- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2008

Folks love to make rhymes about the new year. So far I’ve heard: “It’s going to be great in ‘08,” “Don’t hate; participate in 2008” and “Let’s get it straight in 2008.” All optimistic ditties to set a positive path for the year.

I can go with the Pollyanna predictions on a personal basis. But ever skeptical that the politicians we elect will do the right thing, I can’t help but wonder for whom the new year will be great, who will comprise the “hater” obstructionist contingent, and just how and what will be set straight by whom when.

For example, will D.C. school students really witness improved classroom instruction in better buildings at the tangled hands of highly paid novice administrators who don’t seem to know what their left hand is doing from the right?

Will 23 school buildings be closed for prudence or politics? Will 26 more be auctioned off to the highest bidders or to for-profit education endeavors?

And, just what dedicated career educator will be tapped on the shoulder and told to leave for no cause just to make way for yet another highly paid novice?

Someone please tell D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and his minions that they do not need dozens of window-dressing “community meetings” to continue their deconstruction of public schools.

But watch as parents and community activists are tarred and feathered as obstructionists for seeking cogent answers about the criteria for closing schools in their neighborhoods.

Hey, Maryland’s cowardly representatives may win the voter referendum on slots this fall, but want to take a bet on whether the D.C. city’s chief financial officer, Natwar M. Gandhi, will still have his job by late 2008?

As for straightening out that embarrassing and outrageous tax scandal mess (at least $20 million plus and counting), let’s see who else’s head will roll. There is, after all, an upcoming D.C. Council election.

Now that Congress released the lock on the city’s coffers for needle-exchange programs, will this be the benchmark year that the District happily loses its designation as the jurisdiction that reports the highest number of new HIV/AIDS cases in the country?

Cross your fingers. Maybe the 2008 legislative session will mark the historic turning point when Congress finally figures out how to grant democracy in its own back yard to nearly 600,000 citizens who pay taxes but have no vote in the national legislature.

Local autonomy? Will the U.S. Supreme Court clarify the Second Amendment and uphold the lower court ruling nullifying the District’s handgun ban? Watch out: Private weapons may be as plentiful as cherry blossoms come spring.

Ah, someone please remind me who has been tapped to throw the first pitch in the new Southeast baseball stadium in April. By then, D.C. officials should have kissed and made up with Washington Nationals’ owners for hosting their team gala in National Harbor.

Wow, how about that glitzy National Harbor and the gleaming Woodrow Wilson Bridge? Don’t dare call it “PG” or “Ward 9” again because the county’s fortunes are definitely looking up.

Just wait until Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, grinning from ear to ear, pulls the lever on the first slot machines to line the Potomac.

Cuts, cuts and more cuts in public services will be the ‘08 mantra for many regional legislators’ crying about budget shortfalls.

Transportation funding? They might finally break more ground for the Intercounty Connector before another delaying legal challenge, but the Metro Purple Line, where art thou? I pity the poor people who must live near the aboveground Metro line if it’s ever built from Tyson’s Corner to Dulles. Start investing in earplugs now.

As for dedicated funding for the aging Metro system this year, forget it. Commuters’ picked pockets will be emptier as fares continue to rise with gas prices, food prices and housing prices.

No wonder you might be looking to hit the Powerball or Mega Millions jackpot in ‘08, but I can’t throw my pennies away on a long shot. However, I will wager a virgin voyage that the water taxi service between National Harbor and Alexandria will be this year’s hit with area tourists.

Carry me back to ol’ Virginny. Well, ah, as long as you’re not an immigrant. The General Assembly in the Old Dominion undoubtedly will spend most of its partisan session bickering about the countless immigration measures that have been introduced.

Richmond representatives must tackle the complex issue of determining when and to whom a patient’s mental health records can be viewed in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre. But will authorities, as they should, strengthen the rules on background checks for gun purchases?

As Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and his Democratic Party flex their newfound muscles, we’ll see whether former Gov. Mark Warner’s luck holds out in ‘08 as he attempts to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. John W. Warner (no relation).

Purple state in ‘08? Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat, predicts that Virginia will “be in play” for the will-it-ever-be-over presidential primary and election, but I wouldn’t throw away my red markers too fast.

In the will-it-ever-be-over category, can we get it straight in ‘08 to end this war, to end hatred and bigotry, to end senseless violence, to end poverty and homelessness and people dying because they can’t get affordable and adequate medical care?

Well, I can only read the tea leaves; in the public arena, the past is a pitiful barometer.

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