Augusta is in a sad spiral, and only its concerned citizens can rescue it

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I grew up in Augusta, and was recently in the city to visit my father, who was undergoing a procedure at the Veterans Administration Medical Center. While on my way to the center, I became lost and ended up driving through the residential areas of downtown.

I WAS APPALLED, alarmed and embarrassed by the physical conditions of the city, residents and buildings I saw. The blight was so stark and jarring, I couldn't believe I was in my native city. Porches falling off houses, vandalized buildings, people aimlessly wandering or pushing shopping carts.

Of all the feelings I felt, sadness and concern were the strongest. Those feelings were quickly followed by anger.

Since leaving Augusta for college a little more than 10 years ago, I've had the opportunity to visit and live in a number of cities in the United States and abroad -- from Washington, D.C., to San Jose, Costa Rica. I've seen only one other city that matches the dilapidation I've witnessed in Augusta, and that city is New Orleans.

Something is going terribly wrong in all parts of Augusta. South Augusta looks bleak, and criminal activity is beginning to escalate there. Each time I come home to visit, I read about an abandoned building that has been vandalized or set ablaze. Many of the grocery stores in the city, including the one in my parents' neighborhood, are slowly becoming markers for food deserts -- areas that lack healthy food options and access to a variety of fruits and vegetables. For example, almost half of the refrigerators in the produce department of one supermarket have been turned off and are now filled with bags of popcorn, pork rinds and other unhealthy junk food.

DURING MY VISIT, I ate at a restaurant near the VA hospital, and had the pleasure of striking up a conversation with a gentleman in his 70s who lived in the Harrisburg area. I was shocked at how he casually mentioned the escalating crime and lack of safety in his neighborhood. He explained how he now carries a baseball bat during his daily walks.

I was even more shocked when I happened to drive through that neighborhood on my way to the animal shelter near Lake Olmstead. Again, I saw crumbling building after crumbling building.

As a young girl, I personally witnessed the destruction of our city's neighborhoods when I would visit my grandmother's house on 13th Street. The introduction of crack cocaine -- and the city's passivity toward it -- completely destroyed that community. My grandmother was forced to flee her home -- the home her mother purchased as a single woman in 1943 -- and move to National Hills.

Now a new chapter is beginning in Augusta as signs of the meth epidemic begin to dot the city's landscape. It's clear that the decision to ignore a problem that started nearly 30 years ago is finally catching up with the rest of the city.

THE CITY'S RESIDENTS and leaders must act now and work together to address Augusta's current state. The city is showing physical symptoms of a sinister, underlying condition that will continue to worsen and fester without treatment. Solutions include encouraging enterprise in the city; empowering residents to become vigilant against crime; and holding property owners accountable for their contributions to the blight.

Without serious attention soon, the city's blight will become more than just an eyesore we gloss over until the next Masters Tournament.

It will lead to a cycle of low-performing schools, high crime, decreased public health, less revenue for the city and increased drug use that will affect all Augustans of all backgrounds, incomes and areas of the city and its surroundings.

Augusta and its residents don't deserve that future.

(The writer, an Augusta native, is a writer and editor for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.)

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Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/12/10 - 07:40 am
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She had no reason to be

She had no reason to be dissing pork rinds. I love those suckers and they are natural without carbs or sugars.

bettyboop
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bettyboop 12/12/10 - 08:03 am
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""It will lead to a cycle of

""It will lead to a cycle of low-performing schools, high crime, decreased public health, less revenue for the city and increased drug use that will affect all Augustans of all backgrounds, incomes and areas of the city and its surroundings."".............................................This is a reality NOW!

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/12/10 - 08:34 am
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I wonder if she gets around

I wonder if she gets around Atlanta very much? I've driven through some neighborhoods there that were not exactly Beverly Hills.

Aiken Pyles
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Aiken Pyles 12/12/10 - 09:46 am
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Some suggestions; a

Some suggestions; a north-south interstate, an intermodal transfer facility, force residents out of nuisance properties by constant, passive surveillance, lop off 20 ft. othe levee and sell the downtown riverfront to private developers. Oh, and one more thing: stop the idiotic studies.

