The first time I ever interviewed Mayor Ronnie, it was in the old City Hall building, and I followed him outside as he went around the perimeter and picked up trash. It was starting to rain, he moved quickly, and instantly the place looked better. I thought about my own upbringing, and in our house we would have been in deep kimchee if we ever even THOUGHT of littering! I appreciated the fact that picking up the trash was not “below” the mayor.
Now, why is trash a “truly deep subject?” “Because,” he said, it gives the first impression of our city. A good first impression draws good people here, and drawing good people here means more jobs, a sustainable quality of life, and it’s a win-win situation all the way around.”
Lynne Hart, of Keep Athens Limestone Beautiful also took up the “trash topic” in this edition, and there is a lot going on in that department, including the upcoming Elk River Clean Up to be held on April 2, 2016. There are former Adopt-a-spots that are no longer being kept up by original sponsors, and that situation is going to be addressed. There is also a plan in the works to have work release participants involved in “taking out the trash.” All of it makes Athens a better place to live.
So, what about taking out internal trash? That’s an ongoing job, and there is no better time to assess what can be kept and what can be pitched than at the State of the City Address, which was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and held at the Athens State Ball room on February 4th. In many ways, we are in great shape. We have a surplus in our general fund, there are several new businesses that have decided to come here, and the facilities and plants built by some are nearly ready to open. The Asahi plant is one, and the Shape and Polaris plants are on their way. The Aldi store is open, there is going to be a new Taco Bell built, a Ninja Steakhouse, and others. There is going to be construction begun on a 3-million dollar physical rehab facility, and on Highway 72 near Medical East, a 7-million dollar assisted living project will be breaking ground soon.
As far as “what to pitch,” the ongoing challenge is to find ways to cut spending without cutting services. The City Council is looking hard at ways to fund a school within the framework of what the voters have chosen, and, speaking of choosing, this is also a time to make sure you exercise your right to vote.
“I understand that sometimes people feel that election season never ends, but there are so many things that are important, and they have long term impact on Athens,” he said. “The most obvious one is all of the judicial positions that need to be filled. If you don’t get out and vote, you are making a choice that can last for a very long time.”
We talked about friends that are dealing with life and death situations such as cancer and kids who are in trouble, and prayed for them. Then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner