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Opinion

Everything about 2013 you were afraid to ask

SoVaNow.com / January 02, 2013
The fox knows many things; the hedgehog knows one big thing.

In the prognostication business, the reverse is more often true: One can be wrong about a wide range of predictions, or botch the only call that counts. In the latter category, I give you the Mayans. End of the world and all that. Heckuva job, fellas!

I prefer the more subtle approach. Take, for instance, our annual Pop Quiz of the Future, a regular feature in this space with the arrival of each New Year. Reading over last year’s installment, I was struck by how easily I could claim to be prescient about a whole bunch of things … as long as no one else takes the trouble to, um, read over last year’s installment.

For instance: question #8: “Virginia’s uranium mining debate takes an unexpected turn when….” My answer was: “a member of the National Academy of Sciences … breaks his silence to ask the question, ‘Are you people kidding?’” This is actually not all that far from reality: VCU professor Peter Defur, a member of the NAS panel in 2011 that studied uranium mining in Virginia, did publicly come out against lifting the moratorium in June 2012. How ‘bout ‘dem crystal balls? But this was the highlight of last year’s Pop Quiz. More typical was the prediction that “The Tree of Life” would win the 2012 Oscar for Best Picture. Tree of what? There’s nothing particularly shameful about missing a question like this, but I am embarrassed to admit that my list of suggested answers didn’t even include the eventual winner (“The King’s Speech”). I did manage to guess that Olympic champ Michael Phelps would have a better year than New York Jets bench warmer Tim Tebow.

But enough with the preliminaries: Let’s jump in where lesser Cassandras fear to tread. Herewith, without further ado, is our Pop Quiz of the Future, 2013 edition:

1. With the grinding recession finally coming to an end, a forsaken site in Mecklenburg County gets a new lease on life. Luck will shine on which piece of real estate?
(a) the abandoned Mecklenburg Correctional Center complex — soon to be converted into the county’s newest data “farm.”
(b) the razed Burlington Menswear plant in Clarksville — hey, gotta put breweries somewhere …
(c) The former Walmart Superstore in South Hill — the auto industry is back, and long-sought plans to build a mega-dealership off I-85 finally get wheeled out of the garage.
(d) One of Mecklenburg’s lightly-trafficked shopping centers — some lucky community will be getting a new grocery store in 2013.
(e) The proposed marina at the Rochichi campground near Boydton — long may its ships sail.

2. Don’t look now, but all of a sudden a heretofore unassailable fixture on the local scene runs smack dab into serious competition:
(a) Delegate Tommy Wright, who has an unexpectedly difficult path to re-election thanks to a primary challenge from the right.
(b) The Mecklenburg Power Station, neé Dominion Clarksville facility — prodded to switch to biomass as the economic fundamentals of the power-generating business move away from coal.
(c) Mecklenburg County Public Schools, which come under pressure from charter schools as Virginia jumps big-time into the school choice movement.
(d) The Brunswick County Bulldogs boys basketball team, which finds its state championship three-peat hopes tested by a resurgent Park View Dragon squad.

3. Which of these grand bargains, carried over from 2012, is dashed against the rocks in 2013?
(a) Clarksville’s annexation agreement with the county.
(b) The 2012 legislative “reforms” of the Virginia Retirement System, revealed by events to be completely inadequate for ensuring the financial integrity of the system.
(c) Chase City’s contract to buy water from the Roanoke River Public Service Authority.
(d) The regional marketing alliance that spans an area from Greensville to Mecklenburg but seems to make no tangible difference for anyone.
(e) Any deal the Congress and the White House reaches to fix the fiscal cliff/budget sequester/debt ceiling; choose one. (On second thought, don’t.)

4. In the “No One Could Have Seen This One Coming” category,
(a) The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is sued by the Nature Conservancy as continued low water levels on Buggs Island Lake touch off a nasty dispute among project stakeholders.
(b) The Town of South Hill puts an earmark in the budget for the creation of a full-time theatrical company at the Colonial Center.
(c) The Town of Boydton rehires a police chief.
(d) The regional landfill authority, chronically short of funds, explores privatization options.
(e) While teachers and school staff around the state receive modest pay raises courtesy of the General Assembly, Mecklenburg County, after assessing the local matching fund requirements, decides to opt for the “Triple B” plan: big barrel of bupkis.

