■ The Cubs: Will new Chicago Cubs owner Tom Rickets decide to make Naples the new spring training home of the Major League Baseball team? Locals Gary Price and Craig Bouchard will be watched closely to see if they first can convince the Cubs and then keep their promise of not spending taxpayer money. And will the Collier County Commission decide to reappropriate money from the Tourist Development Council allocations to help land Southwest Florida’s third spring training team?
■ The unemployed: With unemployment in Collier and Lee counties over 10 percent, thousands are out of work. Will they survive or just leave Southwest Florida? Hopefully the fear of getting laid off will go away.
■ Banks: Who will be the next to fall? Who will survive? And maybe most importantly, when will any of them start lending money again?
■ Local retailers/restaurateurs: The amount of vacant retail square footage must have set a record. We’ll know the local economy has bounced back when shuttered restaurants reopen and vacant storefronts in shopping centers are filled. And the folks down on Fifth Avenue will need to figure out what Mercato is doing right and they are doing wrong.
■ Florida’s next U.S. Senator: When Mel Martinez announced that he was stepping down little did we expected a heated race for the vacant seat. The once extremely popular and current Gov. Charlie Crist seemed like a shoo-in. But don’t discount Marco Rubio: He has gone from underdog to formable opponent. And that’s only the Republican race.
■ Florida’s next Governor: With Crist forgoing a bid for a second term, 19 people — six Republicans, seven Democrats, an Independent, a Libertarian and four people with no party affiliation — have filed for the seat. State Attorney General Bill McCollum (Republican) and the State Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink (Democrat) are expected to battle it out.
■ Tea Party: They made a lot noise in ‘09 with roadside anti-goverment protests. In 2010, they have their sights set on moderate Republicans and Democrats, setting the stage for a conservative resurgence.
■ Barack Obama: With his first year under his belt, Obama has only begun to wade into the problems conflicting the nation. It’s inevitable, with the economy, wars in foreign countries and the health care debate, that he stays on the watch list.
■ Tiger Woods: What will he do to resuscitate his tarnished image? Will his downfall have a lasting impact on the game of golf? Will his mistresses get a reality television show on E!?
■ Local golfers: The new battle cry when it comes to golfing privileges is member-owned clubs. But will the hackers be able to stay financially afloat in a town where there are more places to tee it up than a Pete-Dye course has water hazards.