Usually I lean toward optimism, especially in this season when we flip open a new calendar and, for just a few moments, everything is pure potential.
But right now? Hmm. I have my forebodings.
If I had to identify one moment when my mood soured to the consistency of a piece of Warheads hard candy, it would be when I saw the news headlines about Donald Trump gaining the same percentage of votes as Pope Francis for “most admired man” in the latest Gallup Poll.
Still, it’s a new year, and I don’t want to be a total wet blanket. So I will present some scenarios for 2016. You can decide whether the glass is half full or mostly drained. I’ll let you know how I see it.
Never miss a local story.
For Kansas City
Best-case scenario: The new downtown streetcars start rolling and prove a smashing success. Citizens begin clamoring for an extension into midtown and the East Side. A harmonious City Council finds a more workable balance for selectively encouraging private development while freeing up money for neighborhood needs. Crime slides downward again, as violence prevention tactics reap more success. We decide on a new single terminal for Kansas City International Airport.
Worst-case scenario: Every City Council action becomes the cause for a referendum attempt. The council dissolves into acrimony and nothing gets done. Airlines become disgusted with KCI and cut flights. Empty streetcars cruise the downtown streets.
My guess: All of the good things could happen, but the new low threshold for getting petitions and referendums on the ballot is likely to cause serious problems.
Worst-case scenario: Statewide campaigns turn into an ugly fracas as St. Louis multimillionaire Rex Sinquefield and other big donors give obscene amounts of money to candidates. GOP attorney general candidate Sen. Kurt Schaefer becomes even more vindictive and no one in his party has the guts to stand up to him. Politicians ratchet up their attacks on public universities and women’s health clinics. The General Assembly foments for five months and gets no work done whatsoever.
Best-case scenario: The worst case doesn’t materialize. The legislature amazes everyone by coming up with a highway funding plan and substantial ethics reform in an election year.
My guess: It’s going to be bad. Buckle up your seatbelts now.
Worst-case scenario: More of the same. Budget shortages and sorcery, pain for schools and a steady deterioration of state services, including the safety net that is supposed to protect truly vulnerable citizens, such as abused and neglected children and mentally ill and developmentally disabled Kansans.
Best-case scenario: Kansas voters choose moderate Republicans and Democrats when they vote for state House and Senate seats in August and November.
My guess: The only certainty is that the state will continue to fail unless Kansans elect enough lawmakers to counter the destructive policies of Gov. Sam Brownback and the corporate-controlled, right-wing faction of the Legislature. Without that taking place, no good scenario exists for Kansas.
Best-case scenario: Trump will decide he’s had enough fun with presidential politics and go back to moving money around and filing for bankruptcies. The nation will enjoy a robust discussion of significant issues as the campaigns progress.
Worst-case scenario: I think we’re seeing it right now. The only worse-worst scenario is an actual Trump presidency.
My guess: Sanity will return, sort of, as voters get cold feet about electing a raving egomaniac for president. So you see, I guess I am an optimist after all.
Happy New Year, however it plays out.