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One last look at 2016 before we bid it good f*cking riddance 

Worst. Year. Ever.

"Worst year ever." Yeah, everyone says it at the end of every year, but 2016, you were in a class of your own, unparalleled in suckiness by any year in recent memory. (As one of our friends remarked, "You can't compare apples to durian.") And while we all lived through the objectively worst year in Orlando's history, outside Central Florida the country and the world experienced crap happenings like the discovery of the Flint water crisis; terrifying videos of police killing citizens and citizens killing police; terror attacks in Nice, Baghdad and Brussels; Brexit madness; Russian hackers steering the American presidential election; the Dakota Pipeline standoff; and the ongoing horror in Syria. Not to mention that utter dick Ryan Lochte embarrassing us all at the Olympics.

Maybe we should've been paying more attention to that "Red Wedding" episode of Game of Thrones, because this year is taking down the people, institutions and values we cherish faster than a few Freys taking down a banquet hall full of Starks. So many of us feel defeated, helpless in the face of an onslaught of ethical challenges on an unprecedented and staggering scale. How do you make sense of a world where you can't take anything for granted anymore (unrigged elections, friendly cops, constitutionally protected privacy, kindness to the poor)? How do you take a measured look back at the highs and lows of a year that felt like a long, steep slide down to the edge of a bottomless abyss?

Every day since Nov. 9 has brought a new, terrifying or bizarre development – sometimes both terrifying AND bizarre, like the announcement last week that Sylvester Stallone might head the National Endowment for the Arts. Is it true, we wonder; can that actually be true? Seems like a question we'll be asking daily for the next four years.

So, yes, this Year in Review is a long ride in the wah-mbulance. But if you're one of those glass-half-full types – if you can pull your head out of the sand long enough – feel free to check out the "Good things that happened in 2016" gallery going up this Friday. We gathered up as many as we could.


In the first week of the year, two incidents foreshadowed the campaign season to come. First, USA Today published an op-ed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott on how Donald Trump would win because "voters have been choosing new ideas and new energy over the old formula of sheer time served in political office." (Doubly unfortunate and unknowingly prescient: The headline was "Donald Trump Has America's Pulse.") A day before that, Democratic National Committee chair and South Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz gave us a little taste of how the Dems would spend the next year: tripping over their own dicks with statements like "Here's what I see: a complacency among the generation of young women whose entire lives have been lived after Roe v. Wade was decided."

And up in Tallahassee, our lawmakers racked their tiny brains to kick off the year with gems like HB 865, a bill that "would make performing an abortion or operating an abortion clinic a first-degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to 30 years in prison"; HB 191, which would pre-empt local governments from doing anything to protect their communities from fracking; HB 1075, proposing to allow hunting, cattle grazing, timber farming and RV camping in Florida's protected parks and preserves; and a last-minute amendment to HB 7007, a Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services bill, that would pre-empt counties from regulating the use or sale of polystyrene products – a ban on bans, if you will.


A men's rights group that supports "legal rape" tried and failed to hold a meeting at Lake Eola Park. A Libertarian candidate for Florida's Senate seat who previously confessed to sacrificing a goat and drinking its blood also admitted he uses LSD and released his drug-induced musings. Twenty-six people contracted Zika, a virus that causes mild flu-like symptoms but can lead to microcephaly in unborn babies, while they were abroad, including someone in Orange County. The New York Times reported an ethics investigation into how U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, Orlando's progressive firebrand, mingled his hedge fund work with his job representing Central Florida. (Conflict of interest? HAHA THAT'S NOT A THING)

In West Palm Beach, a baby-faced 17-year-old named Malachi Love-Robinson was arrested after allegedly tricking adults into believing he was a doctor. The city of Groveland reckoned with a 67-year-old skeleton in its closet by apologizing to four African-American men falsely accused of raping a white woman in 1949. Former Gov. Jeb (!) Bush quit the presidential race after asking his supporters to "Please clap." (They did, but he quit anyway.)


