NewsPub Notes

Athens Used to Have Representation; Now Our Legislators Don’t Care About Us

State Rep. Spencer Frye (D-Athens) spoke to Oconee County Democrats on Nov. 16 about the upcoming legislative session.

I’m writing this for the people who still care about what we might now call “old Athens.” You know, before Atlanta invaded, when we still had our local culture, made up of local people: When Athens was Athens, so to speak—the Varsity, the Grit, Go Bar, Friends, Snack Shack, Allen’s, Wilson’s, Poss’, Harry’s. Back then.

Back then, we had one state representative: Chappelle Matthews. Matthews was a Democrat, like almost the whole legislature at that time. His law office was in the Southern Mutual Building (now The Fred), but his legislative office was in the Varsity downtown (now Chick-Fil-A). Matthews represented all of Athens and Clarke County, including the University of Georgia, and he was chairman of the Higher Education Committee in the House. If you needed to see Matthews about a legislative matter, you could usually find him in deep conversation, leaning on the Varsity counter with a cup of coffee. No need to schedule an appointment.

The same was true with our state senator, Paul Broun (not that one—his father). Sen. Broun owned the Firestone dealership down on Pulaski where Redeemer Presbyterian Church is now. If he wasn’t in Atlanta on Senate business, you could probably catch him in his office at the Firestone store. Like Matthews, Broun represented Athens and Clarke County and the University of Georgia.

OK, you know where I’m going with this. Matthews and Broun did not represent Madison County or Jackson or Barrow or Walton or Oconee. They represented local people and the university. They had no responsibility for the problems in Danielsville or Jefferson or Commerce or Winder or Monroe or Watkinsville.

So, yes: Now we have two state senators who, in addition to Athens-Clarke, represent Madison, Oconee, Walton and Gwinnett counties, and we have four state representatives who, in addition to Athens-Clarke, represent Oconee, Madison, Walton, Barrow, Jackson, Greene and Oglethorpe.

All those senators and representatives are Republicans, and they all are responsible for slicing and dicing Athens like a rhubarb pie to disenfranchise Athenians and insure their own re-elections. They now all have safe seats, and they all were recently re-elected, and they all have to pay more attention to all the surrounding counties than they can to Athens. They have to. Do the math.

One of the oddities of their ripping Athens apart into bite-sized representation among the giant holiday repast represented by the rest of their districts is that they had to cram as many Democrats as possible into one district. What that means is that we actually have one House district completely within Athens-Clarke, as if old Chappelle Matthews had been resurrected and installed in the old Varsity, where you could find him when you needed him. Yep, state Rep. Spencer Frye. You know him. He does good works at Habitat for Humanity, where you can reach him if you need him. Unfortunately, since he is a Democrat, he’s in the minority in the legislature and needs all his personal skills and preacher’s-kid background to work “across the aisle” to get a few things done for Athens, with little help from the other Republicans who “represent” Athens.

Oh well: Thanks, Frye. No thanks to Republicans Sen. Bill Cowsert, Sen. Frank Ginn, Rep. Marcus Wiedower, Rep. Houston Gaines and Rep. Trey Rhodes.

But wait!: Speaking of yellow-dog Democrats, Sen. Warnock’s beagle is back! Hope you’ve seen it. The great beagle (or a look-alike) who helped Warnock win last time is finally back in his TV ads. We can’t miss now. They can’t gerrymander the Senate race. Get yourself out between now and Dec. 6 and vote for the re-election of U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock. Warnock cares more for Athens than any of our Republican legislators, whose Bible tells them that where their treasure is, there will their hearts be also.

P.S.: Grady Thrasher, who is topping the charts with his “I Just Want to Stop Putin for Christmas” with Jay Gonzalez and The Boulevardians, has added Ukrainian subtitles to the YouTube version, and various people are beaming the song into Ukraine and Russia. Maybe on top of all his other accomplishments, Grady can turn out to be a one-man Radio Free Europe and can indeed help us stop Putin for Christmas.