Happy New Year, one and all.
Or maybe that should be Happy News Year, because I think 2013 is going to be a pretty newsy year around these parts.
Here’s a list of what I expect to be hefty stories in 2013, in no particular order.
Cedar Rapids casino — All signs point to a good old-fashioned gambling referendum vote in Linn County, likely this spring. If that fascinating saga ends in a yes vote, then we move into an intriguing effort to convince the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to grant a license. The cartel of existing casinos will pull out all the stops to stop a local casino.
Head-butting yields to ribbon-cutting — Many of the pricey post-flood public building projects we’ve bickered over for the last few years will open in 2013. That includes the new public library; new/refurbished Convention Complex, hotel and U.S. Cellular Center; the riverfront amphitheater; animal control; and both the west-side and central fire stations. City leaders who have taken more than a few lumps over these projects will finally have something to show for all those bruises.
Race for mayor, council — Speaking of bruises, Mayor Ron Corbett is expected to seek re-election this fall. The big question is whether he’ll face credible opposition. It’s very early. But for all the vocal criticism he’s received, I’m hearing mostly crickets when it comes to potential challengers. A big factor in Corbett’s favor is timing (see above). And if the race for mayor isn't enough, five other council seats are on the ballot, including at-large seats held by Don Karr and Chuck Swore, Kris Gulick’s District 1 seat, Pat Shey’s seat in District 3 and Justin Shield’s seat in District 5.
School board elections — Yeah, I know. Nobody votes in these things. But it’s high time to start paying more attention. The Cedar Rapids board leads a district that spends more than $250 million annually, collects $70 million in local property taxes and makes decisions with the potential to deeply affect the community, as we’ve seen in the past year. Three seats held by Gary Anhalt, Nancy Humbles and Keith Westercamp are on the ballot in 2013.
Westdale Mall — Will this be the year that Westdale redevelopment finally gets checked off the to-do list?
Race for governor — We know Gov. Terry Branstad is all but in for a run at a sixth term, but will two Cedar Rapids Democrats be among his potential challengers? State Sen. Rob Hogg and Rep. Tyler Olson say they’re interested, although early trial balloons often pop.Perhaps you have additions.