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Take My Advice

As you may have heard, Flagpole has a new advice columnist. She’ll be introducing herself in the Jan. 29 issue and beginning the column on Feb. 5. Meanwhile, start sending your problems and questions to advice@flagpole.com, or submit them here, if you prefer to remain totally anonymous even to our columnist. Either way, of course, we do not identify you in the published column.

In this new iteration, the advice column will broaden its approach, no longer being confined just to “matters of the heart and loins,” though these are still welcome, too. Our new columnist is ready, in her words, “to answer your questions on any topic: your work, your career, your relationships with your parents, children and friends; your romantic entanglements, your roommates, your education, your money, your home, your travels, your wellness, your happiness and your life.” There’s even more, but we’ll let her tell you in a couple of weeks. She’s not a professional counselor, but she is a level-headed young woman whose work and volunteer commitments “all involve giving people advice and direction to varying degrees.”

We think you’ll enjoy reading the new and expanded advice column, and you may even find guidance there, too.

Take My City

In 1990, when the City of Athens and Clarke County were consolidated into one new government, the conservative white businessmen who had been running the city did not have one of their usual strong candidates ready to run. As a result, former city councilwoman Gwen O’Looney squeezed into office, and for the next 20 years we had a progressive local government, distinct from the business-as-usual crowd. The conservatives never gave up, and in the last election, the progressives did not have a candidate ready, or at least one we could agree on. Some of our friends sewed doubt about Spencer, and Gwen finally jumped in for another election bid. But Nancy had it in the bag, with solid support from the conservatives along with those liberals who saw her as one of us. 

Since that election, our Republican state legislature has used tactics they have perfected in congressional districting and have gerrymandered Athens-Clarke County to group progressive voters and black voters into the same districts, creating a conservative, white majority in most of the other districts. At the same time, they have done away with the two “super-districts,” which gave two our of commissioners representation of half the county and have reduced those two commissioners to regular-sized districts where they have no more influence than any other commissioner and have to keep an eye on their own chances of being re-elected. 

So, in this election cycle, we’ve got an unopposed libertarian-contrarian in District 1. (Put a label on him if you can; “progressive” doesn’t come to mind.) In District 3 we’ve got three progressives crammed into the same election for an open seat, with the African-American candidate probably the least progressive. The conservatives will probably support him, but if he wins, that will just be a bonus for them. In District 5 the incumbent has been stripped of his progressive majority; in District 7, a business candidate is running unopposed for the open seat; and in District 9, a former super commissioner is unopposed but much reduced in stature. 

And in the mayor’s race, it’s the best of all possible worlds. If you want to see Nancy as a progressive, oh, she is. On the other hand, if you prefer to see her as a conservative, she’s your candidate. She is all things to all people, because she has advanced no initiatives and has no vision for our city. She’s just a good, safe representation of whatever you want Athens to be, and this is not meant as criticism. She is the perfect throwback to 1986, when the white power structure was calling the shots. Her business success has been nominal, but her political accomplishments, in the sense of getting elected, go back a long way.

So, the handwriting is on the wall. For the next four years, progressivism in Athens will slumber on, tucked in by our smiling, grandmotherly mayor, who will have the firm support of at least half the commission, and nothing much will get done, and nobody much will care.

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