Athens, Ga

I love New Year’s almost as much as I love birthdays. That’s A LOT - if you know me, you know what I’m talking about! For the month of January I’ll have a number of New Year’s related blog posts, and for this one I wanted to share these words from my favorite editor-about-town, Pete McCommons. His weekly newspaper, the Flagpole, is my go-to for anything Athens related. As we began 2012, I was struck by his eloquence in describing how I feel about Athens and why I am so happy to live here. Here is what Pete has to say; I hope you enjoy it, too.

Happy New Year!

We’ve got a really good state university; we’ve got a really good public school system; we’ve got special assets like our extensive and well known music scene; we’ve got attractive architecture and liveable, walkable, bikable, drivable neighborhoods; we’ve got an affordable cost of living; we’ve got a beautiful natural environment nestled among hills and rivers with a moderate climate (okay–not in August); we have an interesting downtown; our suburbs are within easy reach; in addition to the music, we have lots of activity in the arts: theater, painting, writing, cinema, pottery; we’ve got a good bus system; we’ve got sports; we’re a short drive to the mountains and a not-as-short drive to the ocean; we can fly out of Atlanta but don’t have to live there.

Athens is not perfect, but we’ve got a lot going for us. Let’s make this new year the time when we really focus on understanding how to bring in the kinds of businesses that want to live in our kind of town and that will contribute to strengthening Athens without messing it up. Let’s also take a good, close look at how we can enhance what we have. We can insist that our economic development people understand what we have here and learn how to add to it, instead of chasing phantom industries that aren’t coming and wouldn’t fit.

Even if we can’t control what the university pays its custodial workers and graduate assistants, we can document what kind of impact those wage scales have here. We can also take a look at our local government and make sure it is not a part of the poorly paid job problem.

Let’s make this the year that we devise even better coordination and knowledge among the projects and agencies that are trying to ameliorate our endemic poverty. Let’s be sure our local government, our university and our state government are drawn even more closely into a focused examination of poverty here. There are many reasons for poverty in Athens, and the big one is that our county presently and historically offers jobs not available in the surrounding counties and also public housing and other forms of assistance not available in the outlying areas.

This is our big challenge in the new year: to find ways to extend our quality of life to those who are left out, while enhancing our community to realize that we all gain from lifting up our lowest members. We have had setbacks recently and in the past, but we must persevere, because we are all in this community together, and we are interdependent, whether we realize it or not. Let’s resolve to give special, local meaning to the salutation, “Happy New Year!”

Pete McCommons

                                                 ”College Ave. & Clayton St., Downtown Athens, Ga”
                                                   painting on silk by Rene Shoemaker