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SEATTLE, May 5, 2009 -- My wife and I have spent the past three months in Seattle, Wash. We came here to be caregivers for a long-time dear friend who had leukemia and has since had bone-marrow transplant. We are living in a condo at the base of Queen Anne Hill. As everyone knows, Seattle is extremely scenic and a popular tourist destination. In addition, it is a very "green" city, having very strong ecological values, environmental awareness, and commitment.
One sector of note is transportation. King County and Seattle, its seat, financially support many forms of mass transit. These include the Metro, the extensive bus system (free in a large part of downtown); VanPool, basically ridesharing (park-and-ride lots here are full!); King County Water Taxi, passenger-only boat connecting downtown with West Seattle; Seattle Streetcar, servicing downtown with the Lake Union-Seattle Center area; Waterfront (Elliott Bay) Streetcar Line, ride free; and Sound Transit, commuter rail service connecting Seattle with Tacoma to the south and Everett to the north, and cities in between. More light rail is in the works.
Streets and highways in the Seattle area are not in as good a condition as those in Atlanta/Gwinnett. Legislators and policymakers in Seattle and King County think beyond asphalt and autos, as evidenced by the many forms of mass transit. All Interstate highways in the area have HOV lanes. Bicycle lanes are ubiquitous; commuting by bicycle is commonplace, as is plain ol' walking.
A real eye-opener is the vehicles. Large SUVs are very scarce; I think we've seen fewer than two dozen Hummers in the time we've been here. Large pickups and sedans are rare. In contrast, small cars, and hybrids, such as Prius, are everywhere. Significantly, they are used by government and industry. Seattle and King County transportation (and other city and county) agencies use the Prius, more than a hundred of them; King County has taken it a step further by converting them for plug-in, getting 100 mpg.
More than 60 Zipcars (hybrids too) ready for use by City employees within a few blocks of city hall. Seattle City Light uses Prius; several taxi companies and courier services use them. And the public drives them. At home in Gwinnett, we still get stares driving our Prius, and seldom see another one in trips of 6-10 miles or so. Here in Seattle, one easily sees a dozen in a 15-block trip. Note that personally driving a hybrid or taking mass transit can't be legislated. However, I believe that when one sees all sectors-government, industry, private citizens-doing what seems to be the right thing to do in all aspects of transportation, that it actualizes and grows, because we, collectively, do want to do what is right.
Seattle is serious about recycling and has been for many years. It is very successful. Bins for recycling sit alongside those for trash, and fill at rates greater than those for trash. Gwinnett County has just begun to offer an excellent recycling service; Seattle has had one for several years, and it is well used.
and King County's other environmental attributes and policies are manifold
and too numerous to detail here. They are often representative of the
best in the country, when they can surpass those of Portland and San Francisco.
(Recall that Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels launched the initiative to advance
the goals of the Kyoto Protocol for US cities, and is now leading the
development of a U.S. Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement.) Living here
truly gives one a feeling of well being, knowing that one is living in
harmony with, not against, our home, or, if you prefer, God's creation.
MAY 5, 2009 -- "Outright grumbling" might be the best way to describe what the average reader of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution (AJC) is doing these days. The reader has concerns on several fronts, primarily about the lack of coverage of the newspaper on major local stories.
All this comes after the news reporting staff has been decimated, reduced nearly in half over its size just a few years ago. Add to this that those no longer having jobs at the AJC were primarily the most experienced news staffers. Even more significant is that these veteran reporters were the ones with a basic institutional memory of events which took place in Georgia and Metro Atlanta. When given a story, they could quickly know who to contact as the key sources of a story and could produce a significant story within a few hours.
Give that same story to what is left of the reporting staff, basically young, lower-paid employees, and it may take the younger staffer without key contacts all day, or even into the next day, to produce.
The upshot, for the reader, is that news quality suffers. Perhaps that is why we see so many stories from the Associated Press, or other news services, in the newspaper these days. The AJC simply do not have the staff to cover Atlanta, much less the state. Gone are the days when The Journal was boasting "We cover Dixie like the dew", or even as the Constitution told us that it was "The South's standard newspaper." It's sad.
On top of all this, then last week came a big event ..in the mind of the editors. We like to compare it to giving a military officer a new weapon: you can be sure they will find a way to fire it in combat conditions.
And like admirals and generals shooting guns, newspaper editors routinely feel they have to re-design the newspaper. No matter what the reader says, editors feel that a re-design is virtually mandatory every few years, but basically seldom matters to the reader. All readers want is news, and prefer it presented in a familiar fashion.
