I’m glad I’m not a politician. It’s not that I don’t have a lot of ideas about how to resolve some of the issues that face the community. I’ve always been an idea person, but I’ve NEVER been the cash person.
This morning though, I’m a bit perplexed about an issue that I’ve heard in several meetings recently, but is an issue that I first heard about 40 years ago.
During the discussion about an amendment to Rome’s teen curfew ordinance (which, by the way, resulted in the longest first reading of an ordinance in the history of Georgia municipal government this past Monday night) I heard several times that teens who are loitering in the downtown area and causing some issues don’t have anything else to do.
There’s nothing to do in Rome. Don’t hang up on me.
I first heard that sometime around 1980 while working at radio stations in Waycross. One of the stations’ top advertisers had a daughter who worked part-time at the stations and she decided to come to Berry to go to college. She lasted one year, and when she came back to Waycross she said there just wasn’t anything to do in Rome.
She was a very social person and I attributed her situation more to the “Berry bubble” that was probably a lot more restrictive in 1980 than it is in 2020.
But ... nothing to do in Rome?
Just what exactly do young people do nowadays?
The one thing I think many young teens have in common nowadays is exercising their extremely nimble fingers on their smartphones.
So when the time comes to form the next SPLOST Citizens Advisory committee, I’m going to submit a “SmartPhone Park” idea to the committee. Pick out a downtown lot that hasn’t been productive for years and convert it into an electronics wonderland. Row after row of phone chargers and plugins to keep the kids connected.
I really need to get a bit more serious, so let’s ask that question again. What do kids want to do today? I really don’t have an answer.
But here’s an even bigger question.
Suppose our astute politicians do find the right answer. I’ll bet it’s going to cost something. Enter problem No. 2. How are we going to pay for it?
This is where being a politician starts becoming a little tricky.
The obvious answer, to me, anyway, is SPLOST. The special purpose, local option sales tax is a fabulous tool for government. It exists to help finance “needs” and “wants,” which community leaders don’t want to raise property taxes for.
You come up with your list and then put it to the people. Let the people decide.
Enter problem No. 3. When the people decide — and those decisions have come by very narrow margins on more than one occasion locally — the losers go to social media and continue to rant about why the community didn’t need this and didn’t need that. Even worse, they will continue to argue that this or that was put in the wrong place or ask what property owner got a sweetheart deal by profiting off the sale of their land.
Whine, whine, whine. Such is social media.
And occasionally a newspaper columnist.
What’s a politician to do? He or she sure can’t raise property taxes.
I overheard one public official make an off the cuff comment earlier this week that was probably one of the most accurate statements any of them have EVER made. My digital recorder was not running at the time so I can’t write it word for word, but something to the extent of “What we need are more commissioners who aren’t planning to run for reelection.”
Rome has plenty to do. This pandemic has made a lot of those options tough but, remember, this is an issue with roots 40 years deep.
We’ve got more burger joints than you can count, we’ve symphony, we’ve got a community theater group, we’ve got minor league baseball, we’ve got trails, we’ve got rivers, we’ve got ... wait, here it comes, ... tennis courts. We’ve got a skateboard park.
Here’s an idea.
One of the things I’ve thought would be great, especially for the millennials who are into experiential activity, is a whitewater canoe or kayak course. We’ve got an almost perfect location in Silver Creek from East 12th Street into the Etowah River.
It’s a beautiful stream with the cliffs near the confluence of the Kingfisher and Silver Creek trails. I’m nor sure what the exact length would be, but I think it’s reasonable for the casual paddler.
There would be expenses. It would probably need to be dredged out a little — and I think it would be good to have a water intake that would suck water out of the Etowah, pump it up to East 12th Street and then return the flow back down the stream to the river. No net loss of water that way. Heck, I’d even like to see some sort of pully system that returns the canoe or kayak back from the Etowah to East 12th Street for additional runs.
You would also need to raise a sewer line that crosses the creek right beside the Kingfisher pedestrian bridge. That’s probably going to be the largest expense.
You would need to groom the course with rock placements and you probably would need to buy insurance in the event someone was to get injured.
Dadgumit, there’s always that cash issue!