It ain't easy making bold predictions. Harold Camping, aka the Doomsday Minister, swung and missed with his widely publicized assertion that the world would end back in October 2011. The Mayas didn't fare much better this year.
Even when the stakes are less than end days, worthy predictions can be hard to find. Political pundits rarely get it right—unless we're talking about projections from Nate Silver. Sports prognosticators regularly get beaten; it's something Las Vegas sports books depend on. And don't even get us started on psychics or "seers."
Successfully telling the future can be a fickle thing, and yet we think about it all the time. It's in our nature to take whatever information we have and posit a guess on what will happen next. At best, those educated guesses can be hopeful or serve as a warning; even when they're wildly off they can make us think a little more about what's possible, for good and ill. Our list of bold predictions—from both staff and members of the community—aims to broaden our thinking about the New Year.
The Montana Legislature concludes a shockingly punch line-free session
Early signs point to this bold prediction falling shorter than gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill's physical stature. Already, Rep. Jerry O'Neil, R-Columbia Falls, made national news for his request to be paid in gold coins and Rep. Clayton Fiscus, R-Billings, made eyeballs roll with the latest attempt to force public schools to teach intelligent design. The Indy was among those to worry that we were in for another 90 days of nonsense.
It's not going to happen. Yes, there will be nasty fights and sophomoric name-calling over budgets and jobs proposals and natural resource extraction and the environment, as always. But embarrassing fodder like a spear-hunting bill or a declaration of the benefits of climate change or a move to eliminate Barack Obama's name from the ballot will disappear from the agenda—and, just as importantly for our state pride, from discussion on national talk shows. Instead, both political parties will come to realize that constituents want to see a blue-collar effort this session that focuses on credible solutions to real problems. There can be wildly divergent impressions over what constitutes a "credible solution," and spirited debate to establish the best one, but it will not include the sideshow that became a little too common in Helena in 2011.
Guest Prognosticator: Colin Hickey
founder of MissoulaEvents.net, Missoula Downtown Association marketing and events director, booking agent for Badlander and Palace
Volumen reunite for one last show
Local sci-wave rock legends Volumen reunite for one night only to give their legions of fans what they have asked for: an official last show. Representatives from the Missoula Babysitters Union go on record saying, "It was our busiest night since the Wilco concert of '08." Weeks later, people all around Missoula will be seen smiling and singing the chorus to "Sexy Astronaut."
The Spokanification of Missoula reaches new levels
Put another way, get ready to welcome more national chains to our little valley—and not just out on Reserve Street. Einstein Bros Bagels, a chain originally founded by the folks behind Boston Market, hopes to open on West Broadway later this month, and there are rumors of a Texas barbecue chain moving into another downtown location.
They won't be the only two. College towns are ripe for growing franchises, and there are enough open storefronts near campus and around town to attract newcomers. Expect to see a Chili's, Red Lobster and, finally, after years of unfulfilled rumors, Olive Garden. Cabela's, which recently announced plans to open a Kalispell location, also moves into the Missoula market. Based on recent reports, something is coming to the old K-Mart storefront on Brooks Street. And Trader Joe's will join the recently opened Natural Grocers as another competitor among area supermarkets.
The growth will spark an outpouring of "Shop Local" campaigns and efforts to protect the Main Street appeal of Missoula's downtown. Bumper stickers will emerge reading, "Friends Don't Let Friends Eat Never-Ending Pasta Bowls." It'll take a 2014 bold prediction, however, to see whether the campaigns fail, or if the new chains experience a fate similar to the former Higgins Avenue Starbucks.
John Mayer plays back-to-back benefit concerts at the Wilma; ends second show with proposal to Katy Perry
For those who don't read Us Weekly, People or the Indy Blog, tabloid magnet and celebrated guitarist John Mayer moved to the Livingston area last year and shortly thereafter started dating pop starlet Katy Perry. The power couple has become a favorite of the paparazzi and gossip reporters claim the couple is now "getting serious." Apparently, Perry took Mayer to spend the holidays with her parents.
Anyway, Mayer has taken quite the liking to Big Sky Country. He initially landed here to disappear, but over time has come out of hiding and embraced his new neighbors. The best example is a Jan. 16 concert, along with Zac Brown, at Bozeman's Emerson Theatre to benefit the firefighters who battled last summer's devastating Pine Creek Fire. It's already sold out.
We predict that sort of locally focused generosity continues as the year goes on, and culminates with Mayer playing back-to-back nights at the Wilma, with a portion of the proceeds going to a local charity. Each show is billed as "John Mayer and guests," and features a revolving door of big names that Mayer has worked with in the past, including Kanye West, Frank Ocean and Demi Lovato. On the second night, Mayer brings out Perry for a duet of "Half of My Heart." At the end of the song he announces to the crowd—just like Kanye recently announced on stage that he and Kim Kardashian are having a baby—that Perry is the one who has "all of his heart," and that they're engaged. Sadly, this becomes the biggest national story out of Missoula all year.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer announces a 2016 presidential run
The rumors have swirled for months in newspapers, on television and from barstools that Schweitzer will run for president in 2016. Each time the soon-to-be-former governor is asked about his intentions, however, he demurs, avoids the question altogether or turns it into some dismissive punch line. Despite his caginess, we can't help but think that Schweitzer, who clearly loves the limelight, will step up at least to raise his already rising national visibility.
The best evidence to support this prediction occurred in early December on CNN's "State of the Union with Candy Crowley," when Schweitzer nearly came out and said he was running. "I'm governor of Montana until January," Schweitzer told Crowley. "At that point, I'll no longer have a governor's mansion. I won't have a driver. I won't have security, so I'll have a little time on my hands. I think I did mention that I have a warm regard for the people of Iowa and New Hampshire."
That nod to two key primary states led to days of new headlines about Schweitzer's future. There's no doubt the headlines will continue—and lead to an official run for the nation's highest office.