January 30, 2023

2023...Will It Be Any Different?

Spectator
By Stephen Tuttle | Jan. 7, 2023

Will 2023 be any different than 2022? It seems unlikely.

War will continue to rage in Ukraine as Vladimir Putin refuses to abandon his delusions of reestablishing the long-dead Russian Empire. Unfortunately, the fighting in Ukraine is only one of a dozen or so ongoing armed conflicts, and U.S. weaponry is being used by one or both sides in all of them. After tens of thousands of years of what passes for human civilization, many governments still think the best way to solve problems is by killing some perceived enemy, and we’re happy to sell them the weapons that do the killing.

There is no reason to assume natural disasters will abate around the world after an especially troubling 2022. There were destructive floods and wildfires on every continent but Antarctica. Floods, fueled by weather extremes exacerbated by climate change, wreaked havoc in 30 countries according to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. In Pakistan alone, flooding covered a third of the country, killing more than 12,000 people and leaving 2.1 million homeless.

Nearly 60,000 wildfires ravaged millions of acres around the world, the second worst year ever but close to 2021’s record-breaking fire destruction. There is no reason to expect 2023 will be any better as extreme weather events continue to increase.

In the United States, no president has solved the legal and illegal immigration problem despite the outrageous claims of one former White House occupant. Torn between needing immigrants, legal and otherwise, to keep some businesses afloat or closing the southern border altogether, the problem is unlikely to get any better. (The claims of an “open border” are an egregious insult to the men and women of the Border Patrol who continue working diligently under difficult conditions.)

Former President Donald Trump will continue to face a myriad of potential legal issues. There are the tax issues in New York, a big problem in Georgia where the former president tried to get their secretary of state to “find” enough votes to give him a victory, not to mention all those purloined documents at Mar-a-Lago. Trump has spent his adult life weaseling out of legal trouble by writing checks to settle claims while insisting he did nothing wrong. We’ll see if that strategy works again, though his troubles in Georgia and with all those documents might not be so easy for prosecutors to overlook.

The election-deniers will still be with us, most notably Arizona’s Kari Lake who continues to demand either a new election or that she simply be declared the winner absent any evidence of fraud or other voting irregularities. It’s a strategy unlikely to work given the actual winner in that gubernatorial election, Katie Hobbs, has already been sworn into office.

The recent flooding in California will help to slightly mitigate their ongoing drought, but it might be a Pyrrhic victory. All that water will encourage significant underbrush growth, and if drought conditions return, the state’s fire season will be even more destructive than 2022’s record breaker.

More extreme weather events, including floods, fires, winds, and tornadoes, are inevitable as too many decision-makers ignore the signs of climate change all around us.

Locally, we will continue our Quixotic quest for affordable housing downtown by subsidizing every step of the process from land acquisition to final construction. Traverse Citians will get to help pay for people to live in neighborhoods they can’t afford themselves.

Both the tall building and the fish pass issues appear headed for the state supreme court for what should be final decisions. An appellate court ruled the 60-foot limit applies only to the roof deck, and at least one developer has preliminary drawings including structures 10-15 feet above that limit, likely not what the voters had in mind when they rejected buildings taller than 60 feet on three occasions.

The court will decide if the fish pass is actually a park expansion or an experimental research facility occupying parkland that should have gone before voters for approval. We still don’t know which fish will be allowed to pass, and costs continue to rise. If ultimately approved, money could be saved by replacing the proposed concrete amphitheater with native trees and riparian flora.

(Thirteenth Circuit Court Judge Thomas Power, who made the original ruling in both cases, recently retired. Power, a friend of this writer, served on the school board, as a state representative, and for 30 years as a circuit judge. He has been an honest and honorable public servant for more than four decades, and his wit and wisdom will be missed.)

Finally, the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has created preliminary plans for dramatically improving the banks of a mile of the lower Boardman-Ottaway River. Though it looks pricey, it would be infinitely superior to what currently exists, and we hope they can get it started in 2023.

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