Georgia has the dubious honor of being the only state in the country to have three cities on the recently released Bloomberg report of the nation’s fastest shrinking cities. In fact, Georgia was the only state to even have more than one in the top ten. Valdosta ranked 1st as the fastest shrinking city followed by Albany at #4 and Macon at #7.
I cannot speak about Valdosta or Albany, but I would love to hear from people from those two cities in the comments. I can speak about Macon and in fact have written several articles which examine some possible causes that go beyond simply poverty and crime. Certainly I am not discounting those two factors as they are definitely a major part of the decline and I would suspect they play roles in Valdosta and Albany as well. But there are many examples of other cities with similar crime and poverty rates that still manage to grow, so that led me to believe there had to be additional reasons.
If this topic interest you I suggest you read a few of my prior articles that go into more detail. Here are the links below:
- Are Too Many Counties in Georgia Hurting Growth
- There is no Accounting in Macon
- Google Map Overlays Shows extent of Urban Sprawl
- Why the Public has Doubts about the Promise Neighborhood in Macon
- Zebulon Rd. Development Symptom of Larger Problem
This is a very complicated puzzle with a lot of pieces. Some in the community are doing their best to identify many of the reasons for the stagnation in Macon. The missing $52 million lost during the Dallemand pedagogical reign of terror was but a drop in the bucket. Now that consolidation has happened, I am sure some will now say Macon has grown if you want to put some lipstick on that pig.
I would posit that some of the factors that have led to this decline include urban blight and urban sprawl. Many parts of Bibb look like a third world country and we are far too spread out. There are thousands of homes with people living in terrible disrepair that need urgent repairs before taxpayers have to spend money to demolish them later. We need to get to these buildings and homes before they need to be demolished not after. Like people, routine doctor visits are far cheaper than a heart attack and an ER visit later. I certainly understand some of these homes may be occupied by elderly or desperately poor people that simply do not have the funds to do the needed repairs, but we must also remember those repairs would likely be far cheaper than a demolition later.
I would also ask where do all the tens of millions that go to certain agencies like the Bibb EOC go. Why are they not identifying these truly needy and assisting them to repair their homes? I would absolutely love to see an audit of how their funds are actually disbursed, because I see absolutely no evidence they are doing very much good to help the truly needy. EOC president Lonnie Miley who also happens to be a deputy coroner certainly seems to want to keep the secrets about how the federal money is disbursed as tightly guarded as the gold in Fort Knox. How are the board of the Bibb EOC even chosen? I certainly think I could do a far better job that the current ones so how do I sign up? Mr. Miley, would you be willing to appoint me to your board? This is an honest question. I really think I can help so I await your reply.
Why is there such secrecy with an entity in charge of so much federal and state money? We need to demand more transparency and accountability for the Bibb EOC and see exactly where all this money is flowing. It sure as hell isn’t making a dent for the lives of poor black, white, asian, and latino people in Macon that seem to need it the most. If anything I see a culture of dependency which ensures these people will never escape the vicious cycle of poverty. Perhaps more money needs to be allocated to job training and employment assistance.
The Macon-Bibb EOC are responsible for coordinating available resources and yet they seem to recycle their funds to the same group of people that drive luxury cars and know how to game the system and apply for any and all aid. They receive money from many separate government agencies and then it becomes a complete mystery as to where it all goes after that. The truly needy and elderly who are very unlikely unable to drive all the way across town to wait at a church. My elderly uncle would most certainly qualify but cannot drive that far since nor is he able at 86 years old to stand in line. In fact, only the people that are younger and mobile seem to be the ones able to wait in a long line for heating assistance. Can anyone explain why they don’t allow online as well as paper applications by mail or fax? Does that make too much sense? They should start taking applications well before the deadline and choose applicants based on need instead of being first in line and continuing to reward those skilled at gaming the system.
Certainly the Macon-Bibb EOC is not the only ineffectual entity in town. Our police and sherifs deputies have arrested and harassed people for legally removing illegal signs that block roads instead of honoring them. I have personally almost had accidents while trying to pull into traffic because my vision was obstructed by these signs. I really never understand the point of signs in the first place and make it a point to never vote or do business with companies that litter the city with those hideous signs. All they contain is a name and some stupid slogan as if that is enough reason to vote for them. After an election give the winners and losers one week to clean up all their signs or be fined and start issuing citations to shady businesses that advertise illegally. Problem solved. There are still signs all over the city months after elections. As Peter Griffin would say that really grinds my gears.
Our P&Z board is also highly ineffectual. They have no plan or vision to fight urban sprawl or to plan for sustained economic growth. We desperately need a strategic plan in place that looks two decades or more down the road and not two years. They encourage urban sprawl as opposed to having any sort of strategic plan to combat the sprawl. The Macon Bibb Industrial authority is also an epic failure compared to their counterparts across the state. I am currently writing an entire article focusing on the ineptitude of this secretive and inefficacious group so stay tuned.
