As he mentioned in his intro to this issue, CL editor David Warner asked everyone on the edit staff to consider the best and worst of 2017, both in our own lives and the world at large.
I found the trajectories of these to be inverse. Like, seriously.
With the huge exception of the illness of a beloved aunt, 2017 has been amazing for me personally. I spent much of it planning my wedding to a brilliant, hilarious guy with who loves animals almost as much as I do. It was a big wedding and we had a blast. We explored ruins, colorful reefs and an underground river on the Yucatan. I worked out hard almost every day this year (and always met or exceeded my daily step goal). Won a national award. The dogs are in good health.
I could go on about how good it’s been for me, but all of the bad shit that’s happening around us is all too present. I had to crack open a bottle of rosé at an embarrassingly early hour to watch Trump’s inauguration, and much of what has ensued makes me fear for the future. In 2017, what I see is a pattern of deeply unnerving events, often followed closely by positive, reassuring events — mostly because of people not giving up.
Not that this is a totally exhaustive list, but here’s what stood out for me in 2017.
We should have known this was going to be a bizarre year by that Mariah Carey New Year’s Eve snafu. (We’re guessing her sound guy is now employed somewhere within the Trump administration.) The notorious Steele dossier, elusive pee tapes and all, goes viral. Before taking office, Donald Trump hosts a bizarre press conference in which he presents stacks of apparently blank paper as “proof” that he has no conflicts of interest, then berates CNN’s Jim Acosta. Here in Tampa, Food Not Bombs activists are arrested for feeding the homeless in a public park on the weekend of some sports thing. One Barack Obama gives a teary-eyed farewell speech. A few days later, we day drink on a Friday to get us through the inauguration. Lies about Trump’s inauguration crowd size (biggest ever!) ensue, but then so does the Women’s March, which draws out millions of people in cities across the country. Locally, nearly 30,000 march in downtown St. Pete. Eight days later, hundreds march in Ybor City to protest Trump’s so-called travel ban.
Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. CEO Andrew Puzder, a notoriously anti-worker dude, pulls out of the running for Labor Secretary, to the delight of protesters here and nationwide... but zillionaire zealot Betsy DeVos becomes Secretary of Education. Activists flood Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s Tampa satellite office in protest almost daily. All the action is too much for the landlord, who boots his staffers from the Kennedy Boulevard office building. (Believe it or not, Rubio apparently has yet to find a new space to house staffers whose job it is to hear constituent concerns... it’s almost as though he doesn’t care. Imagine that!) Some lowlife sets fire to a mosque in New Tampa; mayors on both sides of the bay promise area Muslims that non-lowlifes outnumber scumbags here.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn announces he won’t run for governor — probably a good call in this bloodthirsty, insult-driven climate.
Tampa passes its LGBTQ “conversion therapy” ban, and St. Pete lays the groundwork to follow suit. In keeping with a most Trumpian campaign promise, the U.S. bombs the shit out of some non-white people. In this case, it’s a Syrian airfield, ostensibly because President Bashar al-Assad ordered a deadly nerve gas attack on his own people. Somehow-popular Fox News host Bill O’Reilly is fired over sexual harassment allegations, so he takes his outdated views into the digital realm with a podcast his fans probably don’t know how to access. After having used racial slurs in the company of members of said race (not that it’s ever cool to use a racial slur), Miami area State Sen. Frank Artiles, a Republican, leaves his State Senate seat... and a Dem wins the seat in the ensuing special election.
St. Pete voters overwhelmingly approve a proposed expansion to Al Lang Stadium with the hope of catching the eye of Major League Soccer. As expected, a top employee of zillionaire Bill Edwards (who is bankrolling the project), former Mayor Rick Baker, announces his run for mayor against incumbent Rick Kriseman. His speech highlights what a wasteland St. Pete has become, and he apparently spends primary season surrounded by people who are convinced that this inaccurate assessment will work. Donald Trump fires FBI Director James Comey and is unable to get his story straight as to why. Hilarity ensues to this day. Up north, Republican businessman Greg Gianforte beats Rob Quist in Montana’s special election to replace outgoing Congressman Ryan Zinke, whom Trump tapped to turn the Department of the Interior into an oil and gas syndicate. (He chose Zinke in part because his seat is very safely Republican.) Gianforte won despite literally body-slamming a reporter the night before the election. Hillsborough County moves forward with Tampa Bay Next, which is basically TBX but with more meaningless charrettes. A suicide bomber kills 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, U.K., and everything sucks.
