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A brighter and better new year

Why not approach the new year with optimism? Here are our predictions for 2010:

Drivers will be instilled with a new sense of responsibility and awareness. They'll buckle up their seat belts, turn off the cell phones, stay away from alcohol and not venture out when "no travel" warnings are issued. The number of crashes the newspaper reports in 2010 plummets.

Someone figures out a way to kill zebra mussels without harming anything else in the lake. At the very least, the public will aggressively support the efforts of local lake associations and the Department of Natural Resources in stopping the spread of invasive species.

The state recognizes the need for action and approves grants that will pay for "Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers" signs at boat accesses, watercraft inspections at accesses, and an educational campaign to boost awareness to all lake users about the threat of invasive species.

The state Legislature -- and the governor -- will recognize the plight of small cities and counties and not cut local government aid (LGA). As a result, local governments will be able to set budgets without cutting essential services or raising property taxes.

A new wave of respect settles over those who post online comments on newspaper websites. They will treat others as they expect to be treated. The debate will be thought-provoking, mind-opening and constructive.

The race for governor focuses on pertinent issues and leadership abilities. Those who try to sling mud and offer only criticism of other candidates will quickly be drummed out of contention.

Local businesses see a big turn around in the economy. Manufacturers are energized with work orders from near and far. Jobs that were cut are filled anew. Residents support their local businesses like never before. The local retail industry booms.

Those trapped in a cycle of domestic violence, both the abusers and the victims, find the courage to get help. They contact local support services, and turn their lives around. Domestic abuse calls drop to all-time lows.

Local residents become more involved in their school, county, city and township decisions. The empty chairs at local meetings will fill with an active citizenry that offers ideas, input and constructive criticism. Activism replaces apathy.

Volunteerism swells to record levels. Organizations and community causes that struggle to find enough help or rely on the same people year after year, are buoyed by an outpouring of new involvement.

Those who wreck other people's property, commit acts of vandalism and engage in other senseless, selfish crimes have an epiphany. They realize the consequences of their destructive behavior and change their ways. The crime news reported in the newspaper's blotter slows to a trickle.

The chances of any of these predictions coming to pass, of course, are slim. But the degree of how much they're off hinges mightily on how willing people are to make changes, the effort they put into it and the sense of hope they have that it can be done. Let's all hope for a brighter and better 2010.

-- Alexandria Echo Press