5:10 a.m. is before the dawn of a new southern day or as we use to say “ ‘fore day in the morning.” It’s also the dawn of a new day politically and the beginning of a new season. Change is obligatory.
The local elections this year and the wider elections next year are good times to lay the foundation of what we need in your southern communities. We need leaders who speak openly and honestly about bringing us together and improving our conditions. Co-founder of this blog Helen Blocker Adams is such a leader and Augusta, Georgia, should make her their next mayor.
Helen and I have spent countless hours discussing the importance of bridging community divides and that is the reason I chose a southern bridge for the cover art of this blog. The rock band the Police had a reggae song called “One World Is Enough For All Of Us” that includes the line “we can’t sink while others float because we are all in the same big boat.” In Augusta, the medical college recently continued it’s land acquisition but fairly created new housing for displace citizens.
We need similar changes in my town and the changes could apply to a thousand American communities. We are a proud agricultural community; we grown produce. Only a few percentage of Americans work directly in ag but those hard working people feed everyone else. While I generally have no stomach for Donald Trump, he is correct in stating that America doesn’t make things anymore and making things will be the return of jobs.
The new mission for my community should surprisingly be based on towns like Mayberry from television. See, some people like to raise families and grow old in peaceful, friendly places where everyone knows and cares for everyone else. My town is sandwiched between two larger cities and to me, we are a bedroom community for those who don’t mind a short drive for some peace.
We need leaders who are concerned with every little corner of the community because problems and trouble know no boundaries. In our local elections, every candidate is personally cool with me and I would be lying if I said that basic municipal services weren’t fine. They are.
However, there comes a time when talented leadership should step up to the next challenge…when your services and skills are better required on a different level of government. For example, New Jersey has two bright rising stars and I personally like their new style of leadership. Newark Major Cory Booker is running for the U.S. Senate and this guy earned his stripes. He is a Sanford/Yale guy whose parents were two of the first Blacks at IBM but he lived in the projects as mayor to better understand the lives of his citizens. The guy doesn’t talk in generalizations; he gets down to details of what is wrong—straight no chaser. He speaks directly to the people about what they should do to improve their communities.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is clearly running for president and if Hillary isn’t the next POTUS, it should be him. The big guy tells it like it is and doesn’t might stepping on a few toes if needed.
In southwest Georgia, the Chamber of Commerce types have done an admirable job of marketing our communities with emphasis being on the good qualities. However, it’s time to address (deal with) the rest of the community. Where are the leaders who can comfortably and firmly bring out the best from the rest? Countless sons and daughters of the rural South dream about retiring to these piney forests but two main concerns are the racial climate and the growing actions of the thug element.
We need to grow our youth with the care we have traditionally used to produce our crops. We must prepare the soil, plant the seed organically and monitor until ripeness. But, we must also root out weeds and remove pests.
Issues that local candidates should be addressing included:
1. Police: It’s wonderful when the local police achieve that delicate balance between firmness and compassion. During the Clinton Presidency, the Congress passed a Crime Bill that promoted Community Policing. The best officers (we have some good ones) know their patrol areas and greet people. They use knowledge of and relationships with citizens to serve and protect. Unfortunately, some officers develop a hard spirit from constantly dealing with thugs; they should remember that the vast majority of the people appreciate and support them. Cops should smile and walk more.
2. Economic Development: We know that real E.D. begins in the homes, the schools and the churches. Hey, the Chamber can’t attract industry to a town if those industrial leaders read rough stats about the educational abilities of the workforce. An unofficial duty of elected officials is encouraging citizens to be fully focused on achievement—get in their faces like Booker and Big Chris up Jersey way.
3. Downtown Revitalization: Madison, Tifton, Moultrie, Americus, Thomasville. Even Hahira. These Georgia towns have cool downtown areas. The granola-eating, bicycle-riding, wine-sipping types love to live in and visit towns with preserved character. I still don’t get antiquing because it reminds me of rough days for us but hey, if it brings dollars to town, roadshow your blank off. I do love old buildings with character and retrofitting them with lofts brings life back to downtown. Paris, Napa Valley and Barcelona have a café culture and so can south Georgia but rather than sitting outside on the sidewalk sipping Riesling we might preferred sweet tea or a cool one from a Mason jar–Duck Dynasty style. This would be a nice way to watch the Bulldogs, Yellow Jackets or Falcons give a game away…again.
4. Crime: We need leaders who will work with state and federal officials to address the growing cost of criminal activity. Of course, it starts with education, faith and better parenting. The next crop of leaders needs to be familiar with regular folks—dare I say that they should have street cred. You must know the streets to fix the streets.
5. Housing: Homeowership anchors a taxpaying family to a community. Whatever happened to starter homes? Let’s be honest, item number four (crime) has people moving out of town. The thug element frightens people…me included. But, hell no. The houses in my community were built my farmworkers who moved to town. These people work so hard (making money for someone else) to purchase their slice of the American dream. Today, most of those men have gone to glory and their widows live in fear from half-raised boys…raised more by hip hop videos than family and church. You can’t be a new community leader if approaching those young men isn’t in your nature. At some point, we need to secure federal funding to relocate some ag operations from the town’s center to the outskirts and replace that area with mixed-use housing. I want to hear “let’s walk to church” again.
6. Resourcefulness: we have a fine crop of local candidates. If they play their cards right, those who don’t win can’t run for the Georgia General Assembly next year with the support of the person who beat them. Our statehouses need new blood because the political parties seem out of touch. They put party over people. I take my hat off to Governor Christie for working with President Obama when New Jersey got hit my a super storm. That’s what leaders do to be resourceful.
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