Trump split Iowa's electoral votes with Ted Cruz, then took New Hampshire and the next two Republican primaries. Gov. Scott signed HB 1411, a classic TRAP law meant to eliminate legal abortion by making it almost impossible to run a clinic. (Admitting that many women's health clinics offer services besides abortion, supporters of the law offered a list of alternatives that was found to include podiatrists, dentists and school nurses.) A brown tide algae bloom killed so many fish that the Indian River Lagoon had a solid surface of belly-up stank, angering nearby residents (who were accused of causing the problem with their lawn fertilizer and septic tanks).

After years of years of cuts in public health budgets under Scott, data showed in January that Florida led the nation in new HIV cases. So in March, the Florida Department of Health responded to the crisis by ... revising its numbers so that Florida came in behind California and Texas. Not to be outdone, an Orange County medical examiner announced that heroin-related deaths had quintupled in the county between 2011 and 2014, and kept rising in 2015.

On March 14, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi endorsed Donald Trump. On March 22, Trump's aides admitted his charitable foundation, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, made a mistake when it gave $25,000 to a campaign PAC backing Bondi in 2013, which is "a potential violation of federal rules," and another mistake when it failed to disclose that contribution to the IRS. (Getting ahead of ourselves on the calendar: In June, the Associated Press reported Bondi "personally solicited" that political contribution from Trump while her office decided whether to join the investigation into Trump University. After Bondi's political committee received a $25,000 donation from Trump, Bondi decided not to go after Trump. And in December, Bondi was named to President-elect Trump's transition team. None of these things are connected, of course. Nope, no way.)


Fun-loving DeBary mayor Clint Johnson announced his plan to float a raft to Cuba despite warnings from the U.S. Coast Guard; several city council meetings and an investigation into some public records shenanigans later, Johnson is no longer the mayor (and he's still not in Cuba). In a delightful viral video, Gov. Rick Scott tried to buy a coffee at a Gainesville Starbucks and got called an asshole by a Florida woman for his opposition to Medicaid expansion and increasing abortion restrictions; two days later, his political committee put out a weak clapback ad calling her a #LatteLiberal.

Six baby swans were stolen from a nest at Lake Eola Park; the human or animal culprit was never found.

The Palm Beach State Attorney's Office decided not to prosecute Trump's campaign manager for yanking a Breitbart reporter by the arm at Trump National Golf Club. Florida Keys residents protested the release of Zika-fighting genetically modified mosquitos near their homes. The Marion County School Board forced transgender kids to use the bathrooms that correspond with their "birth sex" and not their gender identity. Anita Staver, president of the Maitland-based group behind the ban, tweeted that she would take her handgun into Target's bathrooms to protect herself from perverts after the company said transgender customers and employees could use whichever restroom corresponds with their gender identity.


Trump, whose entire presidential platform is based on getting rid of brown people, tried to win over Hispanic voters by posting a picture of himself on Cinco de Mayo with a taco bowl, captioned "I love Hispanics!" In an interview with CNN, Gov. Scott blushed and fluttered his eyelashes while claiming that he had absolutely no desire to take the vice-president slot in Trump's campaign. And the first death involving a self-driving car happened where? In the state of Florida, of course, where the driver of a Tesla Model S collided with a turning tractor-trailer while allegedly watching Harry Potter videos.


Congressional candidate Bob Poe revealed his HIV diagnosis, saying he wanted to share his condition to help end the stigma. East Orange County's rural residents protested two mega-developments that would add about 4,000 homes near the Econlockhatchee River. And then things took a serious turn.

On June 10, a man delusional about his romantic possibilities with singer Christina Grimmie, 22, gunned her down when she opened her arms to greet him after a performance at the Plaza Live. In the early morning hours of June 12, another deranged man stormed into the gay nightclub Pulse and fired shots into the young crowd dancing on Latin Night as last call began to wind the night down.

On June 12, after the sirens and the screams had gone quiet, after police killed the gunman, Mayor Buddy Dyer announced 49 souls were gone, more than 50 were injured and Orlando was now the site of the worst mass shooting in modern American history. On June 12, the Orlando community stood shocked in blood bank lines, donated money and supplies, shed tears and lit candles for vigil after vigil after vigil as the world grieved along with us.

