Whew, what a year. And what's to come? We are ending the Year of the Dragon and 2013 will be the Year of the Snake.
First, let's look back at the past year, a wild 12 months of passion, ambition and big things.
Politics, divisive, ugly and mean spirited, overshadowed 2012. The intensity and winning at any cost of a dragon personality characterized the elections. Nationally, the presidential race began in early January in Iowa as Republicans began their brutal primaries and the weekly front runner sprint. We followed daily polls, consumed by swing states and debates. And Ohio. It ended with the re-election of President Obama and an election night that surprised many because it wasn't close.
State and local elections were driven by huge amounts of money (the Munger family itself contributed over $54 million) and the rise of outsider interests who sought to buy an election. But the political dragon emerging from the November election may be the new supermajority Democrats now hold in both the California Assembly and Senate. Will they work with the fearless and conceited nature of a dragon, believing their will should prevail?
The dragon year was marked by a huge event: the Supreme Court upholding of ObamaCare. This legislation permeates the lives of all Californians, and the Valley may feel the greatest impact as we move forward with thousands of uninsured and low income residents who had few health care choices. We won't know the impact for years, but it may become the cornerstone of President Obama's legacy.
Egos were behind local stories in 2012, from the battle to keep the basketball Kings in Sacramento to the ongoing debate over salmon restoration in the San Joaquin river. We witnessed the sick temperaments of killings, from the April conviction of the killer of a Placerville school principal to the Fresno meatpacking plant murders in November. Valley Sikhs were stunned by the Wisconsin temple shootings in August.
But a good dragon helped the Fresno State football team to a co-championship, the L.A. Kings hockey victories, and the amazing SF Giants make comeback after comeback. Even the little dragon Oakland A's managed to slay a few victims. And the self-assurance of a dragon helped Valley athletes Brooke Crain, BMX biker, and Jose Ramirez, boxer, excel at the Olympics.
Perhaps not slain but at least temporarily averted was a dismal future of school budgets, if not for the passage of Prop. 30.
The economy lost any momentum and hope of a powerful recovery. All signs point to a painfully slow process, much to the chagrin of a dragon personality. Housing does show signs of life as well as the growth of a potentially new source of tax revenue: the legalization of pot. Or could this simply be a dragon blowing smoke?
Finally, two deaths of note that some in the Valley felt: the passing of Dick Clark linked many of us to the Valley culture of our teen years, cruising and "American Graffiti;" the death of the popular artist Thomas Kinkade which rekindled the debate: "What is real art?"
2013 is the year of the snake. Snakes are wise creatures, and we hope sage decisions will greet us in the new year. Charming and cunning are two descriptors that lend themselves to a year of mediation. While national politics dominate the headlines, local decisions loom before us: state budgets, University of California and California State University tuition hikes, cities and their own versions of fiscal cliffs, union battles and calls for no new taxes.
Award-winning author and organic farmer David Mas Masumoto of Del Rey writes about the San Joaquin Valley and its people. Send email to him at email@example.com