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Editorial: Mercifully, a fresh start in 2017
Its only a calendar change, true, but new year brings hope for better days after tough 2016
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When midnight chimed in the new year, the baby with the 2017 sash and top hat strolled past one beat-up old man of a year.

The move from 2016 is welcomed by those who will not look back fondly on 12 months of political acrimony, terrorist attacks, police confrontations and protests, and the deaths of many beloved figures. We couldn’t even get through the year’s final week without mourning first to Carrie Fisher, then her mother, Debbie Reynolds, within hours. It seemed a fitting, sad end to a year best forgotten.

Of course, the flip of the calendar doesn’t change anything but the date. January brings the same world, same problems, same discord, only with colder air. As always, it’s up to us to fix what’s wrong, not lean on the baby with the sash to do our dirty work for us.

But with the optimistic dream things can get better, here’s a brief wish list for 2017 we hope Baby New Year can deliver:

 Reform in D.C. The acrimony of the presidential election between two largely unpopular candidates hasn’t eased since Election Day. As Donald Trump ramps up for the Jan. 20 handoff, we all hope he can grow into the job and meet or exceed expectations.

Trump’s Cabinet picks have raised some eyebrows, his selections a mix of business tycoons, military veterans and GOP politicos. But that may not be such a bad thing. For years, conservatives have pushed the idea of filling federal posts with people of varied backgrounds in the real world rather than the usual roster of career bureaucrats. Now we’ll see if that model brings real change. Clearly the main reason voters chose Trump was to shake Washington out of its comfortable coma of inaction, so a fresh approach might be the cure.

That said, our other wish come Jan. 20 is that someone finally pry the smartphone out of Boss Tweet’s hands so he can focus more on governing and less on Alec Baldwin’s latest “Saturday Night Live” skit.

 Sanity in Atlanta. Georgia state government isn’t nearly as dysfunctional as Washington’s, and the majority party here is mostly in lockstep. Yet those few exceptions could again arise in the new session with laws on religious liberty and expanding firearm rights to college campuses. Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed both bills last year, creating a backlash that hasn’t died down.

But before legislators again try to thread the needle with a religious liberty law that somehow doesn’t discriminate against some groups, they should look at North Carolina’s case of how such an effort can go awry. The Tar Heel State’s law mandating which bathroom transgender people can use sparked boycotts from businesses, entertainers and sporting events, including the NBA All-Star Game, costing the state untold millions. The law led to the defeat of the incumbent Republican governor and still may be repealed.

The lesson is that the frantic fears of those obsessed with where someone relieves themselves aren’t worth the price of perceived prejudice. Georgia has too much to lose to venture down that dark path.

• Stability in the world. It seems when one group of terrorist thugs is thinned by drone attacks, another arises in its place. Like mutating viruses, the Taliban and al-Qaida give way to the Islamic State and its wildcat sympathizers embedded everywhere. While their attacks are generally less sophisticated than those of 9-11, the spread of violence has reached across the civilized world.

Meanwhile, the United States’ decision to turn in its badge as the world’s policeman led to bad actors like Russia, Iran and China to expand their influence. We’ll see if the Trump administration has the right response, but it’s clear the U.S. can’t continue to shun global problems. The carnage of Aleppo is a stark example why the world remains an uneasy place without strong American leadership.

 Water at home. In a world frequently gone mad, our little corner in Northeast Georgia seems peaceful in comparison. Even at their worst, local battles over zoning issues can’t match the lunacy seen elsewhere. We’re thankful for the sober thinking and reasonable souls who lead the way.

Yet one key regional worry going into 2017 remains the health of Lake Lanier and its water supply. For 20-plus years, Georgia and Florida haven’t agreed on how to share water from the Chattahoochee River basin. When Florida filed suit, the Supreme Court appointed a Maine judge to decide the case. His ruling is due soon, and though neither side likely will be totally happy with the resulting compromise, it may be the only way to balance the needs of Florida’s shellfish industry and Georgia’s residential, commercial and agricultural growth.

Metro Atlanta, and all of North Georgia, is a thirsty place, no doubt, and as millions continue to flock here for good jobs, that need won’t diminish. The commerce that flows along the Chattahoochee is beneficial to the state, region and nation. We trust the judge will recognize that and not sell us out completely for those delicate Gulf oysters. And a bit more rain than we had in 2016 would ease concerns for everyone.

Granted, all this is a lot to ask for, but the clean pages of a fresh calendar lead to such hope. If we can get through the next year without the world blowing up, the nation splitting into pieces and another slew of talented performers cashing in, we’ll consider that baby’s job well done.

Share your thoughts on this or any other topic in a a letter to the editor; you can use this form or email to The Times editorial board includes General Manager Norman Baggs, Editor Keith Albertson and Managing Editor Shannon Casas, plus community members Susan DeCrescenzo, Cathy Drerup and Brent Hoffman.

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