A Happytown look at what went right this year 


"If the first battle determined how wars turned out, you know, Great Britain would be called Germany, and we'd be kissing kings asses. So that's now how it works with me. This is just the first battle, and I plan to win the war." – Attorney John Morgan to the Orlando Sentinel

$150 million: Estimated amount spent on this year's gubernatorial race between Charlie Crist and Gov. Rick Scott, making it the most expensive in Florida history

If you're anything like us, by now you are stumbling through a hidden hallway in your family's musty basement, tugging at a bottle of vodka and trying to make yourself presentable to your sister's precocious homeschooled spawn (also known as your nephews). You're also, likely, listening to the sweet stylings of ABBA as they trill through the melancholy of "Happy New Year" and you spin the wheel through the random thoughts in your mind about what went wrong this year. Did everything go wrong this year?

No, it did not.

In fact, even taking into account the colossal political blow handed to Democrats in the election in which all of South Florida forgot to vote – the one that apparently didn't happen, because everything is the same or worse – we can find reason somewhere in the blur of this bottle to celebrate what a friend recently called "the year of ish" that was our half-cocked 2014. So pull up a two-legged stool from over in the corner next to the mousetrap and allow us to regale you with some uncharacteristically positive news from our weary mouth (er, fingers) and we'll let you hold our booze.

While we are often quick to take jabs at our local government – particularly our overwhelmingly conservative Orange County government – its failures on the public records front once again this year only served to show the impressive might of our ever-expanding coalition of activists, mostly those at Organize Now. After the county lost a court battle last year over textgate and paid the fines to prove it, this year Organize Now took Mayor Teresa Jacobs to task over a private Dropbox account that carries public business. By year's end, a judge ruled in favor of Organize Now and county legal suggested that any appeal be refused, but added, touchingly, that the county could "fight this battle another day." That's cool. Pretty sure Organize Now already has this.

$10 million: Minimum estimated amount spent in the fight over Amendment 2 in November, which sought to legalize medical marijuana in Florida

There was also the amusement of "#fangate" to deal with, in which perpetually tan (and apparently warm) Democratic gubernatorial windsock Charlie Crist utilized a tiny mobile fanning device underneath his lectern. Scott hates fans – and, some argue, citizens – so he balked on live television, leaving Crist with an apparent victory, at least for a night.

And even though Scott would come out on top (cough) on Nov. 4, winning by a margin of just 3 percent, it's worth remembering that he only got 49 percent of the state's vote. Meanwhile, in the things-we're-sort-of-happy-about column, is the fact that medical marijuana, via Amendment 2, fared better than Rick Scott, coming close to its required 60 percent of votes with 57 percent. Cheers to compassion! Attorney John Morgan has vowed to continue the fight in 2016, because the youth turnout will be far more amazing.

Oh, and though we're still waiting to see exactly what happens in January with marriage equality in Florida, effectively all of the judges serving this state have ruled against the expensive machinations of Attorney General Pam Bondi to block it. And, just like magic, on Dec. 19 the United States Supreme Court handed Bondi her ass by historically refusing a stay on the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses by county clerks of court on Jan. 6. A huge toast and wet kiss goes to the high court justices that don't answer to "Clarence" or "Antonin," then.

One of the most jarring components of this year, though, had to be the uprising of a new civil rights movement in a typically disorganized state. From the Dream Defenders battling against the state's Stand Your Ground law in the name of deceased teen Trayvon Martin to a largely minority-based coalition of folks fighting for increased minimum wages for fast-food employees under the banner of Five for 15 to the recent "#blacklivesmatter" die-in protests against police brutality, it was an impressive, moving, necessary development, and we're glad to have witnessed it.

Finally, the surprise announcement in December by President Barack Obama that he had worked out an exchange of political prisoners with Cuba – and that the two countries would soon reopen diplomatic conversations after a half-century of sanctions, something that is absolutely going to affect Florida's future – showed us that sometimes cooler heads prevail.

Until they start nodding off. Pass the vodka. Cheers, and Happy New Year.



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