Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Watkinsville Trick or Treat

One of the great things about Watkinsville are the frequent opportunities to gather downtown. First Fridays. The Christmas Parade. The Fall Festival. Ashford Manor Concerts on the Lawn. Farmers Markets. OCAF events.

Many in Athens and elsewhere think they have cornered the market on a "cool" downtown, but on many days of the year our small county seat can more than hold its own.

Halloween in Watkinsville is always a special event, and is one of my favorite downtown events. Hundreds (maybe a thousand?) kids and family members gather downtown. The merchants offer candy and good cheer, and a great time is had by all. Hundreds of citizens get to spend their time in an historic atmosphere (rather than the mall or another sterile environment) that is unique and safe. Each year, Peggy Holcomb dresses up, Mayor Luken hands out prodigous amounts of candy, and many other merchants go over the top to provide a wonderful Halloween for the kids of the community. This is a wonderful example of how small towns across Georgia can stay engaged -- even in a growing community -- and bring citizens new and old downtown to shop and dine.

Thanks to all who attend and all the merchants, county employees and city workers who participate and make this such a special day for the children of Oconee County!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Public Art

As the Artland of Georgia, one thing Watkinsville needs more of is visible public art. We have a concentration of public art near OCAF, but I'd like to see sculpture or other public art downtown and at the entry points to Watkinsville. Just as Athens' new bus stops have been incredible conversation starters, public art would no doubt have a similar effect in Watkinsville while also helping the traveling public slow down and understand that we are a center for the arts.

Imagine the impact if, instead of just the Welcome to Watkinsville signs (which we plan to relandscape once the drought ends and are being repainted by Councilman Walsh), we also had dramatic works of art at the entrances to town and at both ends of downtown on Main Street? It seems like this would be a logical partnership with OCAF and other local arts organizations.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

GREAT Plan Hurting?

The GREAT Plan is like a ship with the rats jumping off it. Even the guys at Peach Pundit are coming out against it. I thought the revelations in the Oct. 15 Atlanta Business Chronicle about the impact on businesses were the final nail in the coffin, but I suspect local elected officials will have to fight tooth and nail through the session to keep it off the ballot.

Water, Water Everywhere

Billy Vaughn is back at the Oconee Enterprise, and he writes an interesting column today in the business section about whether we can have business growth without water. Of course we can't. But the real question is this: can we have business growth and still reduce our use of water? The drought will (eventually) go away, but hopefully the memories of our local governments will be a bit longer. Some painless solutions to using less water include low flow faucets, toilets that use less water per flush, building to Earthcraft standards, etc.

So the answer, of course, is yes, we can continue to grow while using less water. Lots of other communities do it. We have just been taking this resource for granted, and like many other infrastructure issues locally, regionally, and nationally not planning or conserving effectively.

The real issue of water use in Oconee and other counties in NEGA that has to be considered is how to fund new reservoirs assuming our future involves less use per person or structure. The old formula (in very simple terms) involves issuing bonds based on future usage rates, which are closely tied to residential and business growth. Even assuming moderate growth in Oconee, are we essentially requiring aggressive growth by guaranteeing our bonds with projected revenues from usage growth? In the face of what are likely semi-permanent water bans, -- and at minimum strong consumer bias against excessive water use, it doesn't seem wise. Are the days of water as a revenue stream over? We probably need to consider some new ways to fund our water sources.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Beginning

Wow. I've been wanting to do this for a long time.

After watching my friends blog and then subscribing, lurking, reading, commenting... it's my turn.

I get the impression this tends to be an evolutionary process. For now, my goal in starting this is to refine and share my opinions on local, regional and statewide political, economic development and growth issues. I'm not sure if anyone will listen, but I do believe that just as our pre-internet politicians did there is value and learning that happens when you commit your ideas to "paper" and share them with the public.

So here goes. No promises on frequency. No promises on quality. But if anyone's out there, come back often!