Hopeful for a better year in 2016

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It is probably just the nature of the business that year-end lists compiled by newspapers and broadcast news outlets tend to focus on death and destruction. As the old saying goes, it’s not news when the airplane lands safely.

But this year’s list of top stories seems particularly depressing.

At the state level, the list was topped by the criminal conviction of former Secretary of State Dianna Duran and police shootings in Albuquerque. Other top stories included two explosive devices left at Las Cruces churches, the death of a 4-year-old girl in a road rage incident and controversy in the state’s largest school district. The only positive story on the list was Holly Holm’s stunning UFC victory over Ronda Rousey.

On the national level, The Associated Press picked the continuing threat posed by the Islamic State as the top story, with the Paris attacks, mass shootings and shootings by police all the in the top five. The Charleston church shooting made the top 10.

Locally, the Gold King Mine spill dumped more than 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater into the Animas and San Juan rivers creating problems some farmers still are struggling with, and our oil and gas-dependent economy suffers as prices for those products on the commodity markets continue to languish.

The depressed oil and gas prices have hit city and county budgets hard and, despite an uptick in retail activity, there are more cuts to come. Despite that, there will be quite a bit of construction in our communities that should help Crouch Mesa commuters, the Aztec downtown and students in area schools.

The turn of the calendar offers a fresh start, as we take an assessment of where we’re at and resolve to do better.

In the rest of the state, Spaceport America will continue efforts in the new year to diversify. The tragic crash of Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft in 2014 has postponed plans for routine space tourism launches from the site, and created an urgency to bring in new space-related companies to boost operating revenue.

The new year will also be an election year. America will elect a new president in November, as Barack Obama comes to the end of his second term. We will also have races for all three of New Mexico’s U.S. House seats, all seats in the state Legislature and three positions on the County Commission.

The challenges we face may be daunting, but they are not insurmountable. Although some may say the best thing about 2016 will be the end of the Obama presidency, our commander in chief had this to say about a better year to come:

“... the number one reason I’m optimistic going into 2016: It’s you — the American people. All of this progress is because of you — because of workers rolling up their sleeves and getting the job done, and entrepreneurs starting new businesses. Because of teachers and health workers and parents — all of us taking care of each other. Because of our incredible men and women in uniform, serving to protect us all. Because, when we’re united as Americans, there’s nothing that we cannot do.”