City DopeNews

City Dope

Going Soft: The Dope is really loving the line of reasoning, first pitched by Charlie Maddox at the Feb. 7 Mayor and Commission meeting, that says Athens community members without jobs should be thankful for the coming opportunity to develop “soft skills” like showing up for work on time and combing one’s hair—an opportunity so rare and precious that, it will surely be argued in the weeks to come, we must grant major exemptions from our city’s meticulously and purposefully developed planning laws to embrace it. Mayor Nancy Denson tossed it out to a crowd of UGA students last week, according to a story in the Red and Black, at her “Nachos with Nancy” nosh, between bites of cheesy chips from Willy’s Mexicana Grill. (How hard would it have been to choose one of the many locally owned restaurants that sell nachos—or any food that begins with an “n”—and make an easy point to all those impressionable young Athens residents about how important that is?) And the line was thrown again by one of several discussion groups of ubiquitous local players at a “public input session” for the mayor’s new Economic Development Task Force—only this time with the novel observation that many of those intrepid souls seeking entry to the lower middle class would benefit greatly from the development of “smiling” skills… which of course, we infer, will be doled out in heaps at our downtown Walmart. Hear that, 40,000 Athens citizens living in poverty, including 38 percent of families with children under five? Smile!

Ya Can’t Win: The low attendance by the public at large at the above-referenced meeting was fully unsurprising to the Athens Banner-Herald‘s Jim Thompson, but it did occasion the most venomous of his recent series of rebukes to the hirsute hordes who dare to address the Mayor and Commission at their monthly voting sessions. “They’ll walk up to the microphone” after the task force has completed its work, Thompson seethed, “and ramble on for their three minutes about a plan they’ll know nothing about, and will accomplish absolutely nothing, except to impress themselves with their ‘stickin’ it to the man.’ Frankly, it’s time for the devotees of this ‘politics of the cool’ to stop wasting everybody’s time.”

Damn, Jim! So, let’s get this straight: this was a meeting for serious people with serious ideas about what Athens needs to do to boost its economy: things like “expand training and infrastructure” and “make the permitting process more business-friendly.” So, if some of whomever it is you think are devoted to a “politics of the cool,” whatever that means, had shown up and written down some buzzwords and catchphrases, like “ombudsman” and “soft skills,” for the Vinson Institute folks to pick up off the banquet tables, would they then be qualified to speak to the commission for three minutes without being called assholes in the daily paper? You promise?

It’s hard to see why rambling comments by concerned citizens at commission meetings are deserving of such bitter and sustained harping. Is this a real problem? Not for those of us who actually go to the meetings. Even the unruly outcry over the Selig development, which seems to have put you in this mood, Jim, has consisted of fewer than 25 comments, for and against, over three meetings, “wasting” a grand total of about one hour of “everybody’s time.” Barely a handful of those comments could fairly be called uninformed. If 10 people—experts and fools—line up to comment on this task force’s strategic plan when it’s voted on in October, you can have a signed City Dope t-shirt. But in the meantime, no one’s contributing more to an atmosphere of antagonism and misinformation around here than you.

While We’re on the Subject: If anybody out there is looking for some really well-reasoned, non-contentious scrutiny of the Selig project, check out the new “FAQs” page at It’s a collection of straightforward and unemotional responses to pretty much every dig you’ve heard at people who aren’t comfortable just waving the development through.

Now, if emotion and dramatic public displays of advocacy are what you’re into, there’s a place for that, too. People for a Better Athens, the group that has gathered more than 18,700 online signatures to a petition against Selig’s 94,000-square-foot Walmart, is holding a “Rally for a Better Athens” this Saturday, Mar. 3 at 3 p.m. at City Hall. There’s something hard to ignore about an argument that’s backed up with a serious mass of humanity, so get on out there and let ’em see you. Check out the PFBA Facebook group for more information.

Last Things Last: Remember the speculation last week that our legislative delegation was ready to waive its unanimity rule and drop a bill radically realigning ACC’s commission districts despite the lack of support for that idea from Rep. Chuck Williams? Yeah, that happened. Senators Bill Cowsert and Frank Ginn have put their names atop Senate Bill 494, which redraws the Athens map into 10 geographical districts instead of eight and eliminates the two “superdistricts.” No map was available at press time, but it sounds like the Republicans and Keith Heard just went along with exactly what Doug McKillip wanted. This is obviously a developing story; stay tuned for more next week.