5. In the “Can’t Anyone Play This Game?” category, we learn in 2013 that:
(a) Bob McDonnell and his administration were taken to the cleaners when they struck a deal to build an $11-per-vehicle toll road from Petersburg to Suffolk.
(b) You can hire all the lobbyists you want to fight uranium mining, but there’s no substitute for having an effective legislative delegation in Richmond.
(c) Mecklenburg County has grossly underfunded its pension obligations.
(d) Outsourcing custodial positions at the county schools really wasn’t a very good idea.

6. The year’s biggest issue in terms of regional impact — uranium mining — takes a decisive turn when
(a) Gov. McDonnell offers a full-throated endorsement of Virginia Uranium Inc.’s plans to dig up radioactive ore in Pittsylvania County, changing the dynamics of the debate and prompting the General Assembly to lift the state’s mining moratorium.
(b) It is revealed that several legislators have extracted promises of future employment from the project, throwing statehouse proceedings into chaos.
(c) Legislation to regulate (and thereby permit) uranium mining in Virginia fails to make it out of committee.
(d) The House of Delegates votes to effectively lift the mining ban, but the bill fails narrowly in the State Senate.
(e) Everything stipulated in (d), with the added drama of seeing Lt. Governor Bill Bolling cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate, thus infuriating his erstwhile patron and boss, the guv’nor.

7. As voters head back to the polls in 2013 to elect the state’s next governor, we discover that
(a) despite constant grumbling about the two-party monopoly on power, neither the voters nor potential independent candidates evince much interest in upsetting an apple cart that contains two real peaches: Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe and Republican standard bearer Ken Cuccinelli.
(b) Au contraire — spurned Republican hopeful and sunset-bound Lt. Governor Bill Bolling does indeed jump into the race as an independent and manages to make a credible bid.
(c) For all of Cuccinelli’s success in driving Bolling out of the Republican nomination contest and heading off an open split between moderates and conservatives, civil war breaks out anyway.
(d) Terry McAuliffe is no Bill Clinton.
(e) Yes, Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli really is nuts.
(f) All of the above except (a)

8. The surprise make-or-break issue in the gubernatorial race — surprising in that the voters buck the conventional wisdom on what the candidates can and cannot openly discuss without fearing for their electoral prospects — turns out to be:
(a) Raising gas taxes to fix a statewide transportation crisis.
(b) Placing additional curbs on Virginia’s abortion providers.
(c) Making more cuts to an already-miserly state Medicaid budget.
(d) Gun control.

9. Bob McDonnell, bracing for the end of his term in early 2014, trains his sights on
(a) running for U.S. Senate in 2014 against incumbent Democrat Mark Warner
(b) running for president in 2016.
(c) running his mouth as the host of a new and improved “fair and balanced” Fox News talk show.
(d) running up a fat paycheck as a Richmond super lawyer-lobbyist.

10. In Washington, the depressing spectacle of ongoing partisan warfare
(a) finally lifts when Republicans belatedly realize they lost the last election, big-time.
(b) has the effect of convincing President Obama to spend most of his second term working on foreign policy.
(c) is interrupted by a massive weather event that, post-Sandy, puts climate change on the national agenda once and for all.
(d) drags on and on and on.
(e) inspires one heck of an entertaining show on Broadway.

11. Which reigning or former Time magazine Person of the Year will have the best/worst year in 2013?
(a) U.S. President Barack Obama (2008 and 2012, best); Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg (2010, worst)
(b) Russia’s Vladimir Putin (2007, best); the Fed’s Ben Berneche (2009, worst)
(c) Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (1999, best); former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani (2001, worst)
(d) Senior statesman Bill Clinton (1992 and 1998, best); legal professor/obsessive prosecutor Kenneth Starr (1998 — the honor was shared with Clinton that year — worst)
(e) “The Protestor” (2011, best); “You” (2006, worst).

12. At the end of 2013, the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award goes to:
(a) Redskins rookie quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Robert Griffin III
(b) King James, a.k.a. Lebron, master of the Round Ball and repeat winner from 2012
(c) Daytona 500 champion Danica Patrick
(d) Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly
(e) President of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs, Theo Epstein

13. Winner of the 2013 Academy Award for Best Picture is:
(a) “Lincoln”
(b) “Zero Dark Thirty”
(c) “The Master”
(d) “Amour”
(e) “Argo”
(f) “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

With 13 daring predictions to choose from, what could possibly go wrong?

Answers: 1. (d); 2. (b); 3 (e); 4 (e); 5 (d); 6. (c); 7 (f); 8. (a); 9. (b); 10. (b); 11. (a); 12. (d); 13. (b). Clip and save the list for this time next year!




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