity while Iran secures contracts — as part of the nuclear deal — to buy from Boeing.
In the United States, New England will now have four Republican governors. Maine’s GOP led this Yankee resurgence, while the other party — formerly associated with Jefferson and Jackson — remains somewhat adrift in the Pine Tree State. The parties battled to a stalemate in the State House, but for the first time in decades an electoral vote was given to the Republican presidential candidate. The most expensive race in our state’s history — with ads abounding from all sides — resulted in Republican Bruce Poliquin running away with the Second Congressional District.
Yet, despite the floundering of the Democratic Party, the paid advocacy groups on the left managed to get two of their priorities passed at the ballot box. All for the low, low cost of a few million dollars. But that victory came against a fractured opposition — Maine small businesses — fearful of being unfairly ostracised, with the tax increase eking out enactment only by running up the score in Portland.
And in Portland, Mayor Ethan Strimling took office at the start of the year. He had beaten Michael Brennan by promising leadership that brought together disparate groups. Standing at the end of the year, what did Portland taxpayers receive? Unanimous council votes against the mayor, a toxic, politically charged environment in City Hall, and thousands of dollars in legal bills for a mayor seeking an opinion granting him power the charter did not vest in his office.
With such a chaotic year ending, what will 2017 bring?
But when Pandora, in the ancient Greek myth, slammed shut her box after unleashing evils and maladies into the world, one thing remained: hope.
Let’s wish that, if nothing else, 2017 brings us a new hope. Agreement in Washington on how to both fund our infrastructure while recognizing the perils of spiraling debt and deficits. Work in Augusta to put politics aside, letting the construction get started on new facilities to treat the mentally ill in our justice system; staffing and procedures can be worked out while the concrete sets.
If those who passed away in 2016 taught us anything, it is that life is fleeting. We have a short time to make this world a better place. With a lot of work and a little hope, we can get there.
Happy New Years, everyone.