We all agree that 2016 was an epic dumpster fire of a year. To be honest, it was more like 12 months of increasingly large dumpsters filled with increasingly terrible-smelling refuse being lit into ever-bigger pyres of reeking, flaming garbage. No one disputes this.
However, some truly great things also happened right here in Miami in the past year. Before sending 2016 out with the drunken binge it deserves, let's recall some of that good stuff:
1. Miami-Dade's graduation rate hit an all-time high.
Just nine years ago, more than a fifth of all high-schoolers in Miami-Dade failed to graduate from high school. That number has been on the rise since Superintendent Alberto Carvalho took the reins in 2008, and this year graduation rates hit an all-time high, with 80.4 percent of students earning a diploma. Carvalho has had his ups and downs as a leader, but that's a great achievement.
2. Violent crime fell in Miami's largest cities.
Nationwide, murder rates are on the rise, with a 10 percent hike last year, but Miami, for once, trended in a much better direction. Stats released by the FBI in September showed lower rates in Miami, Miami Beach, and North Miami than in the previous year. In fact, all major crimes are down by 6.8 percent across Miami-Dade County's 38 municipalities. South Florida's crimes tend to be so spectacularly awful that it often feels like the 305 is falling apart at the seams — but those stats show Miami is actually an increasingly safe place.
3. Dee Gordon's tear-soaked home run.
Jose Fernandez's fatal boat accident was one of Miami's worst moments in 2016. In fact, it was arguably the single most brutal point in a year that seemed intent on kicking us repeatedly in the junk. But that still-unimaginable tragedy was soon followed by a moment that no Miami sports fan will ever forget. Tiny Dee Gordon, a man who'd hit eight home runs in his entire career and not a single dinger all season for the Marlins, batted leadoff in the first game after Fernandez's death. He walked up to the right side of the plate as an emotional tribute to the ebullient pitcher. And then he hit a home run. Baseball is beautiful sometimes.
4. Miami-Dade banned fracking.
The Everglades is already a unique ecosystem balanced on the edge thanks to decades of mismanagement and pollution. So allowing massive underground explosions and chemical injections to extract oil doesn't sound like the best way to preserve the environment — not to mention the precious drinking water underneath the Glades on which Miami depends. So it was good news indeed that Miami-Dade commissioners banned all fracking in October.
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5. Voters embraced solar power and medical marijuana.
November's elections were only slightly less catastrophic than the Hindenberg's last test run, but Florida voters did get two very important questions right: They embraced both solar energy and medical marijuana. By rejecting Amendment 1, a bogus proposal cooked up by energy monopolies, voters made it easier for Miamians to generate power from our abundant sunshine. And by voting for Amendment 2, they opened the door for a much-needed medical option for thousands of locals.
6. The damn Dolphins made the playoffs.
It's been a long, cold, lonely eight years of stifling mediocrity for Miami Dolphins fans who had to watch as the 305 became a basketball town with a barely remembered football team. Now the color aqua is finally back in style in the NFL playoffs thanks to an improbable late-season surge led by new head coach Adam Gase and breakout star Jay Ajayi. Even Ryan Tannehill looks good! Can it really be the worse year ever if the Fins are winning again? (Yes. But let's enjoy those playoffs.)