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CHARLESTON, S.C. - A six-state Southern road trip recently that covered 2,300 miles revealed something not found in polls about consumer confidence or on the nightly news: there's a lot more positive going on than you might think.
In places like Nashville and Jackson, cranes on the area skylines are a testament to construction that is ongoing during what most now call "these troubled times." During Sunday services at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Norcross, Ga., hundreds of people seemed to glow with hope, forgiveness and a look to a better future. At a service station in Clarksdale, Miss., a banker looked forward to hitting a nearby casino one evening.
In small towns and large, people recognized the current economic pressures - upside-down mortgages, joblessness and financial fear. But the indomitable Southern spirit also pulsed. People remained polite. They continued to work hard at whatever they were doing. Most were upbeat and looked ahead.
Throughout the South, our leaders today are pushing forward in many areas. The Alabama legislature is considering a bill to divert a portion of the mortgage recording fee into a new statewide fund for affordable housing. South Carolina leaders are highlighting the state's research capabilities for hydrogen and fuel cell research and development at a major conference this week. Just days ago in Kentucky, Gov. Steve Beshear signed a controversial piece of legislation to rein in outrageous interest rates from predatory payday lending companies. In Elmwood, La., a former Winn-Dixie warehouse campus is being turned into the largest film studio east of Albuquerque, N.M.
While progress is being made, certainly some old Southern bugaboos still are visible. The burden of racial intolerance hovers, but on the whole seemed more distant. Case in point: During the trip, some 40 percent of which was driven on rural roads, the divisive Stars and Bars of the Dixie flag was only seen in two places (if you don't count the South Carolina Statehouse grounds or part of the Mississippi flag).
Poverty still is present all over - - in the urban decay of cities like Memphis and in some of the destitute streets of Helena-West Helena, Ark., and Bellamy, Ala. Unlike most places on the trip, there was a sense that people who lived in these places had given up, perhaps because there were few opportunities to do anything much at all.
And better education in the South remains a challenge, as former Mississippi Gov. William Winter reflected: "It's not black/white that divides us but those who have not received an adequate education and those who have."
Perhaps now, a time when leaders across the South are trying to figure out a way to save money and restructure how government works, is the time to rethink how we do things in a positive way. Perhaps it's time to rewrite our tax structures to make them more progressive by doing things like modernizing tax brackets. Maybe it's time for Southern states, which use more electricity per capita for a region than any other, to adopt energy efficiency standards and other measures so we don't have to build as many polluting power plants. And maybe it's time for us to stop skimping on education and be more serious about being world-class instead of just average.
of this eight-day trip to learn what actually was occurring in the South
was this: Yes, things might be bad, but they're not as bad as you might
think. In fact, there's a lot of good going on. We need to take that spirit,
work together and do even more good now.
MAY 8, 2009 -- Gwinnett, in its quick development, has little density in homes. Most are built on relatively large lots, and are single family housing. Only in the last few years have high density homes appeared at all.
As larger cities grew, almost by definition the housing density increased, as people build higher, or closer together. This can be seen in any Eastern seaboard city, or in American cities with crowded downtowns, such as Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle.
When visiting in Washington, D.C. in recent years, we've been overwhelmed at the vast number of "row houses," which is defined as "One of a row of identical houses situated side by side and sharing common walls."
The living spaces in these houses are often crowded, as is the so-called front and back "yards." The units are tiny compared to Gwinnett standards. The house itself is probably 16 or 18 feet wide, and 50 to 70 feet deep. They go up to two, three or four floors, one often being a partial basement.
The Washington row houses are most often built of brick, with the majority of the houses constructed about 100 years ago. For sure, each has its own identity, often small architectural differences from neighboring houses. As homeowners get elderly, and take less care of their housing, often the row house neighborhoods deteriorate. After a few years, prices fall, allowing fixer-uppers to get bargain prices. As others see the renovated units, and find prices still attractive, over about 20 years entire neighborhoods can be transformed into quite nice, affordable housing.
One such neighborhood is Capitol Hill, immediately east of the nation's Capitol. After World War II, living conditions in this area were deplorable, after people moved to Washington's suburbs. By the 1960s and through the early 1990s, the area was dangerous, though the homes still "had good bones." That's when the transformation of the neighborhood began through renovation.
Today, housing in Capitol Hill is expensive: a two-story six room house might go for $500,000 or more. Some might have only 1,500 square feet of living space. And that would not include a parking space, which always brings a premium. Anyone with a car living on Capitol Hill, except a few housing units with garages, has to fend for himself, and park on the street. Every time you return home, it's a game of 'how close will I get to my house?'
