#1 We remain at war. Iraq made little political headway despite the surge. 2007 was the deadliest year for Americans in Iraq. The Dems could not find enough spine to control the debate and the purse strings. We will be paying for this debacle for decades to come and our young men and women will suffer its after-effects for the rest of their lives.
#2 The sub-prime collapse. Laissez faire market controls and predatory lending practices coupled with changes in bankruptcy laws that make it easier to walk away from a mortgage than to file on one's credit cards are still eating away at the Ownership Culture to which the President gave lip-service just a lustrum ago. This one will build as the credit crunch makes it harder to get into the home market and falling home prices make it harder to get out of it. Local governments and School Boards who have been balancing levy limits against rising valuations will be going to the referendum-well more often in the near term.
#3 Health care. This one isn't going away. As the boomers clog hospitals and hospices the cry to pay for services more creatively will become louder and harder to ignore. Health care costs already threaten to bankrupt other businesses who provide these benefits to their workers. If we can't solve this one soon we may need to reopen the Debtor's Prisons and workhouses. (Umm. Some of you struggle to tell so I'll label that as hyperbole.)
#1 The budget goes on forever and the party never ends (with apologies to RE Keen.) The failure to work together to build a budget along with the appearance of dozens of local projects after the fact show that Wisconsin needs to take a long hard look at how budgets are made. I've often said that when both sides walk away from the table with a grouchy-on then the compromise was probably fair. I'm not sure that anyone believes that of this budget. (Personal to my Senator: The grandstanding may have played in Middleton. Out here in the boondocks we know offal when we drive past it.)
#2 The rise in youth violence around the state. From Crandon to Weston to Milwaukee we've seen a troubling rise in violent youth. I have no panacea but we should start looking for causes before we start mandating cures.
#3 Sports teams outperforming expectations. The Brewers had us believing well into September. The Packers have a first round bye. The Badgers were ranked #1 for a few glorious days last Spring. It's been a good year to be a sports fan in Badgerland. In very Lutheran ways those same teams have reminded us that it is good to have a little humility as well.
#1 Downtown reopens and it is good. We still have one more year of construction to go on Madison Street but the Downtown is looking good.
#2 The biodiesel plant halt. Short -term we are fairly well insulated from loss except for some infrastructure costs already sunk. Long-term we need that tax basis to kick in. Every pearl needs a kernel. The Eastside Industrial Park needs that development to flourish.
#3 Lake Leota: Take 3. For the third time in 150 years the City is struggling with saving the lake. What will the total cost be? What would the park be without the lake? How much longer can we wait without pricing ourselves out of a fix? We seem to be mired in the "Questions" phase of the project.