A 2010 wish list
I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,
Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,
Stuffed with the stuff that is course and stuffed with the stuff that is fine,
One of the Nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the
largest the same,
– Walt Whitman from Songs of Myself (16)
As we approach 2010, I can honestly say that Albany is not where I thought it would be.
Growing up just blocks from downtown Albany, I was into everything Albany from a very young age.
Its businesses, industry, media, theaters, schools and military were old friends of mine. I followed their trials and tribulations and watched as most of what made Albany great left downtown or left the city altogether.
The downtown area was once home to hundreds of businesses. Our manufacturing base has shrunk to a shadow of what once provided good jobs for our citizens.
The local media seems to be a smaller version of what it was in its heyday. I do think the media is more modern and interesting than years ago, but it seems to have lost some of its influence.
SCHOOL CHANGES NEEDED
Achievement seems to suffer in the school system while the four high schools need more than improvements in their facilities. I know they are getting millions of dollars in rebuild, but that isn’t enough. The four schools are inn bad locations and are landlocked in many cases or surrounded by bad and deteriorating neighborhoods.
Albany and Dougherty are the worst. Declining enrollments and old facilities are holding them back and no amount of modernization will substitute for inherent problems.
BAD MOVIE ATMOSPHERE
The theater situation needs improvement. With only one complex and 17 screens you would think that the movie business was in pretty good shape, but there is a need for another theater complex. There was a time when east and west Albany had multiscreen complexes, plus a twin screen at the mall. Many people enjoyed that theater configuration but the decision to close all the old theaters and open one mega-theater location seems to have been a bad decision on the part of Carmike Theaters.
We need an eight- or 10-screen theater complex somewhere in southern Lee County on U.S. 19 near the Albany city limit. That might ease the pressure at Wynsong.
God bless the U.S. Marine Corps. They are still here and operate a superb logistics facility here in Albany. Opening in the 1950s, it has grown and expanded the role it plays and hopefully will continue to expand and become even more vital to this country and it’s military.
Albany once had a healthy Air Force base and later Naval Air Station. It also was the home of an Army Nike missile base on both the east and west sides of town. The missiles protected the B-52 bombers stationed at Turner Air Force Base.
I really hated to see the former military bases close and it hasn’t been a good thing for Albany as think our quality of life has suffered.
HIGH RISE NEEDED DOWNTOWN
I long for a high rise or two downtown. Several soaring edifices would add to the image of our city. Over the past 50 years as downtown Albany evolved, there were several attempts at high rise structures, but nothing ever came of it.
There has got to be a viable plan somewhere for offices, banks, education or health to construct at least one 10- to 12-floor building as the centerpiece of downtown Albany.
We need to make a statement to those who enter downtown and a large high rise would be the kind of statement I was looking for these many years.
Albany needs among other things an interstate highway connector. The next ten years may be a critical time for that need to be made and made not just by Albany, but Lee, Worth, Terrell, Colquitt, Mitchell and other counties that would benefit from the highway through our poor and underserved area.
We need another carrier at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport. ASA Atlantic Southeast Airlines is a bad joke. Their outrageous prices and spotty service needs some sort of competitor. I know it won’t be easy to get one, but charging Albanians more for a ticket to Atlanta than Valdosta ticket buyers is an insult. They are sixty miles further away than we are and a smaller facility. We need to hold ASA to the fire over this situation.
I hate to even bring this one up, but I really thought in the last 30 years there would be some great leaders stepping up to help lead the city. The situation has been worse than worse. Petty leaders, myopic visions, greed, power grabbing and just plain dullness have taken over on the city and county level.
There is no vision for our community. There are no grand plans or avenues to greatness. There is only dullness, stupidity, higher tax4es, crime, unemployment and despair.
I did not see it as this bad 40 years ago and it has become worse than I ever expected.
No more needs to be said … blah, blah. blah ….
LEE COUNTY IS UNAWARE OF ITSELF
Like a slumbering giant, Lee County sits north of Albany and presents itself as a quiet suburban community. Thousands of Lee Countians drive into Albany everyday for their employment. As the county grows, the 2010 census could compile 32,000 citizens or more. In 1970, barely 7,000 individuals lived in Lee County. Times have changed and Lee County doesn’t need Albany as badly as before.
There are so many things that Lee County people could do to showcase their community and cause more jobs and people to move to their county.
Other counties had their version of Lee County, but those roles have changed quite a bit. Bibb County (Macon) and Houston County were as Albany and Lee County in the 1960s and 70s. The population of Houston County was nearly 50,000 in 1970 and Bibb counted 160,000.
Today Bibb counts 155,000 people and Houston 120,000.
Richmond County (Augusta) had Columbia County to its northwest. Columbia was a mostly rural retreat for Augusta folks escaping the sprawl on Augusta. With 90,000 suburbanites residing in Columbia County, it isn’t little anymore.
I suspect the future of Lee County will be its citizens finally discovering their many and varied benefits and showcasing them. Lee County may finally decide to stand on its on and sell the county without leaning heavily on the City of Albany and its attributes.
Lee County needs another municipality in its southern area. Several new cities have sprung up in metro Atlanta and a new city in southern Lee County would be refreshing.
A new city with 7,000 to 10,000 folks might create quite a stir in south Georgia and may be the catalyst to a new Lee County awakening.
BRIDGES, BRIDGES AND MORE BRIDGES
Albany was founded on the Flint River and that slow moving body of water has always been a part of this community. DOT announced the old Broad Street Bridge must be torn down and replaced. Sad to see the old girl have to go, but I remember back in the 1970s there was talk of replacing that bridge.
Several years ago, DOT announced the Oglethorpe Bridge was to be widened and updated to accommodate increased traffic flow and changing patterns downtown. Oglethorpe Bridge opened in 1954 and has never been updated or improved.
Finally, a new bridge to connect Clark Avenue with West Albany near Flint Avenue should be built. This project along with the others has been talked about and planned for years and should be built as soon as possible. We need good bridges and at least one should be a beautiful outstanding addition to downtown rather than running straight across the river. Hopefully one will rise near the center to give a good view of downtown.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT
Nothing negative here. The local colleges are a bright spot for Albany. Albany State University, Darton College and Albany Technical College all experienced record enrollment this fall. Combine that with Troy University and LaGrange College at Albany and that totals over 15,000 college students enrolled in Albany. That’s right; 15,000 college students.
Who would have thought in 1966 as the first class to enter Albany Junior College (Darton) with 660 students, that same college would have 5,800 students in 2009?
Albany State counted 1,500 students when I enrolled in 1969, but today has over 4,500.
If the rest of Albany operated as the colleges we would be more efficient, a much larger city, expanding and prosperous. I think Darton College’s and Albany State University’s presidents should be appointed joint managers of the City of Albany.
By: Sonny Lofton. Albany natve Sonny Lofton is a veteran broadcaster and writer. He co-hosts the “Frank and Sonny” show from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thurday on WWVO The Voice FM-90.7.