What Makes Ronnie Roll: The Seamless City, Part 2 “Schools (And Libraries) Belong To Everyone”

2014-06-21_13-22-34We met in the Student lounge at Athens State University immediately following the Flag Day ceremony. Jerry Barksdale had given a stirring reminder of the significance of the flag, Carissa Lovvorn sang, the ASU Community Band played, and it was a marvelous mid-day reminder of how blessed we are to live in America, as well as to live in Athens. Previously in the week, he attended a similar ceremony that also included the Change of Command at Redstone, and was going to be heading out of town to represent us in other capacities, including bringing about more economic growth.


We quickly turned to The Seamless City, an outstanding book whose subtitle is A Conservative Mayor’s Approach To Urban Revitalization That Can Work Anywhere. It is written by Rick Baker, the former Mayor of St. Petersburg, FL, and like Gary McCaleb’s The Gift Of Community, should be required reading, in my view, for anyone seeking office. As we did with The Gift Of Community, we are going to spend a goodly amount of time talking about applying Mayor Baker’s excellent goals and experience to our beloved Athens through the use of this column.

Mayor Ronnie loaned me his copy of The Seamless City while he was out of town, and as is always the case with his personal book collections, there are notes in the margins, dog ears, (sometimes from the bottom up,) pages folded back, highlighted quotes, pertinent points underlined, and multi colored page markers as well as post-its throughout. He literally internalizes the books he reads to make him a better leader, and does not know that I am disclosing in an edition of Ronnie behavior that could get him in trouble with a librarian. It is easier to get forgiveness than permission, and if I am consequently in hot water for outing him for “book abuse,” I’ll take my proverbial lumps. It is worth it to me to have you know how seriously he is as a lifelong learner, and passionate about personal growth.

He asked me to begin with a quote from Seamless which was made by Benjamin Franklin:
“A Bible and a newspaper in every house, a good school in every district-all studied and appreciated as they merit-are the principal support of virtue, morality, and civil liberty.”

This quote is at the head of the chapter entitled “Schools Belong To Everyone.” In this chapter, Baker makes an interesting point: “If our schools are not doing well, we cannot attract businesses to our city. Companies want to know that they can employ a workforce that graduates from quality schools, and they want their employees’ children to go to good schools.” One of the things that supports our schools is the quality of a city’s library. Our own library is slated to be finished mid-September, and to open in the middle of October. He then said, “Can you imagine moving all those books and getting them organized?” We both agreed that we were glad we could dodge that particular bullet, and that our library staff was willing to do it.

Libraries support schools, schools support economic development, sidewalks connect a community, and recreation is a necessity for community building. Baker believes this, and so does our Mayor. All of the items on this list are things that are currently being worked on in Athens.

As was mentioned last time, it is the season for budgets to be solidified. In Athens, we have a 207 million dollar budget for our electrical needs. We own Athens’, as well as Limestone County’s, electric utility system, a service that is so easy to take for granted, and whose workers the Mayor makes a specific point to continually affirm. “They are first responders as far as I am concerned.” We spoke of the election, discussed the need for people to vote in the run-off on July 15th, prayed, and then, Ronnie had to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner