Everyone’s Concerns (Not Just Mine)

Better Living in Our Communities

Employment (Bringing and Keeping Jobs)

Our area has a history of employment leaving the area with the closing of the big textile mills over the years. You can drive through the rural areas and see where the railroad beds have been torn up and are now growing weeds and trees. The railyards in some small towns are deserted and the stations sit idle. Brick plants are being converted into condominiums, retail, and conference space if they are being used at all. It takes money and hope to pick up and move your family, and not everyone wants to leave family ties and property.

This area does offer so much for family living. We know that. It falls to us to convey that to companies that are coming in from the outside to see what we see. Plus, we need to offer them the things that they are looking for in good measure. One of the things that I see is that we need to act as a unit instead of by county. People drive to Kia, for example, from Troup, Meriwether, Harris, and Muscogee plus others. All of the counties involved then benefit.

Companies look for these things when they look for a new location:

  • proximity to transportation hubs to move product
  • favorable political structure
  • excellent housing for their staff-primarily management
    • good opportunities for employment for family members
    • good schools for children
    • excellent emergency services
    • excellent healthcare providers including maternity and pediatrics
    • recreation
  • broadband internet and high-speed connectivity at work and home
  • well maintained infra-structure

You cannot turn this around on wishes and dreams. You have to have some skin in the game. I’m willing to help work on this. Are you willing to support me?

Linked Communities

Now just what in blazes does that mean?

I know the first time I read it I gave the two words a big “huh?”, too. So let’s see if I can make this make sense quickly for you.

You know all those sub-divisions with all the cute little dead-end streets (cul-de-sacs) or semi-cul-de-sacs that sort of balloon out of a turn? No sidewalk in sight anywhere in any of them. The point is, though, that you are either IN that sub-division or you have to come all the way back to where you came in to get out of it. That is a problem for Emergency Management. How so? Because if they are on one side of large development and the call comes from the OTHER SIDE of another large development that is not connected, it delays the response time sometimes significantly. (In some studies, it took as long as 45 minutes longer to get emergency responders to a call. You can create your own scenarios.) Look at the two developments in the upper part of the diagram. See how CLOSE they are to each other at a couple of points? But you have to drive all the way back out to the main road to get from one to the other. That’s nuts.

This shows a couple of walkable pathways to schools. Studies have shown that cul-de-sacs contribute to both adult and childhood obesity.

My mom and dad both walked to school all the way through high school. My sister and I walked about a quarter-mile to the bus stop just about every morning. Nowadays, buses stop at the end of your driveway to pick up/let off your kids, and while that’s not a bad thing for safety reasons, the children certainly aren’t getting any exercise from the practice. Why must we do it? No sidewalks close to schools within walking distance! If the children did walk, they would be out on the road or in some stranger’s yard. Either one of which these days could get them killed. Can we get our sidewalks back?

Broadband and Utilities

Boy, oh, boy, if there was one thing this pandemic taught all of us, it was that we got caught with our britches down as far as having broadband and cellular access out in the rural areas of our state. Complications on top of complications on that one and not a single one of them favorable to anybody with the possible exception of the people selling the services.

For those people who might have been living in a cave and are unaware of what I am referring to, here’s a list of the “gotchas” we had to deal with in various work arounds:

  1. Teachers who had no idea of how to change their lesson plans from classrooms to online learning (and it is vastly different).
  2. Students who did not know how to adapt to being in an online environment to learn. Collaborative learning, asking questions, turning in assignments, getting assignments, doing research, etc. were all suddenly very different and they did not know how to adapt.
  3. Many students did not have proper equipment so had to borrow tablets and laptops just to stay with their peers. Smartphones did not have the minutes or bandwidth to handle the classes.
  4. Families did not HAVE sufficient time on their plans to allow children to access their schools. Plans had to be made to transport children to “wifi” buses that acted as hubs for them to download/upload their work. Depending on family work schedules, this was very disruptive.
  5. Children fell way behind in their schoolwork because of their difficulties. Tutoring was nearly non-existent.

I know a little something about on-line education as a student. I got my AS degree from South University in Paralegal Studies in 2010 completely online. I KNOW the challenges the students face. It isn’t easy. Not by a long shot. You have to be dedicated, resourceful, willing to scream for help, and able to lock yourself away from pets, other family members, TV, videos, the refrigerator, phone calls, texts, emails (except those related to class), etc. If you think studying is hard in a brick-and-mortar classroom, you haven’t seen this one. It’s a stinker if you aren’t prepared for it. Our teachers and children, by and large, were not. We have to change that.

And then there were the adults who were also attempting to use the internet at the same time causing the servers to overload and downloads/upload times to slow down. The capacity of the systems we have in general was over-stretched.

This whole situation is a problem not just for education and routine work services, but also for Emergency Services which rely heavily on being able to reach dispatch, hospitals, doctors, and each other in a near-instantaneous fashion. If the system cannot function properly, it could, conceivably, mean life-or-death in the field. No one wants that.

Less obvious, but just as necessary are the utilities such as electricity, natural gas, water, and sewage. Our systems out here depend largely on whether or not we live in a town or out in a rural area. If you are in town limits, you likely are on their systems and pay them a fee. But those out from town are different. I know about that. Our power comes from Barnesville (Southern Rivers EMC and solar), telephone, cable, and internet from Newnan (Spectrum), water from a drilled well, and septic/sewage is a septic tank/grey water field. Most rural residences are similar.

In this area, the EMCs and Georgia Power are the primary resources for electrical power. A few folks are turning to solar or wind power to supplement or even entirely remove themselves from the power grid. Even the power suppliers themselves are heavily turning in the direction of alternative sources as we see solar panel farms beginning to sprout from rooftops and alongside highways. Coal and natural gas-fueled plants are slowly being phased out.

Natural gas in the home is primarily limited to homes either in cities or nearby since it must be piped in. Propane gas, a near cousin, can be tanked and delivered to homes for residential use. In a few cases, fuel oil furnaces may still be in use, but these are increasingly few as parts become harder to find, people who know how to service them become harder to locate, and the fuel itself becomes more expensive.

Clean water in our homes is now something most of us take for granted, but it wasn’t always this way, and still isn’t for many people. Communities that provide potable (drinking safe) water to their residents must ensure its safety. Likewise, disposal of sanitary waste is a health issue and one that many of our smaller towns struggle with. These two issues go hand-in-hand like a pair of Siamese twins as well they should. They are ultimately related and we owe it to our communities to ensure those systems are working at peak performance.

Affordable Housing

As we attract more growth to this area, and as our children grow up and we grow older, one of the facts of life is: not everyone wants, or can afford, one of those big 3500 square foot homes with the accompanying mortgage, taxes, and upkeep costs. As nice as they are, there are only so many that the housing market will tolerate. There’s those people and then there’s the rest of us. What can we afford?

These little dwellings run the gamut of sizes and styles to fit your tastes and budget. They could house 1-2 people or a family if you get creative. Some have wheels under them so if you get a new job, hitch up the house and move the whole thing. Communities are using them to house homeless vets, serve as shelter for halfway houses, and other projects in something that is reminiscent of the Conservation Corp Camps. Parents are putting grown children in them or children are housing elderly parents in the side yard to give them privacy and dignity while still keeping an eye on them. We’ll need to rethink some zoning laws in some areas regarding these things, but it certainly deserves another look.

But we need a more COMPREHENSIVE plan for how developers are allowed to come in and begin to build all types of housing. We need to ask more questions of ourselves and them. For example:

  • Is this for families with children or for possibly the elderly?
  • Will there be provisions for gardens, orchards, livestock? What about wooded areas? Trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, ATV?
  • Can these buildings be made accessible for disabled living?
  • Are you using sustainable materials to build?
  • How are you protecting the environment as you build?
  • Are you using native species for landscaping?
  • Will these buildings be affordable both to purchase and to maintain? Some of the prices for a finished house? Depending on the features, it can go $120,000 or more for a 400 square foot dwelling. DIY? Much less. It depends.

Getting Our Schools Competitive Again

Not talking about in sports. That’s a whole different subject altogether and, while it can be lucrative and rewarding if you hit it big, the odds of doing that are about like winning on the Powerball, i.e. slim and none and ol’ slim was seen leaving town. Don’t get me wrong, I am not dissing sports. I enjoy both playing (or did) and watching. You just need to have an education for when the ACL or rotator cuff blows.

The schools in this state have sunk to the depths like they were made of lead shot. When our Republican leaders decided to cut budgets, they took the knife hard to our schools’ budgets. Good teachers have gone elsewhere. Why should they stay? They aren’t being paid enough. The textbooks are falling apart. They are being told by amateurs what they can and cannot teach in the classrooms (and those amateurs were probably not stellar students themselves). Children have had their nutrition compromised by reduction in funds for breakfast and lunch. These meals are often the ONLY meals these kids will get that are nutritious. They’ll be fortunate when they get back home to eat at all. Access to electronics is very limited out in rural areas even if you are not limited economically. Broadband is expensive and can be choppy. Then there’s the issue of being able to get and competently USE the equipment.

All of this takes funding and a lot of it. These children are our future, but right now, if they can, they’re packing up and moving elsewhere taking their brains and talents with them. Georgia is losing our future because the Republicans cut our education funding past the bones. I want to help turn that tragedy around and make our public schools the pride of the South if not the nation. You can help me do that by voting for me.

Paid for and published by The Committee to Elect Ellen T Wright, P.O. Box 3816, LaGrange, GA 30241 http://www.wright4georgia.com ellen@wright4georgia.com
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