Circling Around Dade: Sidewalks, Dams, Lakes and Other Kwazy Things

June 8, 2017

V I E W P O I N T S

 

  

             There’s something about breaking your leg that makes you think deeply about walking.

              This is not meant to be a whinefest about my broken leg. I have a point to make about local gummint but I’m afraid I have to get to it circuitously. Which is par for the course around here these days. Circles are my life!

              For the first couple of weeks after a fracture like I’ve got, what they make you do is lie on the couch with your leg propped above your heart, simulating traction. But gradually you resume as normal a life as you can considering you can’t walk, drive a car or rest the foot of the injured leg on the ground. It’s like that game kids play where they leap around the house from chair to sofa to kitchen counter, trying not to touch the floor, until they drive their parents postal and end up in foster care. Except that you’re the adult now and the one you’re driving crazy is you.

              Used to be, the only tool you’d have in a predicament like mine was crutches. But recently somebody invented the knee walker, a three-wheeled conveyance with a seat you rest the knee of the injured leg on, using the good leg to push yourself along. I borrowed one from my friend Paula, who broke her ankle one year to the day before my own accident, and I love it! It looks like a scooter and really, if it weren’t for the self-pity inherent in this situation it would qualify as fun. On smooth surfaces like Walmart aisles and the down slope in front of Ingle’s you can work up some speed, and people have to get out of your way because you’re crippled.  

        ​​    The one problem with it is the wheels get in your way. Like you can open the refrigerator door but if you haven’t approached from just the right angle, you can’t reach inside to grab the milk. So what you can do is shut the refrigerator door, scoot past it, strain around and open it behind you, then reverse until your back wheels collide with the open door, possibly sending eggs suicide-bombing to the floor but allowing you access to the milk. Or--and this always seems much the easier course-- you can careen on into the living room, circle around the couch and re-approach from the correct side of the refrigerator.

              Then of course you’ve got to go forward to get a glass from the cabinet, so that to pour your milk you’ve either got to throw the scooter into reverse and back up with a breakable object in your hand, or--and this always seems the more prudent prerogative--you can circle around the kitchen island until you’re back in the correct position to pour the milk into the glass and return the jug to the refrigerator.

              We have a black German shepherd, Rosie, who is beautiful and sweet but whose defining characteristic is something we call kwaziness. The whole breed is nuts! We put Rosie’s food bowl on the kitchen floor and no matter how hungry she is she will never go straight to it. She will lope around the kitchen island a couple of times, maybe even go into the living room and around the couch, before she sidles kwazily up to the food.

              Now I’m circling with her. You should see how many circuits it takes me just to feed the dogs--you have to hit just the right angle to put the bowls on the floor without spilling them. Meanwhile I’m scaring hell out of any dog, cat or spousal unit who gets in my way as I whiz around shouting Toot Toot because the scooter has no horn. Really everybody in my house is fairly kwazy by now!

  But weren’t we talking about sidewalks?

   That’s where we’re going with this, ultimately, when we can circle around to the right angle. See, I was obliged to close down The Planet for a month after the accident while I simulated traction. A month is a long time to leave your fledgling newspaper, spring garden and normal life. But it’s not that long. Really, back before I was playing don’t-touch-the-floor, a month didn’t seem long enough to put up the laundry. But this month must have been longer than most because when I scootered back into the June 1 county commission meeting it was like entering an alternative universe!

              Used to be, the commissioners made such a big deal of pinching pennies it was almost embarrassing. Taking the county car instead of claiming mileage! Closing down county offices on Fridays to cut the power bill! Shutting the dump on Monday to save wages! They carried on about it so much I once offered, when they were going to Atlanta for some legislative event, to ride along in the back seat handing them peanut butter sandwiches to save lunch money. But at their June meeting, without dissent or really much discussion, they cheerfully agreed to shell out half a million bucks to buy 65 acres on Lookout Creek.

              It’s all right, they explained, the cost would be shared with the water company and the city of Trenton, and they needed the land to build a dam on so Dade could have its own reservoir which could be used for recreation as well as water supply. Which would cost millions and millions more but heck, they could get grants. It was one of those awkward situations where you just have to keep nodding and making peanut butter sandwiches so as not to draw attention to the fact that people have gone kwazy!

              It’s not just the half-mill for land, and it’s not just the untold millions more for the dam and the reservoir. It’s also: what on earth will they do with it then? The county actually already has a little recreation area on Lookout Creek where (back in those halcyon days when I had two legs) we used to enjoy putting our canoe in the water. There were picnic tables there at one point but first one bench would go missing and then the table part, until eventally there were just bits of rebar amid heaps and heaps of garbage. Once I found a dead dog discarded there and another time a pile of excrement from the sort of animal that uses toilet paper.

              I always assumed the place was such a mess because I knew, from sitting through commission meetings hearing the guys po-mouth in harmony, the county simply didn’t have the resources to maintain it. How will they maintain 65 acres with a lake?

