Tuesday, February 14, 2006

PPA Open thread. The AthPo think tank strikes again, we hope.

As mentioned yesterday, we do have an update on Partners for a Prosperous Athens, the poverty initiative spearheaded by local political, business, and community leaders.

The steering committee got together Friday for an organizational session, but the task of organizing what is shaping up to be a monumental undertaking has taken a little longer than they planned, and another session is planned for early March.  We’ll have more information then.

As it stands now, the organization is tentatively planning (meaning subject to change, so don’t hold us or PPA to this) to have subcommittee meetings once a month, probably at Clarke Central High School.

More after March 9.

Meanwhile, while we’re all remembering that patience is a virtue, your crack editorial staff would like to reopen last year’s very positive discussion on local poverty and steps we can take as a community to do something about it.  As was the case last time, try to keep the bashing of the poor nonexistent and focus on positive solutions.

Sometime before March 9, we’ll forward this discussion and the previous one over to Heidi Davison for her perusal and edification.


DoubleDawgDareYa said...

Yep...looks like we bout got it figured out.

Is there anything to promoting Athens as a tourism/cultural hub of the Southeast? Don't know if there is, or if it would provide any meaningful jobs; just throwing it out there.

hillary said...

Who would run it? the visitor's center?

Improved public transit system (with discounted passes for those who make under a certain amount). Public works to provide jobs. Living wage legislation (at least in the form of tax breaks or something to those who provide it). Health insurance.

Dawg Corleone said...

Wow. I agree with Hillary on something. Tax breaks for employers.

Problem is, it would have to be in the form of either a reduction in property taxes or ad valorem taxes, as those are the only kinds of taxes the county really charges. There's no county income tax (Shhhh...don't give 'em any ideas).

hillary said...

Yeah, and I'm only saying it so every business doesn't move to Oconee County. I definitely think handing out tax breaks has drawbacks (fewer funds for local government).

And a reduction in property taxes specifically hurts the schools. Oy.

RandomThoughts said...

OK, here goes. I'm opening myself up for some real hard hits: I'd like to see more of the solution lie with our abundant religious organizations.

Many churches "take care of our own" but do not take care of their neighbors. If every church took care of the people in it's neighborhood, this problem would become insignificant, or nearly so. And I'm not talking about swapping food for religious "conversion", I'm talking about filling out bellies, getting people to the doctor, clothing those that need it and generally doing what each individual can to help the nieghborhood.

This is the way it was done in the "olden days" of my childhood and it worked then and it would work now. Maybe the churches wouldn't have as much money for stained glass windows or building, but children would eat and old people would get to the doctor. And when is the last time you, Mr. Employer, needed someone to help at your workplace and asked a relligious leader in your area for suggestions?

OK, that's my 1.5 cents worth.

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

Your are absolutely correct that churches SHOULD play a large role in this. The problem is that government can't mandate people to live out their religion. I agree with you that if everyone in Athens, for example, practiced what they preached (or heard their preacher preach), poverty would be nonexistent here.

But of course, most of us don't do this, at least not fully (I shamefully include myself). And so the question becomes "Is it government's job to pick up the slack?" All of us have obviously disagreed over this point ad nauseum on here and I'm sure elsewhere. I'll briefly state my answer again: "Yes, it is, if the problem is widespread enough to cause damage to the common good." We've also debated whether it is in fact that bad on here. A big part of the problem is convincing many people that there is in fact a problem.

But, alas, I have wandered far away from the point of offering constructive solutions. I don't have any gushing forth from my brain at the moment, so I'll come back when I do.

hillary said...

Also, not all of us go to church. Are you saying an atheist like myself has no responsibility to the common good?

Ned said...

Actually, us athiests should probably form a church that out churches the church and does better public service and then we can gets lots of money from the government for our faithless faith based initiatives...

All we need is some tax free buildings we can work out of and figure out how to get athiests to donate money to use and we'll be set!

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

Not trying to leave atheists out; they have just as much responsibility and probably do as well if not a better job a lot of the time. Just discussing the role of the church as a follow up on random's comment. Let's put it this way: if every human being followed through on what his conscience told him about helping the poor, be it through his religion, moral code, or whatever, poverty would not be an issue.

And ned, you won't have any harder of a time getting atheists to donate than most churches have getting members to donate.

RandomThoughts said...

What is the first obstacle when you are in need? Where to go for help. Sometime this can take a while to go through the process of even finding out. A building devoted to any religion is a symbol that anyone can find.

In the 'good ol' days' if you needed help, you went to the local church. It didn't matter if you were a member of that church or not, if you needed help, they helped you. If you lived in the neighborhood of a church and something bad happened in your life, someone told the people at the church and they came to visit. Again, it did not matter if you attended their church or not. This is helping on a level that more people can identify with.

There were still government programs and they also helped. But because of the red tape involved, it was often a while before they could step in and churches could help immediately. Church volunteers could also assist in getting people to the right place to get more permanent help.

Now, let me just say that I am not affiliated with any church whatsoever.

Occasionally, someone I work with will tell me about their religious group raising money for someone they know who is in need. I always give what I can. I feel comfortable that this is not going to someone who is running a scam and I feel certain that 90% of it won't go to "administrative costs". This is my kind of giving.

I'd just like to see religious groups focusing more on their own backyards. It's fine to help members of your group and you certainly should. But you should also help those in your neighborhood - and not make them pay for it with "religious devotion".

While I realize many of us don't attend churches, we are still in the "Bible Belt" and many do attend. I believe this is a good step in the right direction. If a religious group, any religious group, came to my door collecting for a neighbor in trouble, I'd certainly give. I think most people would.

hillary said...

What is the first obstacle when you are in need? Where to go for help.

Well, locally, you could call 211. That's what Taste of Athens benefits.

I do get the point, though. I just think that an emphasis on private giving leads to much less being done in the governmental sphere, which means things are a lot more likely to fall apart.

RandomThoughts said...

Thanks, Hillary, but I just don't agree with you. I DO believe that in hard times giving declines when giving nationally. I do not think it declines nearly so much when giving on a neighborhood basis. And if this system is put into effect and works (which it will I believe) there will be less need for government assistance.

And surely you can't believe that our government programs are less likely to fall apart than our private giving? With all the cuts and "messing with" involved, I'll stick to my first suggestion.

hillary said...

Well, yes. I'm arguing against those cuts. Theoretically, when people who don't hate the poor are in office, government programs should be a more reliable source of funding. Many hands make light work and all that.

Patrick Armstrong said...

Well, up in Athens, if you are looking for groups that do community service without ties to a specific Church, look towards the Fraternities, Sororities and other Student Organizations. That will give you organization, manpower and resources.

Athens can't give living wage tax breaks on a county wide basis, but they can link a Fraternity's house zoning with that Fraternity's participation in countywide community service contract. They have to engage in service based projects anyway as part of their University and National Charters, why not make it a more permanent and ongoing contract?

Even if the Fraternity was to spearhead the service project and draw in other interested student organizations. (Depending on which student organizations got involved, it could also count for their 'diversity' program for each semester).

Asking Fraternities, Sororities and Student Organizations to get heavily involved with this sort of thing could really have a powerful effect. City + University, Students + Residents, Rescources + those in Need.