On June 14, as if we weren't going through enough already, an alligator dragged a 2-year-old boy under and drowned him in the Seven Seas Lagoon at Disney.

The Westboro Baptist Church tried to shout slurs at mourners going to the funeral of a Pulse victim, but they couldn't be heard over the counter-demonstrators singing "Amazing Grace." The City Beautiful turned into the Rainbow City as hundreds of people created art and music that celebrated the LGBTQ and Latinx identity of many of the Pulse victims. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who's against marriage equality, discrimination protections and adoption by gay couples, used the Orlando tragedy to jumpstart his re-election campaign for the U.S. Senate.


Floridians were reminded that "guacamole costs extra" when Gov. Scott issued a state of emergency for Martin and St. Lucie counties due to the thick, chunky, manatee-suffocating blue-green algae bloom. On July 2, NASA's Landsat 8 satellite captured a picture of Lake Okeechobee from space showing how widespread the green goop was.

On July 11, 70 protesters staged a sit-in at U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's downtown Orlando office demanding legislation for gun control, LGBTQ protections and safer communities of color in the wake of the Pulse shootings. Using the hashtag #SitInForThe49, protesters planned to occupy the Florida Republican's office for 49 hours, but after just nine and change, Orlando police broke it up and arrested 10 protesters as they sang "This Little Light of Mine."

In Miami, police shot behavioral therapist Charles Kinsey as he lay on the ground with his arms in the air telling officers that he was unarmed. At the University of Central Florida, the Central Florida Future student newspaper ceased operation after 48 years.


Many survivors of the Pulse shooting couldn't pay their bills or rent because of injuries and trauma, so local organizations and artists stepped up to help. An Orlando man was arrested for throwing and killing a 15-year-old flamingo named "Pinky" at Busch Gardens. George Zimmerman allegedly tried to pick up a woman by bragging that he killed Trayvon Martin, and was (correctly) punched in the face. At a Hillary Clinton rally in Kissimmee, the attendance of the father of the Pulse shooter distracted everyone from Clinton's economic plan to bring 650,000 jobs to Florida. Protesters rallied against Rubio and Trump for attending a religious conference with some anti-gay pastors in Orlando on the two-month anniversary of the Pulse shooting. On the same day, Trump supporters at his rally in Kissimmee hung a Confederate flag from a railing. Florida got another cannibal case when 19-year-old Austin Harrouff was accused of biting a man's face off.

The Pulse shooting spurred the creation of Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, a political action committee focused on reforming gun policy. Pulse survivors who were treated at Florida Hospital and Orlando Regional Medical Center were informed they would not be billed. Orlando theme parks started giving out bug repellent to ward off Zika mosquitoes. The first commercial flight between Cuba and the United States in 50 years took off from Fort Lauderdale and landed in Santa Clara. Hurricane Hermine battered Tallahassee and became the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Wilma in 2005.


A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and the commercial satellite it was carrying were destroyed by an explosion on the launchpad during a routine test. A massive sinkhole at a Central Florida fertilizer plant dumped 215 million gallons of acidic water into the Floridan aquifer; the Florida Department of Environmental Protection affirmed that the company was not legally required to alert the DEP, EPA or anyone at all unless there was "any indication of offsite migration of contaminated groundwater." (Polk County residents filed a federal class-action lawsuit.)

U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Gainesville, told a town hall meeting on Aug. 25 about how he personally stopped a boat of about 20 Cuban refugees from entering the U.S. and reaching "freedom and liberty." Cool story, bro. The national "creepy clown" trend came to Florida in September when clowns were spotted in Gainesville, Palm Bay and Ocala. A Port St. Lucie man was charged with arson after he allegedly set fire to the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, which was attended by Pulse shooter Omar Mateen.

The last Pulse survivor was discharged from Orlando Regional Medical Center Sept. 6, almost three months after being shot.