The month starts with Trump announcing he’s pulling out of the Paris Climate agreement. Nation is embarrassed. Again. A leftist gunman (?!) goes on a shooting rampage at a congressional softball practice because he apparently didn’t get the memo re: how the Left views guns/violence. Republican Karen Handel beats dreamy Dem Jon Ossoff in the Georgia special Congressional election to replace Tom Price, whom Trump tapped to Make Healthcare Unaffordable Again. The Hillsborough County Commission votes to keep a Confederate monument in place outside a courthouse annex in downtown Tampa. They spend the ensuing weeks going back and forth until finally the private sector raises enough money to remove it. Monument goes bye-bye.
The Tampa Bay Times announces a hefty loan, courtesy of wealthy benefactors, to help the paper service its debt. While most investors reveal their identities, a handful remain anonymous... though from time to time you can spot their initials between the lines on the paper’s editorial page (we’re kidding...sort of). Two days after his birthday, beloved geriatric manatee Snooty dies unexpectedly after getting stuck in a small underwater room to which he was not supposed to have access. R.I.P., buddy. Viral video shows a bunch of entitled scumbags from Sarasota torturing a shark by dragging it behind their boat. Anthony Scaramucci (aka “the Mooch”) signs on as Trump administration’s communications director (bye, Sean Spicer!), and over his brief tenure, achieves levels of absurdity once thought impossible, even for this administration. But alas, by the time most satirists haved crafted their best jokes about him, he’s gone.
Surrounded by supporters (and a dolphin!), then-powerful then-State Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) announces his run for governor. His tough demeanor and fundraising prowess equip him to handle political mudslinging, don’t they, assuming some unexpected mass revolt against male chauvinism or some other previously-not-called-out behavior were to pop up in the coming months? Really, what are the chances of that? White nationalists march in Charlottesville, VA, supposedly over a statue. One of them kills somebody by driving his car into a group of counter-protesters. The trolls return to their putrid nests. Speaking of which, white nationalist Steve Bannon leaves his role as a key Trump adviser, which you’d think would be good... except that he probably has even more influence now as editor of hard-right website Breitbart. Hurricane Harvey causes dramatic, debilitating flooding in Texas. (Isn’t cutting back on carbon emissions and investing in solar worth a shot? Even if it happens to not minimize the conditions that stoke hurricane intensity, what’s the harm? Oh, right, less money for the already obscenely rich.) The total solar eclipse captivates some, blinds others. Mayor Rick Kriseman unexpectedly gets 70 more votes than Rick Baker in the primary. Baker is pissed.
Irma, Irma, Irma. Oh, and Baker tries to rebrand himself as a hipster. Then Hurricane Maria levels Puerto Rico, a disaster the Trump administration mostly ignores to this day.
A gunman opens fire on a crowd gathered at a Las Vegas music festival, killing 58 in one of the biggest sacrifices to the Second Amendment gods yet. A serial killer terrorizes Tampa’s Seminole Heights neighborhood, killing three, apparently at random, within less than two weeks, and a fourth in November. Special Counsel Robert Mueller files the first charges in the Russia probe, in this case against Paul Manafort (money laundering and conspiracy) and George Papadopolous (who pled guilty to lying to the FBI). In the wake of numerous sexual assault and harassment cases, Harvey Weinstein goes down, which ignites the #MeToo movement (and, of course, the inverse, #YouFuckingToo?!, as we learn how many powerful men have been total creeps).
Another shooting. This time, it’s 25 people dead at a church in small-town Texas. Sexual misconduct allegations against Latvala tank his campaign, though he continues to deny any wrongdoing. In St. Pete, Kriseman wins what was supposed to be a nail-biter of a race, one in which the Times seemed to be trying to engineer a Baker victory. Progressives rejoice. The Washington Post runs a shocking piece about Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore that identifies and quotes women who say he tried to... date them when he was in his 30s and they were teenagers (some as young as 14). Despite the lurid accounts, including his apparently having been banned from a mall for creeping on teenage girls, his supporters dig their heels in because the Democrat in the race, Doug Jones, supports female autonomy and not racism. At the tail end of the month — two weeks after a fourth person is shot dead seemingly at random, Tampa police arrest a suspect in the Seminole Heights killings.
Democrats herald Jones’s victory against Moore, a Trumpian Republican running in Trumpian Alabama to replace Trumpian Jeff “I Don’t Recall” Sessions who vacated the seat to become U.S. attorney general. Unlike previous special elections to fill vacancies left by Trump nominees from safe Republican seats, this one puts a bit of wind in Democrats’ sails. So, too, does the Ajit Pai-led FCC’s unpopular decision to repeal Net Neutrality, a despised tax bill that’s basically a giveaway to zillionaires, and former Trump national security adviser General Michael Flynn’s guilty plea in the Russia probe. Closer to home, still unable to shake all of the harassment allegations, Latvala gives up his senate seat, but has yet to officially drop out of the governor’s race.
AND COMING UP IN 2018…
Thousands of people plan to march in late January to commemorate the Women’s March.