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Part of this city's problem is undoubtedly mean-spiritedness. Atlanta is busy, busy, busy. Kids are an afterthought, if they rate that high. As I was writing this, I got a news release from an "activist" group in Inman Park. They're outraged, OUTRAGED, I say, at a planned playground near the MARTA station, between Hurt Street and Euclid Avenue. That struck close to home, in a way. In my last Atlanta incarnation, I lived on Hurt Street. It was at the beginning of gentrification, and the neighborhood was hardly a place for kids. I guess it still isn't, even though now it rates acclaim as tony and posh. The "activists" see a playground as only an arena for "smoking drugs, having sex, drinking in public, and graffiti." Clearly this group doesn't see much positive in having kids around. I certainly wouldn't want those activists in my neighborhood.
The heart of the problem with Georgia - and, in general, most of the South - is poverty. According to the Casey study, 41 states have a higher percentage of families where adults have fulltime, year-round jobs than Georgia. We're No. 37 (meaning 14th from the worst) in percentage of children living in poverty and No. 44 (seven notches up from the worst) in percentage kids belonging to families with a single parent.
Of course, poverty is just peachy with some folks. The economic development mantra of Georgia business shills is basically "cheap land, cheap labor" to lure new corporations. Interpreted, that means no natural resource is too precious to be spared from the bulldozer, and all unions are satanic. As it relates to kids, the message is poverty (low wages) is good for bidness, so bug off you little ankle-biters.
Also, it goes without saying that you can't ignore the racial divide. A recently published Georgians for Children fact book shows that about 51 percent of new families with children run the risk of facing poverty. Among blacks, that rate is 77 percent, while it's 40 percent for whites. Where power rests largely with one race and poverty with another, it's easy to understand the state's indifference to many of Georgia's children.
That strikes Thomas of Georgians for Children as ironic. "The economic future of Georgia depends on how well we take care of our children," says Thomas, truly a voice in the wilderness. "If people, the legislators, aren't concerned about kids, at least they should be concerned about the state's economy."
The Zero Population Growth report can be found at www.KidFriendlyCities.org. The Casey Foundation's study is at www.aecf.org. Georgians for Children is currently conducting a poll to determine its political agenda for 2002 - the key issues are safety, health, education and family security. The group's website is at www.georgians.com.
Senior Editor John Sugg, for whom childhood has been a lifelong pursuit, can be reached at 404-614-1241 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A note from the editor
John Sugg is Creative Loafing's new senior editor. He adamantly claims the title has nothing to do with his age. Previously, Sugg was editor of CL's sister paper in Tampa, the Weekly Planet. At the Planet, Sugg won boxes of awards. "However," he adds, "journalists give more awards to each other than any other profession, so all you have to do is keep breathing and someone will hand you a prize sooner or later."
While an editor at the Planet, the paper's circulation increased from about 65,000 to almost 90,000. "Daily newspaper circulation is heading south," Sugg says. "Alternative papers like ours have readerships heading in the other direction. It's a good feeling."
Previously, he has worked at The Tampa Tribune, The Miami Herald, American Lawyer Publications and The Atlanta Constitution (before, he notes, media moguls took two fine, competitive publications and made one ghastly Frankenpaper out of them).
Sugg is a Miami native, and much of his family is from Key West, including several who never have committed felonies. He notes, defensively, that his clan is originally from the Carolinas and north Georgia. "I have, from time to time, uttered the phrase 'y'all hear,'" he says to illustrate his point.
Among the high points in Sugg's life are living on a sailboat for about 10 years ("I was really shattered when I found out Jimmy Buffett was not singing about me"), and finally getting married ("for good this time, I swear") and adopting five kids ("I did what!?").
Sugg is a graduate of the University of Florida, and has this to say to Dawgs: "Pfftttt." In the spirit of the video gaming business, he will accept bets on the Florida-Georgia game for $10 in "gift certificates" from the first three people who e-mail him. Co-conspirators in this ruse to skirt Georgia's anti-gambling laws must agree to be humiliated in this column after the above mentioned decimation of UGA by Florida.
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