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Poverty initiative: Somebody’s trying

By   /   December 18, 2009  /   Comments

Just when it seems that Albany is a lost cause, some of its most caring citizens have risen to the occasion.

Organizers of Albany Area Chamber of Commerce-driven Strive 2 Thrive initiative are trying to get community leaders, nonprofits and motivated recipients of social and community services on the same page to directly link resources with needs. At a symposium kicking off the initiative last week, two women were invited to provide information on the daily challenges they encounter. That’s admirable. That’s sincere. And that’s smart.

The goal is not modest. Catherine Glover, the Chamber of Commerce’s president, said that she and others intend to not just reduce – but end – poverty in Albany, which has twice as many poor people per capita as Georgia.

If you come from a poor family, you are much more likely than your peers to drop out of school. And if you drop out of high school, you are much more likely than your peers to be poor. It’s called a poverty “cycle” for a reason. Ending poverty starts with reaching our community’s youngest residents. But in the post-Industrial Revolution United States, poverty doesn’t have to be inevitable. Still, all around us in Dougherty County, there’s more than our statistical share of homelessness, hunger, poor health, inadequate nutrition, substance abuse, infectious disease and – last but not least – crime.

As Glover said, “Poverty is the root of just about every societal ill that we have here, and we have to be concerned.”

We do have a suggested avenue for Strive2Thrive to pursue that doesn’t yet seem to be on the organizers’ radar. Let’s eradicate local government waste, corruption and bureaucratic procedures. In doing so, let’s free up federal funds, promote new enterprises and otherwise tear down barriers that favor keep political leaders in place at the expense of small businesses and the community’s poorest residents.

Just think, for example, how our community could have served its poorest of the poor if the City Commission hadn’t squandered $500,000 in funds intended for low-income residents on the failed Enclave at Oglethorpe condominiums, which was built as a political favor. And just think, if an open-minded leadership were in place, we would be enjoying RiverFront Barbecue in Northwest Albany (and the resulting sales tax proceeds) over the Christmas holidays (see the editorial below.)

And let’s don’t forget this: Opportunities in richer, forward-thinking communities siphon away high-achieving students and workers from impoverished, corrupt communities like ours.

Will the Strive 2 Thrive initiative succeed? Who knows? But it’s certainly worth a try and we wholeheartedly applaud and support the effort;

Cut the red tape, already;

Let restaurant expand

Another week in Albany; another case of local government getting in the way of progress.

Another nightmare – compliments of the city of Albany.

RiverFront Barbecue proprietor Dale Saunders, an amazing entrepreneurial success story in his own right, has his sight on expanding to Northwest Albany. As a pilot project of sorts, he invested thousands of dollars and opened a mobile kitchen in the parking lot of the former Office Max property on Westover Boulevard.

Saunders did everything imaginable in anticipation of any bureaucratic necessities: He went to the City of Albany’s utility department, which cooperatively worked with him to get electricity hooked up, and to the Environmental Health Department to get the necessary food-service permits.

But after he opened, you guessed it – city government reared its ugly head.

First, Saunders was notified in a site visit that he needed to come up with $150 for a second business license for his existing business, RiverFront Barbecue. Why in the world would a business need a second license to provide the same service in the same community? Does it say so in the city’s codes? Saunders says he doesn’t know because the relevant code wasn’t provided to him.

At best, if a second license were required for Saunders to open a satellite, mobile restaurant, the fee should be waived with apologies from the people that Saunders and others to pay to know such things. After all, it was the city – and not Saunders – that dropped the ball in the first place.

Ridiculous.

Oh, but that’s nothing.

Without complaint, Saunders agreed to pay for a second business license. But when he went to city hall to write the check and complete the necessary paperwork, he was told he had to close his satellite restaurant because the property’s zoning classification (C-3) doesn’t permit restaurants. There’s a restaurant across the street, mind you, and an out-of-state carnival is allowed to sell food on nearby property with the identical zoning (C-7) classification as the Office Max property.

So, why can carnies sell turkey legs and cotton candy on C-3 property while a local restaurant can’t?

The city manager’s staff said this week that it was hard to explain – that the city’s (taxpayer-funded) attorney would be in touch.

Meanwhile, the mobile kitchen is closed, compliments of local goverment.

Want to end poverty, Albany?

First, you’ve got to end this nonsense at city hall.

Kevin By Kevin Hogencamp

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Comments

  1. steph says:

    Wow. No I understand why there’s a movement to merge the local and county government. I’m new to these parts, and the poverty is pretty plain, but the reasons are not as clear. I appreciate your post.

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