The first line of Charles Dickens' classic work of literature A Tale of Two Cities applies when looking back on the year that's about to pass into history it was the best of times in some ways and the worst of times in others.
The worst economic downturn since the Great Depression finally caught up with Glen Rose, pressuring the bottom lines of local businesses especially downtown merchants (see the story about latest sales tax revenues on page 1A) and chipping away at the investment income of local government entitities. It got to be a standing joke between County Judge Walter Maynard and County Treasurer Barbara Hudson that the county's investment income was negligible because of low interest rates.
At the same time, the biggest business boost in several decades, the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant's proposed expansion, moved a step forward. Luminant's proposal to build two new nuclear reactors cleared several regulatory hurdles.
The big question is whether the new Congress that takes office next month will be as supportive of nuclear energy as the previous body was and whether Congressman-elect Bill Flores, a Republican and oilman by trade, will be as much of a champion of nuclear energy and Comanche Peak as his Democratic predecessor, Chet Edwards, was. The new Congress has a huge job ahead of it cutting the federal budget without further hurting the economy, which nationally is in the fragile first stages of a recovery. But tell that to all the people who are unemployed or underemployed.
Tourism, the clean industry that every small town in Texas wants to attract, faltered in a big way last year. How to attract more people to Glen Rose when tourists are tightening their grips on their pocketbooks remains one of the big questions for the local economy. Certainly, the city's Convention & Visitors Bureau and the county's Expo did a good job attracting some big horse shows to the area. And the Glen Rose/Somervell County Chamber of Commerce added a First Saturday Market Day to the mix. The last two drew crowds to the square and hopes are to expand next year.
It's the concentration of attractions that draw tourists and dinosaurs remain ever-enduring in people's hearts even millions of years after their demise. More dino attractions could help. The discovery of more dinosaur tracks behind the Comfort Inn & Suites on property owned by Larry Smith Sr. was a promising development. Despite the disagreement over who discovered the tracks first, their existence could lead to another park for Glen Rose. The question is who will foot the bill to develop it and whether it should receive public support.
At any rate, it was an interesting year and one to learn from, at the very least.
I always enjoy this slow dead week between Christmas and New Year's. It's time to take stock of the year that's almost past and reflect on accomplishments, disappointments and how to learn from them both to make the next year better.
Some readers of this column may be surprised to hear this, but I'm an optimist. I tend to think just about anything can be fixed or improved with effort and that no task is insurmountable.
Thus, I offer 20 wishes and resolutions for the new year ahead. Some likely are on your list too.
In 2011 let's hope for:
1. Some good people to run for mayor and no one who has a husband, wife, son, daughter-in-law, brother or distant cousins who want or expect city jobs or board appointments because they are so overly qualified.
2. No more blatant conflicts of interest at any level of local government. If it doesn't pass the smell test, hello that means it stinks.
3. More businesses to open in the empty storefronts on the downtown square.
4. More tourists.
5. Fewer drunks, wife-beaters, child molesters and drug dealers on the jail log each week.
6. More people walking on the River Walk.
7. Fewer people walking on the dangerous Texas Drive hill.
8. Forward momentum for Oakdale Park and that no one gets electrocuted before the city fixes the utilities there.
9. No more lunches at Hooters or elsewhere on the city tab, regardless of what a great job somebody does and what great wings they have. If you want a reward for working hard, get a barbecue sandwich or a burger like the rest of us.
10. Diligent background checks performed on all city, county, school district and other government employees. That way there will be no surprises later on.
11. No more front-page stories that have to use graphic language to convey the criminal backgrounds of government employees. We really don't want to sell newspapers that way, but sometimes it's necessary. The truth is shocking sometimes and sugar-coating it doesn't help.
12. More turnout in local elections. If you don't vote, it's hard to complain when elected officials don't behave the way you want them to.
13. More participation in serving on city boards and commissions. The same people keep turning up. And there are some great folks, but it's time for other people to step up to the plate and relieve the pitcher.
14. More civility. People should be able to disagree without demonizing each other, especially when it comes to politics.
And now for the resolutions:
15. I resolve to triple- and quadruple-check the spellings of names and to get them right. Okay, Brent Ferren, Chris Hunter and other people whose names I've mangled?
16. To do a better job of covering Glen Rose ISD and Walnut Springs ISD. Students are our future and what happens to them every day is important.
17. To always deal in a straightforward manner with people. My office is always open to anyone who wants to come in and talk to me. Or call me at 897-2282 if you have a story idea or a concern.
18. To bring the Reporter in line with other media with better online coverage and, yes, audio and video. I got a Flip video camera and I'm ready to play with it. So smile!
19. To clone myself so I can be everywhere at once.
20. To never forget who I work for you, our readers.