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Time will tell what predictions are worth

We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur.

_ DAN QUAYLE

Happy New Year! In the spirit of the holiday, it is time to predict some of the coming year's headlines. I'll chip in my two cents at the end, but with the usual warning _ it is worth pretty much what you paid for it.

First, let's look at last year's effort. You, the astute reader, undoubtedly foresaw everything correctly. I, on the other hand, piled up a pitiful record of prognostication. It is a good thing somebody else is in charge of the weather forecast.

After all, state Attorney General Bob Butterworth was NOT appointed to the Florida Supreme Court, and Charlie Crist did not get more than 40 percent of the vote against U.S. Sen. Bob Graham.

As funny as it might seem now, I predicted Buddy MacKay would run a "surprisingly strong" but losing race against Jeb Bush and that the Florida Democratic Party would begin a "rebuilding process."

Clearly, these were typographical errors. I meant in both cases to predict the Democrats would "bite the big enchilada." Likewise, some poltergeist must have gotten into the computer and typed the prediction that Sandra Mortham would survive her scandals and stay as Bush's running mate.

Oh, well. Onward to 1999:

1. Gov. Jeb Bush's most surprising problem this year will be (a) the Tallahassee bureaucracy, (b) the Republican Legislature, (c) his plan to put an exclamation mark after each state department name, (d) a recession.

2. The Legislature will (a) pass a major tax cut, (b) order wider chairs because of looser rules on taking free meals, (c) force a school prayer bill upon Bush, (d) announce that no new laws are needed this year.

3. In sports news, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will (a) replace quarterback Trent Dilfer, (b) go 10-6 and reach the playoffs, (c) move to Orlando, (d) rehire Ray Perkins as head coach.

4. Tampa Mayor Dick Greco will (a) be arrested on flattery charges, (b) annex even more big chunks of Hillsborough County, (c) be re-elected in a cakewalk, (d) resign his job to bring the 2014 winter Olympics to Tampa.

5. The St. Petersburg City Council will (a) erupt in at least one fistfight, (b) grow weaker compared with the strong chief executive, (c) rewrite the city's parking rules at least four more times, (d) impeach Mayor David Fischer.

6. Nude-dancing king Joe Redner will (a) be elected to the Tampa City Council, in the style of Jesse Ventura, (b) be defeated after discussing the issues seriously yet failing to shake his image, (c) switch to the mayor's race, (d) undergo a religious conversion and join forces with decency crusader David Caton.

7. The number of hurricanes bearing down on Florida, forcing at least an evacuation, will be (a) zero, (b) two, (c) four, (d) five or more.

8. President Clinton will be (a) censured, (b) acquitted after refusing to cut a deal, (c) talked into resigning, (d) given his own call-in talk show on MSNBC.

9. Ronnie Mason and David Carr, defendants in the Hillsborough ambulance case, will be (a) convicted, (b) acquitted, (c) rewarded with private skyboxes at Raymond James Stadium, (d) given the keys to the city by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla.

10. The Rev. Henry J. Lyons will be (a) convicted, (b) acquitted, (c) hired as a consultant to the St. Petersburg Times, (d) hired as media critic for The Weekly Planet.

11. As always, observant newspaper readers will recognize that the format of this New Year's prediction column is stolen wholesale from (a) Hubert Mizell, (b) Maureen Dowd, (c) William Safire, (d) Bill Maxwell.

My answers: 1. (b), 2. (c), 3. (b), 4. (c), 5. (b), 6. (b), 7. (b), 8. (b), 9. (b), 10. (a), 11. (c).

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