July 12, 2014

Valdosta: Time for a hard look

July 12, 2014 The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Last week was a tough one for Valdosta. A national survey named Valdosta as the nation’s fastest-shrinking city. A report listed Valdosta State Prison in a three-way tie for the state’s second most violent prison.

A tough week, but really, it’s been a tough couple of years for Valdosta. Sewage issues. Uncertainty regarding Moody Air Force Base’s mission and future. Concern regarding a lack of new industry. Millage rates rising. ...

In such times, it’s easy to blame others. It’s easy for leaders to bicker with one another. It’s too easy because we, as a community, have been bickering and pointing fingers at one another far too long.

While we’ve dithered in personal differences and political wrangling, others have identified our problems for us. And while some wonder why these issues should be publicized locally, we must remember that the rest of the state and the nation see these reports and surveys whether we like it or not. They see these reports and make judgments on our town and region.

To not recognize these issues in our town does nothing to change the negative perceptions by individuals and industries looking at Valdosta. Ignoring them will lead to more trouble, not less.

So instead of seeing these reports as the problem, leaders and citizens should look at them as wake-up calls to addressing the problems causing the reports.

But first, Valdosta leaders and individuals from both public and private sectors must put aside territorial disputes and personal disagreements for the greater good.

If we spent time on solving issues rather than debating why the shrinking-city report does or does not have merits, the perception or reality of a shrinking population would be moot.

We need to invest our community’s talents, energies, and resources into building a better place to live rather than tearing one another down.

It’s time for petty bickering to become serious debate. It’s time for fingerpointing to become outreached hands of opportunity and support. It’s time for a hard look in the mirror then it’s time to get to work. It’s time for ideas and sacrifice.

It’s past time, but we can do it. We must, or there will be tougher weeks ahead for Valdosta.

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