My wife’s new Apple Watch is a nifty piece of equipment, monitoring all sorts of things like daily steps taken and blood oxygen levels, but it does have one particularly annoying issue. It slings out daily doses of digital guilt.
“Do better today!” it orders each morning. Ostensibly, the watch is talking about meeting your allotment of 10,000 daily steps, or its desire for you to stand 12 hours a day. (Twelve hours a day standing!? Whatever Apple Watch! How about 12 minutes?) But I suppose this admonition to “do better” could seep into one’s psyche as a challenge to make improvements in all areas of life. Or it could become such a psychologically unattainable goal that Apple Watch just doesn’t get recharged one day. Apple Watch will only have itself to blame for its constant kvetching.
Watch or no watch, though, the flipping of the calendar is the traditional time we take stock of areas where we need to “do better.” On the personal level we make New Year’s resolutions with thoughts of losing 75 pounds by late February, or cutting back drinking to something less than a case of beer a week, then run off the rails by mid-January. Just think about all those fitness centers slam packed on January 2, but empty a month later.
Most of the time, our resolutions are unrealistic or just plain weird. “I resolve to rant less often about dumb commercials — especially the one where people are jumping a crater on the moon and a warning comes up saying, ‘Do not attempt.’”
Maybe what might make more sense is to adopt this year’s resolutions for society as a whole. That way one trip to Old Dutch can’t throw your entire diet out the window. We need a giant, societal Apple Watch keeping track of our steps and blood gases while encouraging us to “do better.” Lord knows there are plenty of areas in which we can improve. So how about these collective resolutions for the year ahead:
- The first place we can do better is in getting our most vulnerable people vaccinated against COVID-19. Right now in Florida, there are lines of people getting inoculated. In Alabama so far, we’ve administered fewer than 43,000 doses out of the 226,000 allotted. I hate to tell you, but that’s less than 20 percent so far.
I know it’s not a simple thing, but we’ve known this was coming for months and it appears there wasn’t really much of a plan in place. State officials are talking about summer before the vaccine is available to the general public, depending upon supply. It’s hard to imagine Alabama being at the front of the line for more doses when we’re still sitting on 80 percent of what we have.
- Let’s resolve that 2021 is the year we put an I-10 bridge plan in place and get started on relieving our massive traffic congestion. Right now the whole thing is mired in the bitterness between Gov. Kay Ivey and state and local officials after the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization derailed her plans to ram through a privately built bridge funded by excessive tolls.
As I’ve written before, it’s unconscionable to give a private company control over the bridge and to reap ungodly amounts of profit over decades on the backs of locals trying to live their lives. If the state bonded the costs and collected a very modest toll, it would be paid off and untolled much, much sooner — if indeed tolling is actually necessary to get the job done.
By the same token, we may have to be willing to consider a very small toll if it’s not all money going to make a private company rich. I know that will cause the no-toll absolutists to scream, but we can’t stay stuck on zero forever. I am flatly against any multi-decade agreements with businesses sucking off hundreds of millions in profits and holding us hostage, but everyone should at least resolve to put down their guns and come to the table to see if a livable deal can be struck this year.
- Open records need some love this year, and our public officials should resolve to stop trying to shut the public out of seeing what they’re doing and to let the sun shine in. Every year of the past 18 we’ve run this newspaper, public information becomes harder and harder to get — especially at the state level. As we reported many times in 2020, when the state doesn’t want to turn over public records, they just don’t do it, and there’s almost nothing you can do.
The Legislature may even try this coming session to make it completely illegal to see police body-camera footage at all, which begs the question of why we’re paying millions for the equipment statewide then. As it stands now, this “tool” that was supposed to offer transparency to protect officers from unfounded charges and the public from police misbehavior isn’t generally available for the latter. This newspaper has even had to take the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office to the Alabama Supreme Court to see footage from a shooting in a case they’ve closed!
But it’s not just body cameras. It’s records requests for spending, contracts, meeting minutes and just about anything you can think of. If some bureaucrat doesn’t want the public to see a record, they just say “no” or make up a nonsensical reason and there’s no recourse. It’s a recipe for corruption. We need to do better.
- With ’21 being a local election year, let’s resolve not to have it devolve into the bitter racial politics we’ve seen in the past two cycles. If someone wants to be a mayor for all of Mobile, they can’t start by denigrating people “up the hill or down the hill” to create division in hopes of squeaking by with just enough votes.
Voicing legitimate concerns is fine, but we don’t need the racial dynamic thrust into every issue.
- On that note, let’s resolve to allow an annexation vote in West Mobile. It’s flatly stupid to hold the city’s growth back for clearly political reasons. All Mobilians will lose out by rejecting this potential growth and future revenues from this area. If the city gets boxed in because a few politicians think annexation will hurt their own ambitions, that’s to everyone’s detriment.
I’m sure there are plenty of other resolutions we could take on, but this is a healthy start. Doing better in these areas alone will get 2021 moving in the right direction and will feel at least as good at losing 15 pounds.
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