Every year at this time, many in my profession, and perhaps yours, find themselves bidding the old, departing year a not-so-fond "don't let the door hit you on the way out."
The year "was a fabulous year to watch, as we now can, in the rearview mirror. Ideally while traveling away at warp speed." That's how the San Jose Mercury News bade 2017 farewell.
"The year resembles a china shop after a visit from an especially maladroit bull." That's how Washington Post columnist George Will signed off on 2016.
"Good riddance, 2015. How did we despise thee? Let us count the ways." That's how the Des Moines Register round-filed that year's expired calendar.
This tendency to gripe about the very recent past doesn't speak well of the human experience. We get only so many years on this earth, and they come faster with age. And yet, one year after another, we seem all too happy to see them go. It's fine to look ahead, necessary even, but this annual exercise in retro-disgust isn't especially reassuring, realistic though it may be.
And yet, perhaps like you, I find myself giving 2018 the same kind of dismal salutation: Good riddance.
My hope, as I offer this list of hopes and aspirations for 2019, is that we won't be repeating this exercise 12 months from now.
First, I hope we can restore the art of respectful conversation.
We've developed a profound unwillingness to listen to each other. And it has created a growing inability to communicate in a civil way. So we retrench in our echo chambers and shout across the chasm nothing but insults and recriminations.
I hope we can end that.
I hope Americans, especially the ones who vote, can start learning how to vet their news — all news, but especially the "news" that comes their way through social media. It takes a little work but gets easier with practice. We need to care. We need to develop the same kind of healthy outrage we feel when we realize we've been taken advantage of. Because we have been — in many cases by people we trusted.
I hope the billionaires who run major social media platforms like Facebook aren't just giving lip service when they say they'll put a stop to the type of disinformation campaign that infected the 2016 election. If the web's corporate denizens can log my shoe size, music preferences and favorite team, they can design algorithms that ferret out malicious, lie-spreading bots.
I hope I can learn to like kale. Or that some other leafy green vegetable comes into fashion and replaces it on my plate.
I hope I can switch off autopilot long enough every morning and evening to remember where the latest highway construction is underway. We've been spoiled by Bakersfield's relative lack of traffic congestion, but 2019 might be different. For all the right reasons, I should note. We're finally seeing real, visible progress in construction of the Centennial Corridor freeway, and that will mean road delays. A hassle, but worth it.
I hope transportation departments at the state, county and municipal level don't forget the little stuff. Potholes still matter to us. With those recent tax windfalls, can the state of California and city of Bakersfield at least promise us repairs within 48 hours? I spend too much money on tires.
Speaking of roads: California and especially tax-averse Kern County deserve a true and full accounting of how, when and where revenue from that fuel tax, reauthorized by state voters in November, is being spent. If we're being compelled to reach a little deeper into our wallets, we ought to know exactly what we're getting — and it had better be what we were sold on. Hello, Rudy Salas. Hello, Vince Fong.
Speaking of taxes, Bakersfield voters who narrowly approved that one-cent sales tax increase deserve the same kind of accounting we should demand from the state. Can we get a regular breakdown of how our tax money is being spent? Most is supposed to go to law enforcement. That's a good thing. But exactly how will it be divvied? Will that cop be getting here any faster?
I hope Derek Carr gets himself in a position to win a Super Bowl. For somebody.
I hope Congress enacts reasonable immigration reform. I know, that subject has been on New Year's lists for decades, but the issue is at the fore today. We need meaningful border security, zero tolerance for violent criminals, recognition that contributing noncitizens are essential to the U.S. economy, and compassion for immigrants — including those impacted by DACA — who deserve it. Doesn't seem that much to ask.
I hope these trade wars end. Ideally, they end with America in a better place than before, but they need to end. Tariffs are job killers — they hurt businesses large and small, especially farmers. Just ask your friendly neighborhood almond grower about tariffs.
I hope my hair stops thinning.
I hope Congress finds a way to return to the days of collegiality, when Rs and Ds could do battle in a respectful, honorable way and then meet later in the lounge for a Scotch and a laugh. Today it's like North vs. South Korea. Soon-to-be minority leader Kevin McCarthy could play a positive role here, if he were inclined.
I hope Americans regain their respect for science.
I hope we can put a dent in the homeless problem. Homelessness strikes me as our most pressing civic issue, a problem communities across the country are dealing with too. Good people are working hard on solutions, including affordable housing initiatives, but every possible solution takes money — and government, both state and federal, seems to have other priorities.
I hope the Bakersfield Homeless Center get some clarity on one of its most pressing issues: It is right in the projected path of California High Speed Rail, which at some point will theoretically buy the property, allowing the center to move to a bigger and better facility.
Community benefactors know this and, consequently, are understandably reluctant to fund much-needed capital improvements. But HSR drags on, behind schedule and over budget, and one wonders if Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, a longtime proponent of the project, will see the writing on the tracks and pull the plug.
Homelessness is but a subset of the Central Valley's main affliction: poverty. Out of poverty comes nearly every persistent social ill we face: low educational attainment levels, workforce shortcomings, drug abuse, gang activity and other crime, teen pregnancy — you name it. But those are ongoing, multigenerational issues that we can only hope to chip away at. We didn't come close to solving them in 2018 and we won't solve them in 2019. But we can advance the ball. I hope we do.
Goodbye, 2018. You challenged us, infuriated us, delighted us, intrigued us, worried us, entertained us. We now file you away with the other Gregorian milestones that got us here, to the doorstep of 2019.
I hope I'm not shouting good riddance again next Dec. 31.