8. US Sugar and the Everglades
Charlie Crist's attempted buyout of a hefty amount of land in the Everglades from US Sugar could change the environmental dynamic for our noble swamp. As 2009 approaches though, the deal's future is less than certain.
7. Fidel Steps Down
After nearly 50 years Fidel Castro stepped down as the President of Cuba, which was greeted with much joy here. Of course he was replaced by his brother, Raul, which put a damper on the mood. Still, proposed talks between Castro and Obama could significantly alter policy.
6. Amendment 2 Passes and the Gay Adoption Ban is Overturned
It's been a roller coaster year for Florida's GLBT community. On one hand a mean-spirited amendment to the state's Constitution that preemptively barred not only gay marriage and civil unions, but perhaps domestic partnerships as well, narrowly passed in November. Then, just a few weeks later a Miami judge overturns Florida's draconian gay adoption ban. The final decision on that will likely come next year when and if the case makes it to the State Supreme Court.
5. Congressional Races and the Supposed Cuban Voting Shift
Local Democrats thought, finally, this must be the year that one of Miami-Dade's three Republican Congressmen would go down. They recruited three talented, well funded candidates, including former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, to take on the trio and were encouraged by talk that the GOPs longstanding grip on the Cuba American community was slowly loosening. Well, things got ugly, and all three incumbents held their seats. The election may be over, but a discussion of whether or not there's a shift in the Cuban vote will continue.
4. Newspaper Meltdown
The Miami Herald and The Sun-Sentinel begin this year like every other: as rivals. Economic problems changed that, and after both papers went through a series of painful layoffs they decided to share content and brought The Palm Beach Post in on the deal as well. The Herald also consolidated its Tallahassee Bureau with the St. Pete Times. Even these cost cutting moves didn't make the fate of the dailies anymore clear. The parent company of The Sentinel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and McClatchy is reportedly eager to sell The Herald.
3. Superintendent Shuffle
The relationship between former Superintendent Rudy Crew and the School Board devolved into tactics that would make most of Miami-Dade Public School's students seem mature. After Crew saw his narrow base of support on the board erased in August by the upset electoral win of a former principal, it became clear that he'd soon be gone and exited quickly with about $200,000 in tow. The board then baffles watchers by quickly picking an assistant superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, as Crew's replacement. Whoops! Some embarrassing sexual emails between Carvalho and a former Miami Herald education reporter surface. This doesn't deter the board though, and they offer Carvalho the contract. It remains to be seen if it was all worth it.
2. The Recession
The economic downturn was the event that covered virtually every other news item this year in a gray cloud. From the continued mortgage crises and real estate slump to a subdued Art Basel. From squatters moving into foreclosed homes to the local divorce rate dropping as couples decide it would be cheaper to stay together. From record unemployment levels to empty beds on South Beach. Unfortunately, the recession was the story that touched us all, and it doesn't look it will be contained to just 2008.
1. Presidential Election 2008
It wasn't quite 2000, thankfully, but Florida's role in this year's presidential election was integral. The early primary hubbub ensured that Hillary's victory wouldn't have much of an impact, and may have paved the way for Obama's eventual nomination. Over on the Republican side, Florida's vote for McCain, thanks in no small part to Gov. Charlie Crist, became the beginning of the end for that primary.
Once the main event kicked off, Miami saw visits from both candidates. McCain's visit may have got Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart doing push-ups in front of thousands at FIU, but nothing could top Obama's stop in Bayfront Park that drew tens of thousands. When Florida turned blue in pre-election tracking polls the writing was on the wall, and Obama carried Florida and then the nation.