Aiken Pyles
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Aiken Pyles 12/12/10 - 09:50 am
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Riverman1, if Old Town was in

Riverman1, if Old Town was in Atlanta, it would have been done over like Inman Park 30 years ago.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/12/10 - 10:05 am
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Aiken Pyles, do you think

Aiken Pyles, do you think that has something to do with the population growth of Atlanta in the past 30 years. Have you seen downtown Augusta growing?

But if you and she don't believe Atlanta has its bad areas, you are not paying attention. I was staying at the CNN Omni and walked about a block away and ended up in the Nigerian hot items street market ran by people whose only interest in urban renewal was stealing from those suburbanites who wandered into their world. There wasn't a cop in sight either.

At least Augusta keeps its hot items market in the produce store. You can leave your trailer parked here, too. We don't steal them from our residents. We go out of town to get them and bring them back here.

fontana
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fontana 12/12/10 - 10:43 am
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I'm heading to X-Mart to do a

I'm heading to X-Mart to do a little Xmas shopping.

CorporalGripweed
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CorporalGripweed 12/12/10 - 10:45 am
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Welcome to OUR world Tiffany.

Welcome to OUR world Tiffany. Any city "leaders" out there listening?
Didn't think so. The silence from the "polly-annas" is deafening. Maybe we will be inundated by more statistics from certain posters about what a great city we live in...

agustinian
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agustinian 12/12/10 - 10:48 am
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Dear Ms. Bailey: You are

Dear Ms. Bailey:

You are still young, and while you may have traveled a lot, there are many more decrepit cities than Augusta. Start with Detroit, go to DC, then to Toledo, then Buffalo, then almost any city in China, then come back to August. Cities are living organisms, that are constantly evolving. Some parts die, some develop, some then are regenerated (gentrified).

So take it easy on Augusta -- I have been a few more places than you, and have many years on you as well, it ain't all that bad.

And by the way, when I go to Atlanta, I always come back grateful I live here instead of that madhouse.

Aiken Pyles
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Aiken Pyles 12/12/10 - 01:50 pm
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Riverman1, we have no-go

Riverman1, we have no-go nighttime areas in Augusta, including the river side of the levee. Harrisbug is in terrible decline. Proximity to a vibrant downtown would put a premium on these homes and attract rehab pioneers. But neither can I stand Atlanta's gridlock!

dougk
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dougk 12/12/10 - 02:00 pm
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agustinian...I've lived in
Unpublished

agustinian...I've lived in Augusta for 20 years. I have seen no evidence of the evolution you talk about. Only further dying of a decrepit municipality.

JesusIsComing
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JesusIsComing 12/12/10 - 03:11 pm
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It's not the leadership or

It's not the leadership or the housing - it's the people. Changing hearts is the only answer.

Lori Davis
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Lori Davis 12/12/10 - 03:53 pm
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Tiffany, Thanks for your

Tiffany, Thanks for your comments. I am a concerned citizen who is so concerned that I ran for Mayor. I see all of the problems and decline, but I am n ot sure that the powers that be see it. I live in Harrisburg and have enough sense to know that anyone who drives into Augusta everyday from Columbia County might wish that this neighborhood were liveable. I believe that this will happen, however, the schools are in disarray. We need Urban Pioneers without school aged children to move in and help to turn the tide. We have a great association and BOD. We need brave people.

countyman
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countyman 12/12/10 - 06:07 pm
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Isn't Harrisburg zoned for

Isn't Harrisburg zoned for ARC? I'm not sure what's the middle or elementary school.

The graduation rate at Richmond is around 80% or higher. The school recently opened a multi-million IB wing at ARC. Because of the high demand for parents and students throughout the county.. Grovetown and Harlem in Columbia County or Wagener Salley, Ridge Spring, Silver Bluff in Aiken County must be in a real terrible shape then...

When did?