              So that’s point. no. 1, but let me make a few more circles until I hit those damn sidewalks: Another item on the June agenda was the transportation special purpose local option sales tax, or TSPLOST, which the city and county are acting together to get before voters on a referendum in November. This will be a new 1-cent sales tax the proceeds of which the two gummints can use for transportation projects like roads, bridges, highway exits and, yes, sidewalks.

              Cruising the internet (which is where a person in my predicament does most of her cruising BTW) I’ve seen a lot of comments against local option sales taxes, especially new ones like this. But I sit through all those city and county meetings and I know how desperately those SPLOST funds are needed and how much the local governments do with them. So my first idea was to write an editorial “fer” the TSPLOST. It’s not just years of listening to the local pols carry on about roads. I have a pet peeve I myself yearn to see addressed:

              Back in those days of yore when I could walk, my default hike I could fit in between the grocery store and supper was Sitton’s Gulch, which is accessed from Canyon Park Estates off 136. But every time I drive there (or did, in the glimmering past when I could drive) during the afternoon I’d see kids walking up and down 136 from the high school west to town or east to the neighborhoods. This...drives...me...KWAZY!

              There are no sidewalks along the road and in places there isn’t even a shoulder. The kids just have to walk along the state highway and trust nobody will kill them. They don’t seem worried; at that age kids think they’re immortal. But they’re not. In the country, kids get killed on highways all the time.

              In 2017 alone I’ve noticed two cases of kids killed by cars just across the border in Alabama. (I thought about running their pictures here but good taste, and the fear that somebody would sue me, prevailed.) And here’s a sentence that the Georgia Department of Transportation always includes at the bottom of its press releases, like a side thought not important enough to go in the main article:

              "Pedestrian deaths continue to surge in Georgia - 236 walkers died in 2016."

              It doesn’t say how many of those are juveniles but I’m betting a lot. Who else walks in the country but crazy people like me (or the long-ago, two-legged me) and those too young to drive?

              In rural areas like ours, when you hear “transportation” you may think trains if you’re an advanced thinker, or even public transportation vans; but cars are the normal way of getting around so that if you are a local gummint what you usually think is: cars. So if you get some money to spend on transportation you spend it on roads so cars can go faster--and potentially kill somebody’s kid walking home from school.

              I’ve spoken to the county executive and the mayor about my pet mania and they shook their heads sadly and assured me sidewalks are something they’ll get around to if there’s ever enough money. And both made reference to the coveted TSPLOST which would make such dreams possible.

              So to circle back to my previous point, I was fixin’ to write an editorial in favor of the TSPLOST. Then yesterday I was thinking about the thrillin’ afternoon I had ahead of me. I was getting sprung! My husband had not only agreed to drive me around Dade to take pictures for a couple of upcoming features (watch these pages!) but also over the mountain to Walker County for a presentation on the hotel Walker proposes to build at Canyon Ridge.

             ​​ I was interested in the way the county intended to pay for it with a bond issuance, or loan, which it says it will not be responsible for repaying, and which I’m afraid I still don’t understand. Apparently they’re issuing something called a revenue bond, which is repaid by proceeds of a revenue-making project, like a toll bridge or maybe a hotel; but what if the hotel doesn’t make revenue?

              Well, that’s Walker’s problem, but it got me thinking about projects Dade has bonded (which is gummintese for “borrowed money for”). What came to mind immediately is all those bonds the industrial development authority always seems to be issuing to pay for paving at the new Vanguard plant.

              That’s when it struck me: When IDA ran out of money, both the county and city have on multiple occasions kicked in hundreds of thousands in ordinary SPLOST dollars to help finish the paving. I’ve never been able to wrap my tiny brain around handing public money to private, for-profit businesses. It always strikes me as what they call corporate welfare. But the idea is to create jobs and prosperity for Dade and who’s not for that? So I have to trust that these guys know what they’re doing.

              Except now they not only want to throw SPLOST money at businesses, they want to toss it into lakes? I’ve scootered around that one from every angle and I still can’t see how it’s more important than keeping kids from getting splatted on 136.

              So let me stop circling around and go straight to the point. Whether anybody cares what The Dade Planet thinks or does not think, who knows? It’s just a voice crying out in the wilderness (at the throbbing epicenter of the universe, but just the same). It tries to pay attention, but does not expect attention to be paid to it.

              But whether anybody cares or not, The Planet is not fixin’ to endorse a TSPLOST until the county and city start prioritizing the regular SPLOST responsibly. New industry is  important. Kids’ lives are more important. Sidewalks are expensive. Dams and reservoirs are more expensive. SO COUGH UP THE SIDEWALKS ALREADY, POWERS THAT BE!

              Oh, and make them handicapped-accessible. Did I mention I have a broken leg?

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