Another thing we’ve been meaning to address in the last couple of days is last week’s approved moratorium on new fraternity and sorority houses. As y’all know, the matter was introduced under the wire the day before last week’s meeting of the Mayor and Commission by District Five’s own David Lynn. Some of Lynn’s constituents are understandably upset by the purchase of property on Meigs Street, and would like to have the local government and the stakeholders in the community weigh in before this thing is a done deal.
You may not know (we didn’t) that there’s a decent amount of oversight that goes into things like this before they hit the agenda. Mayor Davison was on Tim Bryant’s show Monday and pointed out that she, and she alone makes the call about what gets on the agenda and what doesn’t. At the meeting, she made it clear that she made the tough call.
On Tim Bryant’s show (WGAU 1340 AM, if you’re keeping score at home), Davison expounded a little on the policy of setting the agenda. In the case of the moratorium, Lynn called Davison early on Monday about the possibility of introducing the moratorium. The Mayor indicated that she would consider it, but that before she could add it to the agenda, Lynn had to make sure the other Commissioners were at least on board with introducing the item under the wire. He did, most were, and Heidi put it on the agenda. So it isn’t as if David Lynn sprung this unannounced on everyone.
Now on to the moratorium itself. We think it’s a good idea, actually. The fact is that, in residential areas, fraternity houses are not good land use. They can create major noise problems, major public safety problems, and major parking and congestion problems. As Heidi pointed out yesterday on Bryant’s show, try getting an emergency vehicle down Bloomfield on a game day. While we may decide that those problems are negligible, they do deserve some serious examination from all of the stakeholders involved before any problems arise.
The real problem though isn’t the local government, the residents of Cobbham, David Lynn, Heidi Davison, or even the upstanding young gentlemen of I Felta Thi. The problem is sitting in his office on North Campus right now, figuring out new ways to screw undergraduates.
Before you get us wrong, let us be very clear. There’s nothing that UGA can do to prevent irresponsible behavior. As Hillary points out, “If the possibility of dying didn't stop Lewis Fish from snorting whatever he could, I sincerely doubt the chance of getting booted out of school would've done much more.”
But the fact of the matter is that Mike Adams, as an administrator, is a little – shall we say – high-handed. There’s a fundamental lack of effective communication between the University and the local government, to the detriment of both the university and the community. For instance, if Adams had sought a discussion with Heidi and the Commission before making the executive decision to foist the Greeks on the community at large, some of the ill will on both sides might have been avoided.
Athens wouldn’t be Athens without UGA, but it’s important to remember that UGA wouldn’t be UGA without Athens. Sure, UGA would still exist, it would still play host to some 30,000 undergraduates that the administration can easily milk when it needs a quick $60,000 to redecorate the President’s office. But it wouldn’t be the same, and we all know that. The point is, that as elected officials, the ACC Government has to look out for the neighborhoods and for UGA, whereas Mike Adams got about the same number of votes in the last mayoral election as Larry McKinney. Should UGA be subordinate to the ACC Government? No, not at all. But just as Athens as a whole is part of the UGA community, UGA’s administration needs to step up and be a partner in the Athens community as well.
Back to the moratorium briefly. Waiting and soliciting community input is a good thing in this case. Having a frat house in your backyard is a big deal, and as much as the Greeks and their supporters like to complain about the last-minute nature of the moratorium, it isn’t as though UGA bothered to check with the community before cutting the cord, and it definitely isn’t as though the fraternity bothered to work with the community before buying the land.