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Dear Santa, can you help us out?

Dear Santa: I know you're busy. I realize the job market feels like it's stuck in a mucky reindeer stall. I like your work ethic (and your fuel efficiency) every Dec. 24. Just in case you have a moment, here's my wish list this year. All I want for Christmas is a better Tampa Bay economy. So here goes — my 12 days of Christmas list:

12. If the newly combined Anheuser-Busch-InBev beer giant does decide to sell Tampa's Busch Gardens, please make sure the new owner cares as much — and is willing to invest the bucks — to keep our theme park a special place to visit.

11. When Wells Fargo officially purchases Wachovia Corp. in a few weeks, help the new No. 1 bank in the Florida market to be a true leader and give Florida consumers genuine value — not to mention a break on loans.

10. Don't tell me the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays' worst-to-first American League Championship season was a magical fluke but is instead the start of an amazing streak of quality teams and competitive baseball cheered on in a packed stadium.

9. Let the cascading Tampa Bay housing market hit a solid bottom in 2009 so prices can stabilize and allow folks to feel more confident that they are buying homes that won't drag them underwater overnight.

8. May the 7.4 percent of Tampa Bay workers currently out of a job find decent employment soon. While you're at it, try to guide the 12.5 percent of people underemployed here to full-time and better positions soon. At least help them develop new skills if it helps them get higher-wage jobs.

7. Let me truly believe retailers' "Take an additional 50 percent off the last 40 percent off" sales pitches when, alas, I usually feel the final price still feels 10 percent higher than last year's bargain price.

6. While it's great that area gas prices are near $1.60 a gallon from $4.09 just five months ago, please convince area drivers to still think twice before reverting to their old ways with gas-guzzling vehicles.

5. Find those naughty restaurants only pretending to serve real grouper and give them a lump of coal. Toss candy canes to those serving the real thing.

4. Rethink raising electricity rates so high so fast next month (just as folks start to rely more on their heaters). Look for other ways to help pay for that big, expensive Levy County nuclear power plant that won't even turn on for eight years or so.

3. May the top 10 public corporations headquartered in the Tampa Bay area survive and quickly rebound from this nasty recession — especially the four (Jabil Circuit, MarineMax, Gerdau AmeriSteel and Kforce) whose stock currently trades well under $10 a share.

2. Give thanks for yet another hurricane season with nary a local impact. But feel free to let Dancer, Prancer, Comet and especially Vixen do a hoof number on any property insurance company about to demand giant, double-digit rate increases.

1. Give a break to those retired now returning to work after their 401(k)s were so damaged, but encourage the young just starting to hunt for a job to have patience and a realistic budget to live on.

Happy holidays, Tampa Bay.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigaux@sptimes.com.

Dear Santa, can you help us out? 12/15/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 3:35pm]

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