1. Having a violent crime rate lower than the majority of similar size cities.
2. The 4th highest private sector job growth rate in the nation.
3. The strongest economy in the state of GA.
4. Sales tax revenue collections up 0.23 percent from September 2009 to September 2010, and the city is 3.4 percent ahead of its budgeted revenue.
5. Leading the state in job growth this year and next year...
6. Maintaining a Aa2 bond rating
7. An unemployment rate lower than the national and state average
8. Lots of major retail developments starting next year
9. One of the top housing markets in the entire country
10. Adding new sporting events constanly(IMBA, Augusta Ironman 70.3, etc)
11. Gaining high paying jobs during a recession(Rural Sourcing Inc)
12. New airlines and valet service at the airport

Equal a sad spiral.....

The economy, unemployment rate, and housing market in Augusta is much better than Atlanta... Exactly what do you call the state of Atlanta then?

Costco is coming to West Augusta next year, and jump starting a 100 acre development. The nearest Costco stores are located in Greenville and Atlanta.

Rural Sourcing brought 100 high paying($35 to $80k) IT jobs to Augusta, and a logistic company recently renovated a warehouse in South Augusta.

There is blight, room for improvement, and negative issues facing Augusta, but our city is continuing to improve daily. Several neighborhoods in South Augusta, inner city, East Augusta, and around the downtown are undergoing mass gentrification efforts...

Augusta will be the host city for the 2011 and 2012 USA Cycling Elite/U23/Juniors Road National Championships and Paralympic Road National Championships. I mean our city must be doing a couple of things right.

AutumnLeaves
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AutumnLeaves 12/12/10 - 05:57 pm
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I'm wondering why she didn't

I'm wondering why she didn't notice the problems 10 years ago when she lived here. I've been painfully aware of crime problems in Augusta since the late 80's and they exploded exponentially in the early 1990's through today.

crackerjack
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crackerjack 12/12/10 - 06:15 pm
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I love Countyman's optimism,

I love Countyman's optimism, but unfortunately a lot of those projections don't come true after thorough review by the developers in question on the future of our city. I would like to see the perps that are brought in court on vandalism charges, required to clean up the pork rind and potato chip bags that line the streets downtown. I also think that junk food and sodas should be taken off the approval list for acceptable food stamp items. And as far as the education of our children in the Richmond County School System I think their is enough blame to go around, but to blame only the parents is disingenuous at best. Michelle Rhee has done wonders with the DC schools, and Compton, California is presently changing their system from public to private. Currently the U.S. is 32nd out of 37 countries in the area of Math, Shanghai, China being number one. I know we have kids that are smart enough, if they are given a proper learning environment. FYI see the following website.

http://www.studentsfirst.org/#

crackerjack
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crackerjack 12/12/10 - 06:18 pm
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I'm in Kentucky for the next

I'm in Kentucky for the next week, It is snowing now and I can't wait to get back home to the CSRA

augusta citizen
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augusta citizen 12/12/10 - 06:20 pm
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I knew we could count on

I knew we could count on Countyman to let her have it! Riverman, I don't understand the complaint against the pork rinds either! Anyhow, thank you Tiffany for caring.
We would all like to see some improvements, the crime is bad and there are way too many empty buildings downtown, I hope that it will improve down there. If downtown is ever going to be viable, they must get the crime under control and clean up the streets. I mean literally CLEAN them up.

microprill
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microprill 12/12/10 - 06:32 pm
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Bottom Line: she iz sooooo

Bottom Line: she iz sooooo rite, yall jst 2 blind 2c it. Suckers

Patty-P
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Patty-P 12/12/10 - 06:56 pm
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The 'city' seems passive

The 'city' seems passive about a lot of things...she's right.

dougk
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dougk 12/12/10 - 07:13 pm
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"passive" is totally the
Unpublished

"passive" is totally the right word. Thank you, Patty-P.

Carleton Duvall
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Carleton Duvall 12/12/10 - 08:15 pm
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I am 85 so I am most likely

I am 85 so I am most likely much older than any of you that are expressing opinions. I have seen the decline of cities all over the country begining in the 60s. Augusta is no better or no worse than most. It is a fact of life. Moral decay of our populace has led to material decay of our cities. Crime is rampant throughout the country and, sadly, Augusta has not been spared. Resident invovlement will help but it will take time.

augusta citizen
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augusta citizen 12/12/10 - 08:28 pm
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You're right scooby, crime IS

You're right scooby, crime IS rampant throughout the country and Augusta is definitely no exception. At 85, you surely have wisdom, so what do you think the answer (resident involvement, ableit slow) is? These comments always seem to lend to more argument than unity. I would like to read some real suggestions on here.