It seems Georgia makes many of the top 10 lists we would rather not be on. There are a number of players and factors not related to crime or poverty that caused Macon to be ranked as the 7th fastest shrinking city in the country. We also rank 50th or 1st depending on how you prefer to review the corruption report card. It should surprise no one in Bibb county that those in positions of power and more importantly in control of the purse strings are doing more than their fair share to ensure Georgia continues to lead the nation in corruption. Of course the people that should be speaking up against obvious corruption and failings by our elected officials as well as certain non-profits are cheering them on. The editor at the Macon Telegraph appears to either be blind, deaf, dumb or all of the above. My money is on all of the above. I have long given up any hope that the local media will do any degree of investigative reporting to understand why we are losing people. I also have lost faith in local and state prosecutors to unravel this very tangled web of deceit and lies. They seem far too afraid that certain people and organizations are simply “too big to fail” in Macon. They aren’t.
I am sure many of you are probably thinking what about Nathan Deal’s bragging about Georgia being ranked the “No. 1 state for business” in the country” When I first heard that report I was immediately skeptical. Anytime your hear something that claims to rank something like 1st in anything that can’t be quantifiably measured you should all be skeptical. You can measure per capita income by state, graduation rates, incarceration and poverty rates, the number of uninsured, jobs created, unemployment rates, and many other metrics when you want to compare states since all those things can be quantified and measured. But how would one try and measure the happiest state, saddest, most beautiful, or indeed #1 in business. So I did some research and that report by CNBC seemed very suspect.
CNBC and the Deal campaign denied the charges but that dog just won’t hunt. I also think BetterGeorgia an Athens based Watchdog group made a far more compelling case. Georgia may indeed be very popular among certain large corporations mostly based in Atlanta receiving tax breaks, but go out in the state and talk to actual people in Valdosta, Macon, Albany and so many other places in despair, poverty, uninsured, unemployed, and underemployed. I guarantee you will not hear too many people that care about being ranked #1 in business while they struggle to buy groceries. 70% of the school systems in the state have had to raise taxes and have less than 180 required school days a year due to budget cuts.
There is still no statewide transportation plan and our transportation funding ranks 49th. Our per capita income has dropped to 40th in the country and only one other state can claim that in the entire country. Most new jobs offer low wages not living wages. We are 32nd in quality of life and education. I am sure our corporate citizens like the Braves, Falcons, Coke, Home Depot, Georgia Power and so many others are pleased as punch with the tax handouts, but actual Georgians are hurting badly. Corruption it seems does trickle down at least even if the jobs don’t.
Until people learn to vote for candidates based on their merits and integrity over party, I am afraid little will change in Georgia. It is highly doubtful Nathan Deal could have ever been elected governor in many other states given his record and ethics charges while in congress and yet Shady Deal has unbelievably never lost an election. There is certainly corruption in both parties so don’t get too smug democrats. The democrats are far from blameless and in Bibb county at least many members of our notorious Cotton Avenue Mafia are democrats. Most of the corruption in Bibb at least has some connection with the group collectively known as the Cotton Ave. Mafia. (stay tuned for many articles on this group soon) Neither party has a lock on corruption, malfeasance, and boondoggle projects. But if Shady Deal gets re-elected you can guarantee we will continue to drop in all the ranking categories that truly matter.
We might not be able to do terribly much to change the state or the nation, but I think it is time we did more to clean up Bibb. It will take a lot more than cleaning up cigarette butts, litter, and demolishing condemned houses to cleanse Bibb as well. We can no longer sit silently while these same people that have led us into decades of decline continue to remain in power and positions of authority passing our money back and forth among each other. It is also time we demanded more transparency and accountability of how our tax money is spent. It gives me great hope that an entire new generation of black and white residents in Bibb are starting to wake up and are tired of the old way of doing things. People under 40 don’t care about race but rather results. Far too much silliness about race when we are all in this together. People of good character of all races have to join together to run these corrupt and ineffectual “leaders” out of town. It is time many of this old guard retired and let some fresh blood see if we can’t do a far better job. It certainly would be hard to do any worse.
I would also challenge all of you that write letters to the editor to speak more about all the problems we face here in middle Georgia. Your letters complaining about foreign policy, Obamacare, abortion, immigration, and so many other hot button national issues are literally a waste of your time. No one with any power to do anything about any of those issues will ever read your letter. You are literally wasting your breath on those topics. Instead I challenge you to speak up about local problems, local corruption, ask why the P&Z doesn’t have a strategic plan, complain about crime and dilapidated homes. Why aren’t there more letters about our schools, the EOC, and your own community? Your voice on these issues could actually do some good especially if we heard more about those topics. In fact, where are your articles on this website? Your letters to the editor will rarely will get published given the person that decides and will likely be severely edited if they do get published. You finally have a global soapbox to speak up and join me in this fight to reverse the decline in Macon so please consider writing some articles. What grinds your gears?