The new year is upon us, which means my dining room table is awash with scraps of paper and tally sheets that are the tax significant detritus of 2011…may it rest in peace. It is also time for me to unleash the mighty visions of my personal band of prognosticators to find out what 2012 holds in store for us.
With me again this year are the likes of: Madame Natasha, whose four separate clairvoyance parlors put her close to the top of the town’s wealthiest citizens; Ace, my barber, whose network of well-connected customers, reinforced by his ability to read hair clippings where others see only clutter, ranks him among the most authoritative experts on the state of the union; and last but far from least, Princess Morningstar, Ojai’s reigning tarot card reader and hamster psychic, who understands everything nobody else does. So hang onto your seats, folks, here it comes…
Things We Still Can Count On
* While we live in a time of incredibly exciting change, we can still flip on the news and wonder if it’s worth going on for another day or two.
* It’s not inflation we’re experiencing; it’s just that it’s more expensive to produce the packaging for things we buy that are now coming to us in smaller portions…sort of like bikinis.
* We know that the margin for error in the way we conduct our business is shrinking at a rate matched inversely by the number of ones and zeros our computers can crunch in an average nanosecond.
* We know that the number of demands placed on us by regulators at every level of government continues to grow at a rate limited only by the ability of the various taxing agencies to take our money and turn it against us.
* We know that the weather—whatever it is—is what it has never been before.
Things We Can Be Pretty Sure Of
* Despite the dire predictions of a rapid and all-consuming recovery, it looks as if the nation’s economy intends to keep us guessing for another year.
* With the exception of higher-than-average temperatures and lower-than-average rainfall in the Southwest, and with above-average rainfall in Florida, NOAA’s long-range weather-guessers see 2012 as depressingly normal for a change.
* Although most engine manufacturers are staying mum about price increases for meeting Tier 4 emissions regulations, there’s little doubt that we can look forward to some pretty significant sticker shock for trucks and equipment in the coming year. The good news is that it may be mild compared to what’s in store for 2014 and beyond, when the air coming out the exhaust will have to be cleaner than what’s going in.
Out of the 30 million or 40 million challenges that wander around the landscape with little regard for how we feel about them, I’d like to point to two that we need to do something about:
* If you didn’t like the unpredictability of last year’s fuel prices, you might suspect that, tame as they seem at the moment, there’s a lot more excitement to come. So long as the bulk of our fuel supply is in the hands of people whose interests are often inimical to our own, the likelihood of roller-coaster fuel costs—and, worse still, shortages—exists. It is not enough to say that we’ll be a little more careful in our fuel usage—perhaps save a gallon or few through better management—when you consider the rate at which worldwide demand is increasing. We need to help our elected officials make the development of new and optimally renewable sources of energy a national priority while we still have the maneuvering room to do so.
* Despite a population rapidly approaching the 7 billion mark—five times what it was only a century ago—we’re faced with a worldwide shortage of qualified equipment operators and technicians. It’s one thing for this to exist in what are considered “emerging” areas of the world, but the situation is little better here … and not apt to improve given an educational climate that downplays the importance of and opportunities in vocational pursuits. It’s time to confront our nation’s education establishment with its critical shortcomings in order to meet the demands of the 21st century.
In the past week or so we’ve read several reports indicating that the economic worm may be turning. Being a card-carrying skeptic, I have yet to experience any overwhelming desire to rush down to Walmart and spend like crazy—which is just as well because we don’t have one of those all but ubiquitous edifices in our area—but there are some subtle indicators to recovery, nonetheless.
We’re all used to seeing or hearing about this person, or that business that has gone belly-up in the wake of the downturn…truly situations fraught with sincere drama and despair. Rarely the focus of reportage, however, are the far greater number of people and companies like you who have survived, continue to cope with hardship, and now are growing eager to cast off the depressing pall that has enveloped us for the entire lifetime of my nearly five-year-old grandson.
While construction will not come close to being a leading indicator of incipient recovery, there are forces beyond residential building starts that are making their presence known…forces that can be denied for only so long having to do with the increasingly deplorable state of our basic infrastructure. There are communities, no doubt, where the streets, underground utilities, and stormwater systems are just hunky-dory, but if you’re living in one, (a) don’t move and (b) you probably don’t need to work for a living anyway. For the rest of us, it’s rumble-bump-bump, splursh, and what happened to the lights?
These are conditions we pay our elected officials to oversee, but as many of you have noticed, some of these stewards have been more interested in socking the public’s largesse away in their own coffers than taking care of business. Now, finally, citizens around the country are beginning to get crusty in their heightened interest in “where did the money go?” Just as news anchorman Howard Beale in the movie, Network, proclaimed, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more,” it appears that some of the go-along media are beginning to show interest in the situation...a sign that in an election year all things are possible.
Upcoming Forester University Webinars:
January 26th, 2012
5 Steps to Creating a Successful Public Outreach Campaign
Change starts with people. Whether your focus is stormwater pollution, energy conservation, pavement restoration, or recycling, a successful public outreach campaign resonates with your target audience and leads to long-lasting behavior change. Join Erica Hooper of SGA to explore a proven 5-step approach to crafting a successful outreach campaign based on real-world examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Read more…