Joe Henderson Columns
Henderson: Reasons to be optimistic about 2013 in Tampa Bay
It seems like only yesterday it was 2012. Oh wait, it was. Assuming you didn't awake this morning with cotton mouth and eyeballs that look like the map of a mountain road, you already know that. And thus, we have come to the part of our program where journalistic tradition demands some sort of homage to the new year of 2013. It's the only thing more predictable than lanes being closed for months on the Selmon Expressway. After the mess 2012 made of things, I'm much more inclined to look ahead than spend any time gazing at the rear-view mirror. So with no further delay, which puts me ahead of Selmon construction, here's a guess at some of the things the next 365 days will and won't bring.Downtown Tampa actually has chance to be a real downtown: Mayor Bob Buckhorn has proven he doesn't waste time on non-necessities such as sleeping. He entered office about 21 months ago with an eight-year plan (for a four-year term) that involves a complete overhaul of the city. The dude has been relentless. With the Riverwalk project heading into its final stages, it won't be long until you'll see shops and restaurants popping up along the route. If the Channelside renovation ever gets moving, we might just realize the decades-long dream of a downtown that doesn't close at 5 p.m. And that could eventually mean … A new baseball stadium in Tampa … wait, I hear crickets chirping: I've made my feelings pretty clear on Tropicana Field; I only hope they let me swing the wrecking ball when it comes to knocking down the catwalks. Before that happens, though, the Rays need a new place to play and if there is a solution to that question it hasn't yet been discovered. It won't be found this year, either. Maybe they should get help from … Gov. Rick Scott, whose political death (as of now) is greatly exaggerated: I know the polls show Scott is one of the least-liked governors in the country but, dang, his friends are trying. They have spent months crafting an extreme makeover for him and he has time to make it work. There are signs of daisies popping up through the rubble of Florida's economy, and if that trend continues the governor might be able to brag in 2014 that he actually put the state back to work. Besides, he'll probably be running against … Charlie Crist, the Republican … uh, Independent … uh, Whig … uh, Democratic candidate: Changeable Charlie looks like the candidate to beat right now in 2014, provided he can convince reluctant Democrats that he doesn't really believe in all the things he believed in when he was the Republican governor. This could be fun, but not as much fun as … Taming that den of iniquity known as the Hillsborough Property Appraiser's Office: Note to incoming Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez: Confine your texting to official business, especially with the human resources director. That's all I'm saying. The guy who had that job before you forgot that rule and, well, let's talk about something else because … The 2013 football season will be a return to greatness for the Buccaneers: OK, greatness probably overstates it by a few percentage points, but the Bucs made good strides under Coach Toes-On-The-Line and the arrow is pointed up. All they need is for the Glazer family to keep the vault open long enough to buy a cornerback or two, Josh Freeman to channel his inner RG3, and then convince Ronde Barber to come back. Do that, and they'll be fine – and maybe even fans will start filling Raymond James Stadium again every Sunday because … Things are about to get better here economically: You've noticed some big housing projects are starting, indicating a rebound in that area. People are moving into the condos downtown that once looked abandoned when the economic spiral started. Tampa International Airport, with its new emphasis on international flights, makes the city more competitive for new business. The University of South Florida has become an economic dynamo (just don't mention the Big East Conference). The foundation is almost in place for the long-awaited revival here, and, darn it, we deserve it because … We have had our challenges and took some punches, but this is still one terrific place to live. I can't really add to that, except, of course, to say this: Happy New Year. Hope it's your best one yet.