Patty-P
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Patty-P 12/12/10 - 08:49 pm
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scooby, so true.

scooby, so true.

Carleton Duvall
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Carleton Duvall 12/12/10 - 08:59 pm
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Age, my friend, does not give

Age, my friend, does not give one wisdom. However, it does give one experience. Neighborhood associations such as the one that is working in Harrisburg is a good beginning. These groups, however, must work with each other and, more importantly, stay out of politics. Working with city leaders is a must but to run against them in an election is counter productive. These groups should meet on a regular basis and discuss problems in their neighborhood and work to get these problems solved. They should also meet with each other and formulate plans for private investments in their neighborhoods to improve their physical appearance. City leaders should be gently prodded to involve themselves in the neighborhood groups. Most importantly, strong leaders must be found to keep these groups working. The process will be slow but with the proper leadership it will prevail. The key here is to find at least one person who is willing to lead rather than be a politician.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/12/10 - 09:23 pm
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The old city, the true urban

The old city, the true urban part of consolidated Augusta-Richmond County, is where the crime is highest. In that area of 44,000 residents, the per capita murder rate is higher than anywhere else in Georgia.

My thoughts on how to make things better are to concentrate police surveilance in that area. In addition, I'd have more police walking and riding bicycles. The hotels on the riverwalk should hire private security to patrol there. I'd also look into more neighborhoods and businesses providing their own security. Desperate times demand everyone chipping in to help.

bclicious
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bclicious 12/13/10 - 12:20 am
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Countyman, I like your and

Countyman,

I like your and some of your fellow bloggers comments the best! I much prefer to pretend that there are no problems in Augusta than to recognize them, and begin to try and formulate a solution to solve them.

AUGUSTA IS GREAT WITH NO FAULTS!!!!!

YES!

bclicious
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bclicious 12/13/10 - 12:32 am
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HYPOTHETICAL CONVERSATION

HYPOTHETICAL CONVERSATION WITH COUNTRYMAN:

Countryman,

Do we have a crime problem in Augusta? "NO"

Should we be worried about the furloughing of deputies and firefighters in Augusta? "No. As a matter of fact, I believe we should reduce the size of our sheriff's department and fire department by 50%. I can justify this because there is little to no crime in Augusta, and we simply do not have fires in Augusta."

But Countryman, what about the recent reports of a 10 year high for Agg Assault crime rates? "Propaganda"

Well, what about all the reports of vacant buildings being vandalized and set a blaze? "Propaganda"

Wow!

Any thoughts about Augusta Richmond County's Government? "Yes! Augusta Richmond County has and always has had the best policiticians in the world. Our politicians literally can do no wrong."

Any final comments Countryman? "Yes! Never believe anything else you read. Only believe what I write, and never believe anything the Augusta Chronicle writes. Also, there is no need to purchase a personal firearm if you are a citizen of Augusta because there is no crime in Augusta."

KEEP IN MIND THAT THIS WAS A HYPOTHETICAL INTERVIEW, AND IS MEANT TO BE FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 12/13/10 - 09:04 am
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The lady is right about a lot

The lady is right about a lot of things but she is dreaming if she thinks anyone will do anything about it.

RM1, armed private security with arrest authority is a good way to move. I also think Sheriff Strength should satrt a Reserve Deputy program like CC did in the late 80s.

Lots of folks would go through the course, pay the money, to get the certs. Then the Sheriff could have plenty of low to no cost support.

And you are right about putting the fix where the problem is.

I wonder if a vote to seperate could be had?

De-consolidated sounds pretty good right about now.

omnomnom
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omnomnom 12/13/10 - 09:16 am
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countyman wrote "Rural

countyman wrote "Rural Sourcing brought 100 high paying($35 to $80k) IT jobs"... yep.. only 10 of them so far.. but hopefully in the next 3 to 5 years the rest will show up. not enough time to address all the 'positive' points in your post, but i want to give counterpoint to your lipstick pig postings

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