Yet the proximity of the Capitol, and the nearby subway system, makes living on Capitol Hill an attractive area. A key center is Eastern Market, an eclectic area of perhaps a dozen or more vendors for food. And on weekends, the entire area is transformed as people offer all sorts of wares, from fresh farm produce, to art of all kinds, and even furniture and fashions. It's a buzzing place. People walk for up to a mile or more, or use the subway, to shop the bargains. For sure, it's hard to park nearby at any time on weekends.
Gwinnett County, being suburban, has not routinely seen the row houses that are common in the big cities. Yet a few such developments are popping up, often occupied by empty-nesters wanting little yard work. Though we never expect to see row housing as a norm in Gwinnett, we can expect to see more of it in the future as even suburban Gwinnett matures.
Editor's Note: Cartoonist Bill McLemore is out of Emory University Hospital and now recuperating at the home of his daughter in Alpharetta. Here is another of the archived cartoons of his, which still have zest for today.
spiritedness of our sponsors allows us to bring GwinnettForum.com to you
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Editor, the Forum:
Regarding "In God We Trust" on Post Office walls and your editorial comment: For more than 100 years "In God We Trust" has been our motto on coinage, which has been used with decorum. No one is forced to acknowledge it in any manner of lifestyle. Few even notice its existence. So why the sudden "fear" or repugnance by some? Why the movement to trash tradition and to change our culture? Similar hysteria has been expressed regarding "under God" in the pledge to our flag. If the small poster in a Post Office has been on the wall for years and someone finally notices it, what action has produced harm? With tongue in cheek, I mockingly suggest an old proverb, "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out."
Now, regarding the AJC: I cancelled my subscription to the AJC years ago when I saw multiple stories about a few soldiers' atrocities in Iraq (we later discovered some were totally fabricated). Then but seldom I saw a story about the freedom that Iraqi women now experience, or the running water and sanitary improvements our soldiers built, the new power plants in villages, the schools our soldiers built, the health clinics our soldiers staffed, etc. My nephew was there, so I knew that there was inequity in reporting.
The AJC doesn't understand that when readers see blatant irresponsibility in "reporting" the news, trust is shattered. We are not sure we can believe anything they "report" now. When I cancelled, no one from the editorial department returned my call to address my concerns. Readers' complaints are ignored and subscriptions continue to decrease. It amazes me that Cox Enterprises also owns WSB radio and television. The managers of those two businesses cater to the public in a responsible manner without compromising principle and are profitable, yet no parallel strategy has been applied to the newspaper.
Historic Courthouse grounds will be bursting will color, culture, and
life as the city celebrates its sixth annual Art on the Square event on
Friday, May 22 and Saturday, May 23. The event will feature over 50 local
and regional juried artists. Visitors will be able to watch the artists
as they create their own artwork and listen to live jazz as they stroll
through the grounds. Hours are 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m.
to 5 p.m. on Saturday.
For more information about Art on the Square or to purchase advance tickets, please contact Rebekah Cline at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Renewable energy to be topic of Sierra meeting
Members of the Greater Gwinnett Group of the Sierra Club invites you to join them Thursday, May 21, for a discussion on renewable energy.
Mary Carr, renewable energy coordinator with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, will speak about Plant Vogtle and Plant Washington and the coal-fired power plant proposal. Her presentation on the alternatives will include energy efficiency, solar, wind, etc., and how folks can get involved.
The group meets at Berkmar High School at 7 p.m. and the program begins at 7:30 p.m. For more information, contact Tom Morrissey at email@example.com or call (404) 513-4069.
County's government has taken steps to promote environmentally sustainable
policies and practices. The new Gwinnett Environmental Sustainability
Program involves specific initiatives in 10 categories, including transportation
and air quality, recycling and waste reduction, water conservation, energy
efficiency and green building. The County's
Gwinnett County already has taken steps to become an Energy Star(r) partner with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy. The county will seek certification through the Atlanta Regional Commission's Green Communities Program.
One of the energy efficiency goals calls for a 10 percent reduction in energy consumption Dennis Baxter, environmental sustainability program coordinator, says that "Our estimates show that this will equate to a reduction of 20 to 30 million kilowatt-hours of energy usage, a savings of $1 million to the county's utility budget, and 15,000 to 20,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions that won't be placed into our atmosphere."
In the area of water conservation, measures will be taken to further reduce water consumption. Periodic water audits will take place and the county will continue to drastically limit irrigation, while older plumbing will be replaced with high-efficiency fixtures and ultra low-flow toilets. Through this process, the county is projecting to reduce its water consumption by 15 million gallons and save approximately $100,000 in its annual water utility billings.
Community garden, realignment of roads in Suwanee plan
The City of Suwanee has presented the final draft of its Downtown Master Plan developed over a six-month period with leadership from Ecos Environmental Design of Atlanta and input from citizens.
