OK, enough talk about 2009. That is so last year. Let’s look ahead.
Of course, no one can predict what we’ll endure in 2010, but we’ve given it a go.
Here are a couple of local story lines we think will command the Herald’s headlines, in no particular order.
Manatee County will have at least two new representatives in the Florida Legislature, with Reps. Bill Galvano and Ron Reagan reaching their term limits.
(Galvano has said he will run for the Florida Senate in 2012, seeking the seat of Sen. Mike Bennett, who will be reaching his term limit.)
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan is expected to have his easiest campaign since he was first elected in 2006.
A record jobless rate of 12.9 percent, homeowners being foreclosed on by the thousands and a slow home resale market made 2009 a dispiriting year. But there are signs that improvements are stirring, even though the jobless rate could be unacceptably high for several more years.
The tainted Chinese drywall saga will continue well into 2010. The first drywall-related federal bellwether trial is expected to begin in January, followed by others in subsequent months. Federal investigators will continue to study the drywall’s health effects, and plan to develop a national standard for removing and replacing it.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office crackdown on gang activity had an effect, with some gang members apparently looking south to Sarasota County for easier pickings. But violent crime of all kinds — not all of it gang-related — resulted in a heavy loss of life during 2009. The final chapter on the war on gangs remains to be written.
In late 2009, Manatee County schools Superintendent Tim McGonegal began considering how long retired district employees must wait before they can reapply for a school job.
The practice of double-dipping, which came under fire with a handful of high-profile instances this past year, is pocketing retirement pay, while also taking home a salary.
As of July 2010, retirees must wait six months before being eligible for re-employment with the state. McGonegal is slated early next year to recommend to the school board if he thinks retired district employees must wait longer than six months.
Rise of the Marauders
Spring training baseball is a mainstay here, but 2010 will bring minor league baseball to Bradenton’s McKechnie Field.
The Pittsburgh Pirates organization purchased the high-A Florida State League affiliate from the Cincinnati Reds, and made McKechnie its permanent home in 2009.
The Bradenton Marauders will play 70 games starting with opening night April 8 against the Fort Myers Miracle, complete with fireworks show after the game.
The city of Bradenton is hoping for an economic boon.
n Clifford Davis is scheduled to go on trial on charges he killed his mother and grandfather in 2005. The case stalled after prosecutors appealed a ruling by a judge throwing out his alleged confession, saying Bradenton police continued to question Davis after he asked for an attorney.
n Cody Rogers is expected to go on trial in February in the killing of William White. A jury found White’s shooter, former Lakewood Ranch quarterback Tim Brooks, guilty Dec. 4 of shooting him. Rogers is also charged with murder, accused of aiding Brooks in a robbery that led to White’s death.
n Byron Galloway, 16, is slated to go to trial in April in the shooting death of just-graduated Bayshore High School student DeJuan Williams.
This cultural affairs group hit the ground running in 2009 after its cultural study of Manatee County revealed that the arts has a $29.5 million impact on the community. The group quickly worked on plans to help revitalize downtown and strengthen area arts organizations so that art-hungry tourists and others will be attracted to the area.
In 2010, the group has big plans, including establishing a cell-phone tour for downtown Bradenton and promoting several new events for the area.
Former Coast Bank executive Philip Coon’s sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 25-29. He pleaded guilty in October to federal charges of wire fraud and money laundering for illegally pocketing $1.2 million generated from a loan skimming scheme.
Coon faces five years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 and forfeiture.
Unemployment tax increase
The surging unemployment rate will put another burden on the economy. Small businesses will see an increase in their unemployment taxes starting in January. The minimum annual tax rate for employers will increase from $8.40 an employee to $100.30 an employee. The maximum annual rate for employers will increase to $459 an employee, up from $378.
State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota won approval for its first four-year degree programs in 2008. It bears watching to see when other bachelor’s programs come on line. SCF is also doubling the size of its Lakewood Ranch campus.