Making the Grade

DAY 196 / 1337 MILES

Our namesake, -Valle de Aosta- I had heard, (and always accepted because it sounded plausible), meant “Valle(y) of Beauty”. Expending about as much energy as it takes to blink, I “researched” and found that Aoste actually means Rome of the Alps. It would follow then that our South Georgia version of -Valle de Aoste- would translate to -Atlanta of the Pineywood Flatlands-. I’m still working out whether thats a compliment or criticism. (I’m sorry I looked it up now). But since I’m well beyond the half way point of (possibly) accomplishing something no other Valdostan has, then possibly I’ve earned enough license to voice broad scope observations about Valdosta-Lowndes, or assign a grade of sort. Any critique is objective, based only on what I’ve seen up close as I walked through, over, and beside all our dominions. I have little to no experience working the parts of governmental machinery (except maybe the Tax Office) but what I’ve observed reflects our public official’s attention (and sometimes inattention) to the “bones” (infrastructure), the purse, and the outstanding points (culture & art) of Our Lady Dosta. As to whether she’s awarded the crown or a runner up sash requires an uncomfortble ogling of not just how she looks in a swimsuit but how she answers the questions and how she sings.

INFRASTRUCTURE: Relative to grading the management of our flow (cars, pedestrians, water, waste, etc.) it’s a very mixed bag.

Roadways – They are largely well maintained, with relatively few potholes or deteriorated curb & gutters Also attractive landscaping has been added along some major corridors. However, when walking down major thoroughfares (during morning rush) I consistently observed traffic counts that exceed capacity on  a handful of critical roads. On each of the arteries, traffic was observed backed up great distances (great for Valdosta) from one signal nearly all the way to the next, in either direction. When (and not if) such traffic backups grow to a point where they actually reach all the way from one signal light to the next…that’s called gridlock, which is unacceptable. It appears the anticipation of growth has not kept up with actual growth, indicating there may have been a lapse in planning for the inevitable. Two lane North-South & East-West corridors worked just fine in the 1970s, but someone should’ve awoken Mayor Van Winkle a long time ago. The current addressing of, lets call’em sub-optimal conditions, within the critical traffic pattern seems (in some cases) to be being accomplished piecemeal and in half measures.                Grade – C.

Pedestrian and Bicycle accommodation – Although there are far more sidewalks now than during my childhood, the the Kar remains King in this town. Urban bike lanes are even further down the chain of importance. I’ve written about this topic in a previous blog, “Not walking gets you where you don’t want to go”. I was reminded again of this need of improvement this weekend when in Decatur. Over the 36 hours there, we never needed to use the car. Restaurants, shopping, bars, a neighborhood festival, etc. were all within walking distance. Obviously making a town pedestrian friendly is complicated and expensive, but doable. it just takes a will and a while. I need only point to Thomasville. When there we park once and walk from the Arts Center down to “The Bottom” and from Paradise Park to the Courthouse. Polishing a gem takes time.                                                                                                                            Grade – C.

Runoff and wastewater management – I’ve observed no significant runoff problems anywhere I’ve roamed. I presume that type of problem is now rare due to current regulation and an effective engineering plan. However, sewage management, for whatever reason, still seems to be a game of Wack-a-Manhole for Ms. Dosta, despite spending enough money to fill a sludge settling pond. Spot location pipe line failures will, of course, occur and no-one should cry over spilled sewage. But, the lags in timely public reporting of sewage spills are troubling and perplexing. We can do better.                  Grade B

The POCKETBOOK: I touched on this topic in my previous blog (Day 101 ) and will refrain from repeating anything therein. So, suffice it to say that any perceived lack of planning for the traffic counts of the future, was NOT repeated when it comes to the planning for and facilitation of growth of our industrial base. There is ample room to accommodate the growth in that sector and it’s paying off. Our commissioners, councilmen & women, and business leaders are the pride of our community and should be celebrated.                                                                                                                                                                 Grade – A

ART & LEISURE: Another mixed bag. This is another area thats enjoyed observable improvement in the last decades. Public art is a life sign for any community and while we’re not metropolitan class yet, we have come alive in this regard. When walking across our urban heart its been a delight to see dozens of sculptures and murals that never existed when growing up here. (Public art makes the town look a little less bovine to the outsider). So, let’s hope the importance of these signs of vitality continue to be recognized. Amusement options have increased modestly, but perhaps not at the pace of outdoor leisure venues. Valdosta has done exceptionally well with the addition of public parks and sport & recreation facilities. One demonstration of good growth planning is the 70 acre tract of land that’s been purchased at the confluence of the Little and Withlacoochie Rivers (The former location of Troupville) that will be developed and offer enhanced access to one of our great natural treasures – our rivers. This won’t happen over night but its a clear sign that the right people are planning for what the community can be and will be. Conversely, a civic area sorely in need of attention is a concert hall / convention center. Mathis Auditorium has served its purpose since 1964 but that was a long long time ago, in a village far far away. Its high time to demonstrate some planning on that field of dreams too.                                                            Grade – B

And so, without any extra credit that could be garnered between now and “graduation” the Valdosta / Lowndes average is a solid grade of B.

Once graduated from the Fast times at Ridgemont High  (beyond my Jeff Spiccoli days) I strived always for a grade of A. But, if my score fell just short of it, I accepted the B and felt it respectable. Likewise, if I insisted upon a grade A town in which to live, it probably means I’d have to move far away and win the lottery to afford living there. Given that metric, I think our little Atlanta in the Piney-Wood flatland is a pretty idealic place to live. I think I’ll stay awhile.

Lets go for a walk.

Quote of the week: “Hippocrates (the father of modern medicine) already had a grasp of this truth [the medicinal value of a daily walk] 2,400 years ago. Walking is a mans best medicine. I believe that walking has played a much more meaningful role in human health than all the medicines that have been consumed throughout history”.  –  Magdi Habib Yacoub   {Ground breaking British-Egyptian heart surgeon}.