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Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014
Steve Otto

Otto: Things to consider as we start a new year

Published:

Happy New Year!

Guess I can say that without the thought police getting too pumped up. After that Duck man catastrophe and a few months of trying to figure out twerking, this ought to whiz by the guardians of our souls.

I used to believe that New Year’s Day was a chance to start with a clean slate (for more recent generations that’s like having a clean screen on your iPad). I believed you could walk out your front door, soak in the new day, scratch out a few resolutions and begin anew.

Unfortunately, I’m still moping around the house with a giant bandage under one eye where the doctor dug out a skin cancer and told me to sleep sitting up for a few days, which just doesn’t work.

But I’m recovering. I’m able to make out the bills from the holidays that are stacking up, start missing the family that seems to scatter more quickly than it used to after the holidays and stare at our tree, which is shedding faster than I had hoped.

Fortunately, this should all be cured this evening when the Frau whips up her magnificent pot of Hoppin’ John mix of black-eyed peas, rice, bacon and lots of garlic that not only tastes great but will guarantee that 2014 will be a spectacular year for all of us ... at least until we start figuring out our taxes.

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Right now our concern is the overwhelming specter of huge flood insurance bills which, if nothing changes, means we will likely join tens of thousands of Floridians and flee the state.

Otherwise, at least on the surface, things look pretty good around here. Mayor Bob has proven to be a mayor who reaches into all of our neighborhoods and not just the favored few. He’s backed by a solid council. I wish the same could be said for the county, where palace intrigues still fester in the county center building.

Our schools are muddling along, despite a school board that — as pointed out in a Mother Trib story last week — spends more of your tax dollars on travel and less on what they should be doing, which is getting gas mileage from driving around visiting schools and getting hands-on involved.

The bad news is that I’m only talking about what we see on the surface. Here on the west coast of Florida we are facing the same issues confronting Americans everywhere as the aging Baby Boomer generation begins to move into retirement or just needs more financial aid to cover growing medical and insurance costs.

It is here that Florida is going to be at the top (or bottom, depending on your perspective) of retirees who can’t afford to retire and who will be paying ever-higher costs for food and medicine.

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On Monday, Florida officially pulled within 100,000 or so residents of becoming the third most-populous state in the country, closing the gap with New York at almost 20 million residents. It is not a reason to celebrate.

During the holidays, like many of you, I spent time visiting the homeless and bedridden. The numbers are staggering, especially now that they include more families than ever.

Those figures are going to rise in 2014, and the burden on the rest of us is only going to increase.

But hey, it’s New Year’s Day and there is still football and great leftovers in the fridge. Everything else can wait a few more days.

Enjoy 2014 ... while you still can.

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