Ah, a new year beckons. What will 2014 bring? Here are my predictions; some tongue-in-cheek (but perfectly plausible), others either grimly realistic or wishful thinking, and still others that you can take to the bank.


- The Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area, gearing for an official opening in 2014, will be wildly successful, so much so there will indeed be serious interest in constructing one or more hotels to accommodate the large influx of visitors.

- The race for the state House seat in the 107th legislative district will be the closest in years. Incumbent Kurt Masser will win his third term, but being on the same ticket as Gov. Tom Corbett will cause him some sleepless nights. (Note: Corbett will do much better here and throughout the commonwealth if the Democratic candidate is Allyson Schwartz.)

- The list of potential candidates for Northumberland County commissioner in 2015 will grow to record proportions as the public continues to sour on the three incumbents. With one Democrat, one Republican and one independent on the current board, politicos with county seat ambitions see the 2015 primary as a golden opportunity.

- Northumberland County will be visited by a seemingly never-ending stream of Democratic candidates for governor and, especially, for lieutenant governor between February and mid-May. There may be a slew of them on the ballot and, with a crowded field and low-turnout electorate, every single vote counts.

- The Shamokin police department cuts will mean a relaxation in parking meter enforcement and, inevitably, growing public sentiment to remove the meters altogether.

- Suggestions to merge the Shamokin and Coal Township police departments will now be taken more seriously, but only by people in Shamokin.

- Steve Bartos will continue to be the recipient of most of the criticism for Shamokin's fiscal problems. Bartos is a convenient scapegoat, but council members should have known there was serious trouble brewing.

- The area-wide war on blighted properties will intensify as more businesses get involved in funding demolition of dilapidated structures and enforcement efforts are ramped up even more.

- Those who oppose reducing the size of the Pennsylvania Legislature will raise bloody blue hades about how representative democracy will be destroyed if each House and Senate member has to serve more constituents. Efforts to streamline the legislative branch will stall for at least another decade.

- The Department of Environmental Protection will take a serious look at the desirability of dredging small and medium-sized creeks to reduce the risk of damage from future floods.


- By popular demand, Congress will create an Agency to Eradicate Intolerance that will be empowered to administer a public flogging to anyone who says anything whatsoever that anyone else finds the least bit offensive. Oh wait, Paula Deen and Mr. Duck Calls thought there already was such an agency.

- Miley Cyrus will devote nine more months to reminding us that she is not Hannah Montana anymore. Then, around October or November, she will embark on a lifelong career as a Shakespearean actress, eventually to become Dame Miley Cyrus.

- Hillary Clinton will be a major flopperuni for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. She peaked too soon for 2008, and she has already peaked for 2016. Before mid-year, many folks who considered themselves Hillaryites will hitch their wagons to another star, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

- Congress will finally get serious about cooperating on health care reform. A bipartisan coalition led by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin will save Obamacare by changing it.

- A campaign will be launched to have a tiny tattoo engraved on the back of every hand: Warning! Social media can be hazardous to your health!

- Gay marriage will be legal in 47 of 50 states by Dec. 31, 2014.

- Another year of fiscal gridlock in Congress will result in Republicans taking control of the Senate and keeping the House in the general election, leading to even more gridlock in 2015.

- The Philadelphia Phillies will win the World Series. File this one in the "always an optimist" category.

- Reality shows will get even wilder. The next one? Yes, you guessed it. The exciting adventures of medical personnel and photogenic patients in a hospital's colonoscopy wing.

- Announcement will be made of the first-ever $1 billion lottery in the U.S.

(Betz is an assistant editor of The News-Item.)