There’s enough uncertainty and angst hanging in the air for the summer of 2010 to give even the most well-adjusted person a knot in the stomach, no matter your political views or social standing.
As the oil spews, turning the Gulf of Mexico into a tar pit, we are at a crossroads in so many ways, nationally, statewide and locally. I can’t recall another year in which so many important, vital issues were hanging fire, leaving us with a profound sense of ambiguity.
You get the feeling that history is messy when you are in the midst of making it, and the truly objective lines between good and bad, between the useful and the useless, between the heroes and the villains are not yet clear.
Here are but a few of the things hanging fire that we’ll be keeping an eye on as the summer unfolds:
- What will be the impact of national health care reforms? Will they truly provide health care to millions of uninsured Americans and will they help bring down costs? Or will they break this country’s fiscal back? Will the legal challenges to the reforms be affirmed or rejected in the courts?
- What will be the impact of national financial industry reforms? Will they truly reduce risky ventures on Wall Street? Will they prevent another economic collapse? Will they prevent banks from becoming “too big to fail?” Or are they too watered down to be effective? Or maybe they’re too overreaching? Will they create unnecessary regulatory and tax burdens?
- Will the high-speed rail connecting Milwaukee to Madison be built? Or if one of the Republican candidates for Wisconsin governor is elected, will he be able to stop it? If the project is stopped by the next governor, how much will the state owe the federal government? If the trains are built, will anyone ride them?
- Will Milwaukee’s streetcar system be built? And if so, will it become an effective asset for the city? Or will it be a boondoggle that no one will use?
- Will the collaborative effort to transform Milwaukee into a world-class fresh water research and commerce center be successful?
- Will Harley-Davidson Inc. and its unions agree on enough cost concessions to keep the company’s headquarters in Milwaukee?
- Will Wisconsin’s two largest banks, M&I Bank and Associated Bank, return to profitability later this year and begin to pay down the millions in Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) they owe to the federal government?
- How many more Wisconsin banks will fail?
- Will the boycotts of Arizona reach enough critical mass that they force the state to repeal its immigration law, or will it hold firm on the principle?
- Are the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq worth the costs of American blood and treasure?
- Will Gregory Thornton break through and create meaningful reforms as the next superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools? Or is he doomed to failure in a flawed system?
- Will Jay Williams pick up where Dan Finley left off as the chief executive officer of the resurgent Milwaukee Public Museum?
- If Democrat Tom Barrett is elected governor, the City of Milwaukee will need a new mayor. If Republican Scott Walker is elected, Milwaukee will need a new county executive. Either way, who will emerge as candidates to be the next leaders?
- Will Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Neumann succeed in running as an independent outsider against “the machine?”
- Who is U.S. Senate candidate Ron Johnson and where does he really stand on the issues? Does he have the moxie to beat Russ Feingold?
- Ultimately, will the Tea Party movement help the Republican Party? Or will it split it in half? Or will it move the GOP so far to the right that it loses the independents?
- What will become of the vacant spaces at Milwaukee’s Shops of Grand Avenue?
- What will become of the vacant former Delphi plant in Oak Creek?
- Will a developer be able to put together a deal to lure enough anchor tenants to construct a new Class A office building in downtown Milwaukee?
- How severe will the drought in Wisconsin’s North Woods get, and how devastating will it be to the state’s tourism industry?
- Cable or satellite? Droid or iPhone? Kindle, IPad or Streak? Which social media platforms will survive and which will fall to the wayside? Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn?
We’ll just have to wait to see who and what are still standing in 2011.
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.