Thursday, March 4, 2010

Doctor's Orders

The Athens Banner-Herald pulled some of these in its article this morning, but I wanted to post Doc Eldridge's full comments from yesterday's Terry College Economic Outlook Luncheon at the Classic Center. Doc's role as a lifelong Athenian, former mayor and current Chamber head give him a full perspective on the impact of the potential cuts at UGA. The highlights are his, not mine.

Let's hope our legislators listen to "their Doctor" in this case.

>First off, what I am about to say is not at the request of UGA, the Board of Regents, or anyone affiliated with any of the University system.

What I am about to say is not a formal position of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, although I would assume and hope that our board would fully support it.

What I want to say comes from me… Doc. As a lifelong resident of this community, a business person and a former elected official, I, like you, have come to understand and appreciate just how vital the economic health of the University of Georgia is to our community, our region, our state , and yes well beyond. When UGA sneezes … we get a cold.

We are in fact joined at the hip with UGA, and both UGA and our community have worked hard over the years at strengthening our "town and gown" relationships.

Well folks, our friends on the other side of the Arch need our support now, like they have never needed it before.

The budget cuts that have taken place over the last 2 years and that have recently been proposed will have a disastrous effect on UGA, our state, and our community for decades to come. The problems will manifest themselves in countless ways.

We are talking about slashing the budget of not just bricks and sticks, we are talking about jobs, entire programs, people and their families. We are talking about the biggest and best investment our state has to offer for the creation of good decent paying jobs and economic opportunity. I hope you don't think I am exaggerating. This is serious stuff.

Let me be clear. I have the utmost respect for our local delegation to the legislature and I urge you to show them the same. I know the personal sacrifices that they make to their business and to their family in order to serve us. There is no one in this room or beyond that hates what is happening any worse than they do. They are fighting on our behalf every day.

I am not asking you to flood them with emails, phone calls, and faxes telling them what to do. I am asking you to offer your support for finding the means necessary to restore funding to the University system. There are options. I am asking you to share with them your ideas, and to show your appreciation for the tough position that they are in. I would hate to think where we might be right now without the leadership and hard work of Senators Cowsert and Hudgins, and Representatives Heard, Smith, and McKillip.

This is not about Democrats and Republicans. This is about the future. Our future. The future of UGA and its' academic standing, about jobs, about our community and our state.

I am saying this to you today as you are the true civic, and business leaders, leaders of our community. We need you to roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, and help get our train back on track. This can be one of the defining times for our community and its future. This is a time for more than griping and gnashing our teeth This, I guess, is indeed a call to action.

Thank each of you for all that you have done and continue to do for our community …. and Go Dogs.

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