So this recent make-over is unwelcome to the reader. Not only that, but though most re-designs are seldom recognized by the reader, the 2009 make-over is a drastic one. It's like the AJC is delivering a foreign newspaper, one entirely different from the old AJC, perhaps one from Indianapolis or Phoenix, or even Warsaw.
Not only are readers complaining. The AJC is far harder to read, and just does not "feel" comfortable to the reader. Some of the redesign features seem to have no purpose, intensifying reader opposition. It's like the AJC is trying to drive readers away. And in the re-design, we suspect the editors felt they could camouflage eliminating many well-accepted features.
Some newspaper people will tell you that all these changes are the result of a bad economy, or because of the growth of the Internet. Part of that is true. But readers suspect that some of the problem at the AJC is because of bad management and bad decisions, some of these going back for several years.
Granted the world is changing. Yet what the AJC leadership is doing, it appears, is trying to find ways to drive readers from the printed word on paper, to the Internet. Along the way, they may have upset enough readers that regaining them in another media is impossible. That's why people are grumbling, since they feel they have lost the major source of news in Metro Atlanta.
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Editor, the Forum:
have heard in the news that a couple of Post Offices in Texas have been
forced to take down small posters that say 'IN GOD WE TRUST.' The law,
officials say, is being violated with this posting.
annual Barefoot In The Park Juried Arts Festival is coming May 9-10 on
the Duluth Town Green.
Come out and enjoy the festival and possibly find a great piece of original artwork, or simply enjoy the many exhibits and food vendors. Hours are from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Saturday, and from noon until 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free. Find more details at www.barefootinthepark.org.
Sustainability Summit set May 13 featuring Chris Clark
In this economic downturn, cutting costs can be crucial, now more than ever. Come learn how sustainability through energy efficiency can make economic sense and improve your bottom line at the first Sustainability Summit on May 13 at the Environmental and Heritage Center in Gwinnett. The meeting will start at 9 a.m. and be completed by 2 p.m.
The luncheon speaker will be Chris Clark, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Participants will be among the first to hear about the Atlanta Regional Commission's new Certified Green Communities initiative and how Gwinnett County is taking the lead on becoming a more sustainable community.
Metro Atlanta business leaders will also present how they implemented energy efficient policies and experienced a return on their investment. Finally, ideas will be presented on how your company can use financing tools to accomplish this goal.
The Gwinnett Economic Development Council serves to establish business recruitment strategies for the corporate end user, as well as encouraging new and re-development, and provide forums for discussion and tools to enable smart growth and innovative thinking in Gwinnett County.
$25 for Partnership Gwinnett investors, Chairman's Club Members; $35 Chamber
members; $45 for non-Chamber members. Registration deadline is May 8,
2009. To register, email Heather
Neilan or call 678-957-4944 or
register online here.
Set of 10 stage plays opens June 4 at Norcross Playhouse
Harvest '09, a new crop of 10-minute plays, will be presented by Onion Man Productions June 4-14 on Thursdays through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Sundays. The location is the College Street Playhouse at 10 Britt Ave in Norcross.
On Friday nights after the shows there will be a reading of a bonus play. On Saturday nights, another feature scheduled includes a talk-back with the playwrights! The plays included will be:
Tickets are $15 (cash only). Groups and senior tickets available for $12. For reservations, call 404-519-7591 or place on line through email@example.com.
Museum grand opening at Strickland House will be May 30
Celebrate Duluth's past and put your footprints on history in the making. Attend the Duluth Historical Society 'Grand Opening" at its new location at the historic Strickland House at 2956 Buford Highway, will be Saturday, May 30, 2009 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Admission is free
Those attending will enjoy refreshments, entertainment and free tours of two floors of exhibits, on the Strickland family, Duluth merchants, churches, Indian artifacts and railroad lore. Or visitors may just sit in the gazebo and enjoy the well-kept grounds.
information, contact President Judy Wilson of the Museum at 770-232-7584,
visit the web site here.
With interest rates at historic lows for homebuyers, right now is the right time to talk to a Realtor about "Getting Off the Fence," and into a home. The Georgia Association of Realtors(GAR) and Northeast Atlanta Metro Association of Realtors (NAMAR) are urging individuals to take advantage of the current housing market and to explore the possibilities of purchasing a new home with help from their Realtor.
