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Things we’d like to see in 2016

•Tourism efforts put on the backburner by county and city officials and business groups.  Enough with the water park and tourist destination dreams. Let’s concentrate on what we already are - a great bedroom community for the metro area - and look for ways to capitalize on this.

•For Kirby Smart to fire up the DAWGS and have us poised for a serious run at the national championship bowls next year. Enough good-but-not-good-enough out of Athens; we want to be a contender.

•A cool restaurant, ideally a brew-pub, in the restored NAPA building on the corner of Main Street and Highway 53. The building makes a great anchor for downtown. Now we need a tenant that is truly a draw for the whole street.

•The Boys & Girls Club building completely funded and built by their goal of this spring. The fundraising team has raised over $2 million for the project and is less than $200,000 away from a fully-paid-off facility that will give our kids and teens a safe place to spend time. If you haven’t yet, please donate.

•A revival of the arts. We were sad to see Sharptop Arts Association close their doors, just as we were sad to see many other galleries and arts events (i.e. the Jasper ArtFest) that have come and gone. We would like to see new groups or new faces step up – like the successful Ed B’s Studio 54 in downtown - and make arts-related events happen here because they make a community richer and more vibrant.

•More support for veterans. We’d like to see more programs that help our vets transition back into civilian life so they can find work and live out a happy life at home with their families. We’d also like to see more funding for programs that help veterans struggling with drug addiction, PTSD, homelessness, job insecurity or disabilities from combat. We applaud all the programs out there already, like the well-received Veterans Court in this judicial circuit and programs offered through Highland Rivers, but we think more can be done in our country for those who served. 

•At least one good snow before spring.
•New sports heroes and idols to cheer. Everybody loves a hero and southern boy Cam Newton has been great to cheer for this past year as he nearly led his Carolina Panthers to a perfect season (thanks Falcons) but we need more sports role models for us and our kids. It’s fun to get behind sports figures, especially when they espouse the values we’d all like to emulate.

•While not original, we would like a more courteous tone in politics. We realize that partisan ruthlessness and low intellectual tone are chronic features of politics because they work - up to a point. But so does decency.

•More adoptions at the local shelter - and less animals there in the first place. Spay and neuter people. Spay and neuter.

•Jon Stewart’s yearlong retirement ‘joke’ end and him announce a new show. Comedy makes everything better.

•And maybe, just maybe, Blue Bell will come back with expansion plans after a safe return to shelves following the listeria scare that took the smooth, creamy, sugary stuff from us.