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Hello, 2018


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So here we go, running headlong into 2018.

Blank slate. What’s next? The holidays are over (except for some who will be paying for them for a while).

California has plenty of changes in store — more money if you make minimum wage, more time off for parental leave if you work for a small company, more diaper changing stations.

There are a few more restrictions on guns, specifically for those who sell ammunition, and pot is legal for adults. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can smoke on Washington Street or in Courthouse Park as has been observed recently. No pot smoking in public.

California’s General Assembly made it easier to change gender on birth certificates and made the first year at community college free — that is if the state can find the money to pay for it.

Finding the money, an age-old challenge for government.

Here in Tuolumne County, finding the money has been a perennial problem for city and county government as well as for schools. Don’t expect that to change in this new year.

Schools are already getting their first numbers together and for many it looks like another year of deciding which priorities are most pressing.

This sort of introspection is a good process for us all as long as we can look at the whole and not the parts.

Sonora and Angels Camp and Calaveras and Tuolumne counties have some hard work ahead to come to a decision about commercial marijuana sales. Calaveras must also decide whether to allow growers to continue operating, a much more dicey issue due to the millions the county has already received and the millions more that could be collected.

It seems unlikely that if Calaveras bans cannabis growing that growers will just pack up and leave, causing an even more difficult challenge for law enforcement. The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office did yeoman’s work in busting illegal grows in 2017, but if it’s banned the money that’s been available dries up, just like untended pot on the vine.

Other issues that dragged into 2018 are what to do with the Sonora Dome, now vacant and deteriorating but still historic and beautiful. And Wildcat Ranch, another Sonora High property that is underused. Its value is much higher than that of the Dome, so the school district will be under some pressure to sell at least some of it.

What will happen in downtown Sonora this year? The past year seems to have been a good one for merchants and restaurant owners. The longtime empty Europa property on South Washington was reinvented as a restaurant and bar, and if it prospers, it will provide an anchor for that end of town.

The iconic Red Church got some much-needed attention.

It will be interesting to see how the spring opening of Green Dog Beer Co. changes downtown. It was heralded as a boost for downtown entertainment, one that would usher in other similar businesses and make the city a destination for travelers.

A downtown bakery has been under construction for some time, and the new owner of the old Serventes bar is looking for inspiration for its next life.

On balance, 2017 served as a run up to where we are now. Lumbering into a new year with many questions lurking in the shadows and out in the open. Decisions will be made with — we hope — a dramatic increase in participation by the citizenry.