Low interest rates are one of the main elements that is driving the buyer's market. Currently, interest rates are hovering just below the five percent mark for a 30-year fixed mortgage. Historically speaking, this is an excellent rate, much better than an average of about 7.75 percent in 1997 and certainly much better than the average of 10.28 percent in 1987. Lowered interest rates open up a lot of options for homebuyers. 2009 GAR president Steven Fischer says: "In purchasing a new home, the historically low interest rates can lead to a lowered payment or a bigger home - it's your choice."
Contrary to perceptions, conventional mortgages with highly competitive interest rates are available to home buyers. Carol Guse, 2009 NAMAR president, adds: "Buyers with good credit, a steady income and a realistic view of what they can afford are excellent candidates for a mortgage, even in our current market."
Fischer adds: "These incredible interest rates won't last forever. When the market comes back around - and it will, it always does - the consumers who got off the fence during this time will be so glad they did as they watch the value of their home rise with the lowest interest rates we've seen in over 50 years." Carol Guse suggests that anyone who is interested in buying a home, call a Realtor and find out about the many special programs that are being offered.
For more information, call 770-495-7300 or visit www.NAMAR.org.
UGA honors four Gwinnett students as promising
Local students Rachel Johnson of Dacula, Eric Ekwueme of Snellville, Akil Piggott of Suwanee, and Eboni Vance of Norcross were four of 16 Georgia high school students recognized as Promising Scholars by the University of Georgia's Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO).
The students, honored for their stellar academic records by CURO, were invited for a two-day campus visit, which included attending the 2009 CURO symposium, where more than 210 UGA undergraduates presented their research projects in April.
Johnson, who is a senior at Central Gwinnett, Ekwueme, who is a senior at South Gwinnett, Piggott, who is a senior at Peachtree Ridge, and Vance, who is a senior at Norcross, have indicated that they will attend UGA this fall with CURO apprenticeships.
Ekwueme said he appreciated the chance to learn more about undergraduate research and university life. "I am very excited and enthusiastic about the program," he said. "The CURO apprentices were very helpful in the advice that they gave me; many of them know how it feels to be a Promising Scholar. They helped to assure that even with their research in the CURO program, they have time for academics, sports, social activities and community service."
Piggott offered similar praise. "I look forward to the challenges awaiting me in the CURO apprentice program," he said. "Participating in undergraduate research will help me learn more about my career aspirations, and also, being a part of this community gives me an additional piece of the college experience that many will not be able to have."
"CURO sounds fascinating and I cannot wait to be a part of it," added Vance. "I believe the chance to delve deeper into a subject can open my eyes to endless career possibilities and also help with graduate school entrance."
The Honors Program's Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities was created to foster a culture of inquiry by providing opportunities for undergraduates to be engaged in research guided and supported by faculty mentors. For more information, visit www.uga.edu/honors/curo.
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The Yamacraw Indians were a small band that existed from the late 1720s to the mid-1740s in the Savannah area. First led by Tomochichi and then by his nephew and heir Toonahowi, they consisted of about 200 people and contained a mix of Lower Creeks and Yamasees. Most eventually reintegrated themselves with the Lower Creeks to avoid future confrontation with European intruders.
Before the Yamacraws' formation, the Creeks and the Yamasees dominated the region now known as the state of Georgia. Both nations came under the economic influence of British traders based of Charleston, S.C. As the Indians slid further into debt, the British required immediate payment in the forms of deerskins and/or Indian slaves. Rather than submit to these demands, the Yamasees attacked British traders and settlers in backcountry South Carolina in 1715, resulting in the Yamasee War, and the Creeks joined their relatives in the fight. When hostilities ended two years later, the Creeks, led by Brims, were quick to reestablish trade with the British, which offended their Yamasee allies, who instead linked with the Spanish out of St. Augustine, in present-day Florida.
Indians who disagreed with these alliances broke away from their brethren in 1728 and formed the Yamacraws under Tomochichi's leadership. They relocated to the bluffs overlooking the Savannah River, choosing the site for its vacancy, its proximity to British traders, and its spiritual significance as the resting place of Tomochichi's ancestors. Here they created a new town and prospered quietly until more British settlers, led by James Edward Oglethorpe, arrived in February 1733. Tomochichi negotiated with Oglethorpe and agreed to move his village upstream from the new outpost that would become Savannah. The two men became strong allies and helped to maintain communication among the various ethnic groups in the area at that time. With Tomochichi's death in 1739 and Toonahowi's death in 1743, the Yamacraws ceased to be an influential force.
The Yamacraws, as a subsidiary of the Lower Creeks, lasted for less than two decades before merging with that larger nation to avoid encroaching British settlers.
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MODERN HISTORY OF GWINNETT
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