Suwanee's Planning Division Director Matthew Dickison says: "The vision put forward in the Downtown Master Plan capitalizes on the success of Town Center and works to create stronger connections between Town Center and historic Old Town."
The plan calls for creating a community garden, realigning a couple of existing roadways, adding new roadways as additional connectors, expanding the greenway system, and undertaking a more detailed study of Buford Highway as well as a parking study.
The downtown plan also envisions a mixed-use development at Buford Highway and Russell Street as a transition to the historic Old Town area along Main Street as well as potential redevelopment of areas across Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road and Buford Highway from Town Center. "A transitional development at Russell Street will create more awareness of historic Old Town," notes Dickison.
Next, the final draft of the master plan will be presented to the Planning Commission and City Council, which is expected to consider adopting the Downtown Master Plan at its June 25 meeting. Then the plan will be reviewed by the Atlanta Regional Commission.
Much of the plan's future implementation will be market-driven and generated by private-sector development. Among the measures the City will undertake in the immediate future as part of its five-year plan of action are:
More information about Suwanee's Downtown Master Plan is available online at www.downtownsuwaneeplan.com.
Atlanta resident and Wall Street Journal Bureau Chief Douglas A. Blackmon recently won the Pulitzer for his 2008 book, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black People in America from the Civil War to World War II (Doubleday, $29.95). Based on a vast record of original documents and personal narratives, Blackmon unearths the lost stories of slaves and their descendants who journeyed into freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation and then back into the shadow of involuntary servitude. Blackmon brings to light one of the most shameful chapters in American history: laws enacted specifically to intimidate blacks, with tens of thousands of African Americans arbitrarily arrested, hit with outrageous fines, and charged for the costs of their own arrests. With no means to pay these ostensible "debts," prisoners were sold as forced laborers to coal mines, lumber camps, brickyards, railroads, quarries and farm plantations. More information is available at http://www.slaverybyanothername.com.
Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus, formerly the Confederate
Naval Museum, is the only institution in the nation dedicated to telling
the little-known maritime story of the Civil War (1861-65). This 40,000-square-foot
facility located on the Chattahoochee River in Columbus opened in 2001
and features the remains of two original Confederate Navy ships, along
with full-scale reproductions of parts of three other famous Civil War
ships and numerous artifacts. Port Columbus is operated as a public-private
partnership project between the City of Columbus and the Port Columbus
Civil War Naval Center, Inc., a private nonprofit organization. The first
phase of the project was funded by nearly $8 million in private local
feature of Port Columbus is the CSS Jackson, a 225-foot ironclad ship
built in the Confederate Navy Shipyard, which is located less than a mile
from the current museum. Though under construction for more than two years,
the ship was not quite completed when a U.S. Cavalry column under General
James Wilson captured Columbus in April 1865. All military and Confederate
government property in Columbus was burned, including the shipyard and
the CSS Jackson, which was set on fire and left adrift in the Chattahoochee
persisted for nearly two weeks, until the ship finally burned to the waterline
and sank about 30 miles south of Columbus, where it remained for 96 years.
The Jackson was raised in 1961 and brought back to Columbus, where today
it forms the nucleus of the museum. The CSS Chattahoochee also burned
at the war's end; it too was recovered and returned in the early 1960s.
is designed to place its visitors inside the stories it tells. Reproduced
ships, including the USS Hartford, the USS Monitor, and the ironclad CSS
Albemarle, are open so that Civil War naval life can be experienced from
the inside. A visitor can hear the ships creaking and the water lapping
at their sides; in the Albemarle, visitors enter the ironclad combat "simulator"
and witness the U.S. Navy fleet sailing up and sending 455-pound cannon
balls bouncing off the casemate in which they stand.
events are held year-round at Port Columbus and range from academic symposia
to living-history activities in which an original Confederate Navy cannon
is fired over the river. The museum's largest annual event is "RiverBlast,"
held in early March on the weekend nearest the anniversary of the facility's
opening. Port Columbus also features educational opportunities; a teacher's
guide is published and special tours and programs are available to student
groups visiting the museum.
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MODERN HISTORY OF GWINNETT
NOW IN STORES! You can purchase the book now at several locations:
Or order directly from elliottbrack.com and get a signed copy.
The book consists
of 850 pages, including more than 143 demographic and historic tables,
with more than 4,000 names in the index, and 10,000 names in the appendix.
Here are some other good reads that you might want to consider reading:
FOR CHARITY. You can give "A Gift of Laughter," a great book of cartoons by Bill McLemore, to help raise money for Rainbow Village. At just $20, it's a fun way to help. To order, call 770 840 1003, or 770 446 3800, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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