An e-cigarette exploded in the pocket of someone riding the Hogwarts Express at Universal Orlando, shooting a fireball at a teenage girl. Hurricane Matthew thrashed Florida, killing 12 people in the Sunshine State and causing Orlando's Pride Parade to be canceled. After telling Floridians the hurricane could kill them so they should stay home, Scott refused to extend the voter registration deadline, but a court forced him to anyway.

Flesh-eating maggots that corkscrew their way into warm-blooded hosts came back to Florida, infesting Key deer and panicking livestock ranchers. Local artists accused Mad Cow Theatre, a professional company in downtown Orlando, of a decade-long policy of late (or no) payment.

A Palm Springs woman said Trump groped her at his Mar-a-Lago resort, after multiple women accused the Republican presidential candidate of making unwanted sexual advances. Exposing our shame to the world, a "Florida Man" category popped up on Jeopardy! A man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for shooting at acquitted killer George Zimmerman. Rubio was booed off the stage by a mostly Puerto Rican audience at the Calle Orange festival in downtown Orlando. First responders with mental health issues stemming from the Pulse massacre struggled to recover lost wages because of Florida law that a worker's disability must stem from a physical injury.


Despite losing the popular vote by more than two million votes to Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States through the fanciful math of the Electoral College. In the 10 days after his election, the Southern Poverty Law Center logged 867 hate incidents across the country, with the majority being motivated by anti-immigrant, anti-black, anti-LGBT, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentiments. At the University of Central Florida, white supremacist posters were posted around campus. Trump appointed a white nationalist as a senior adviser, an attorney general with a racist past, a doctor with no experience in housing to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other billionaires to his cabinet. America watched as Trump had his first round of Twitter tantrums as President-elect and yeah, it was as bad as we had feared it would be.

In Orange County, where Clinton won by about 60 percent, Democrats won big with the elections of Val Demings, Stephanie Murphy, Darren Soto, Carlos Guillermo Smith, Linda Stewart, Randolph Bracy, Victor Torres Jr. and Amy Mercado. After besting Orange-Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashton during the August primaries, Aramis Ayala won again and became the first African-American elected as a state attorney in Florida. Environmental activist Emily Bonilla pummeled incumbent Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards for his seat in a campaign that focused on two controversial developments east of the Econ River; commissioners later rejected one project that put 1,999 homes in the area and a potential bridge across the river. An amendment to legalize medical marijuana and expand the number of potential patients who can use the drug passed, while a solar proposal backed by utilities that did nothing but protect energy companies did not get enough votes. Orlando dedicated its biggest Come Out With Pride parade ever to the victims of Pulse. Exiled Cubans in Miami banged pots and pans to celebrate after Fidel Castro, Cuba's communist dictator, died at 90. In Orlando, two bald eagles fighting in the sky fell into a storm sewer; only one survived.


Orange County law enforcement officials increased their use of civil citations for juvenile offenders but still arrested more kids than anyone else in the state. The OneOrlando Fund paid $27.4 million to Pulse families and survivors from money raised by people locally and across the world; the fund plans to disburse $29.5 million in total. Barbara Poma, the owner of Pulse, decided not to sell the nightclub to the city of Orlando for $2.25 million; one city commissioner said the club's owners were capitalizing on the tragedy after asking for $570,000 above appraised value.

A Tampa woman was charged for harassing the parents of a child who died in the Sandy Hook massacre because she thinks the shooting was a hoax. Three teenagers were arrested in the death of Roger Trindade, a 15-year-old Winter Park High School student who was found unconscious after a fight in October. Floridians ran over and killed a record number of manatees and panthers this year. A federal judge denied another request by President-elect Trump to throw out a lawsuit against his Jupiter golf club for allegedly bilking members out of an estimated $6 million. Florida Rep. Scott Plakon filed a bill to allow people with concealed-weapons permits to carry guns on college campuses.

We'd love to end this by saying it's almost over. But we have a bad, bad feeling that 2016 is the frying pan, and 2017 is going to be the fire. See you on the other side!

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