Georgia editorial roundup - InfoNews

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Georgia editorial roundup

April 17, 2019 - 10:36 AM

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

April 16

The Savannah Morning News on the city's new cultural arts centre:

Some months back, the city of Savannah solicited public input on a name for the soon-to-open cultural arts centre.

One bandied about but never officially submitted epitomized the attitudes of the project's many critics: Savannah's folly. Construction delays, financial shortfalls, location debates and poorly received designs have marked the lifespan of what is now known as the Savannah Cultural Arts Center.

With the facility's opening Saturday, the time has come to tone down the criticism. Even buildings deserve a honeymoon period.

Too much of the public focus has been on what the Savannah Cultural Arts Center is not. Many expected a concert hall on the scale of the Johnny Mercer Theatre or a museum space akin to the Jepson Center.

Those naysayers overlook the motivations beyond the building: To establish a hub for Savannahians to not just experience art and culture but create it themselves. And to develop and showcase those talents.

Measuring success in those areas commences soon. Within the next few weeks, the city will launch a series of classes, workshops and cultural events. The centre increases access for would-be artists, with pottery and jewelry-making equipment on site and facilities designed for performance practices.

Once school lets out, the venue will host summer camps for school children.

Saturday's grand opening offered a sampling of what's to come: demonstrations on weaving, painting, and pottery, sculpture and jewelry making on the visual arts side; dance, voice, instrumental and stage shows highlighted the performance arts.

And for all the angst about the size, shape, layout and general esthetics of the building, the finished product is impressive. The design is clean and optimized to take advantage of natural light.

Beyond the Savannah Cultural Arts Center's look and functionality, another consideration is where its located and what it will mean to that area of downtown.

The site was selected, at least in part, for the Savannah Cultural Arts Center to serve as what former Mayor Edna Jackson and former City Manager Stephanie Cutter called a "welcome mat" for motorists entering the city via Interstate 16 and U.S. Highway 17.

The building is certainly more welcoming than the parking lot that previously occupied the property. But since the city bought the site from Chatham County in 2011, the area around it has seen explosive commercial growth — and a resulting climb in property tax value.

The Savannah Cultural Arts Center cost $24.4 million to build and will continue to require taxpayer investment for operations without contributing a penny in property tax revenue. What's more, the venue sits across the street from another large-scale public complex, the Savannah Civic Center, the future of which is uncertain with the planned construction of a new arena in the Canal District.

The Savannah Cultural Arts Center could be an anchor for activity in the area, particularly if locals embrace it and frequent it. City leadership looked to an arts and culture mecca, Miami, to find its new cultural resources director, and Lissette Arrogante brings both energy and expertise to maximize the venue as a community resource.

The Savannah Cultural Arts Center deserves time and community support to realize its potential. So hold the folly talk.



April 16

The Brunswick News on Jekyll Island Museum's makeover:

It was January 2015 when the Jekyll Island Authority gave its seal of approval to provide the former Jekyll Island Museum with a makeover and a new identity. That allowed the Jekyll Island Foundation to complete a capital campaign to raise the necessary funds for the project.

Now the public is less than two weeks away from seeing exactly what Mosaic has to offer. A cocktail party sneak peek took place Saturday at Mosaic, offering donors who contributed to the multi-million dollar effort to transform the museum an up-close look at the changes that have been made. The museum will have its official grand opening April 27.

Mosaic will feature in-depth and interactive exhibits that will offer an immersive experience to all that stop by. The new museum features more exhibit space, more artifacts, a new outdoor classroom, and a new multi-purpose.

Mosaic promises to tell the story of Jekyll Island and it has quite a story to tell. It was named by Gen. James Oglethorpe in 1733. The island came into the possession of the Dubignon family in 1792, who made a successful business out of growing Sea Island cotton on their plantation for almost 100 years.

In the 1880s, the island was purchased by the Jekyll Island Club and became a playground for some of the most prominent families in America at the time — names like Rockefeller, Morgan, Vanderbilt and Pulitzer to name a few.

That historical connection can still be found in the island's historical district. Through historical tours and other initiatives, visitors can learn about the history that still permeates throughout the island. Mosaic will be able to bring to life the island's history in a fun and imaginative way that will appeal to children and adults alike.

Of course, projects like that don't just happen. There was a lot of hard work behind the scenes to raise more than $3 million to pull the project together. The Jekyll Island Foundation took on that cause with gusto, surpassing its fundraising goal in December 2016.

That money went to good use. The circa 1980s theatre that used to be in the museum is now a place of modern interactive exhibits describing the history the island. That's just one example of many that will make Mosaic a must-see to visitors and residents alike.

The Jekyll Island Foundation deserves a ton of credit for making this dream come through.

We would also like to thank the donors — 216 individuals, 21 corporations, and 22 foundations — who believed in the project enough to put up the money for it. Both the foundation and authority have worked together to make necessary improvements on the island without losing the charm that comes with Jekyll Island.

New hotels, new homes and condos, a new beach village and a new convention centre have put Jekyll Island back on the map. The new museum is the cherry on top of the sundae that already makes Jekyll such a popular destination.

We can't wait for the rest of the public to get a look at Jekyll's newest attraction.



April 13

The Augusta Chronicle on the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam:

Have you ever found yourself in a dispute, and as the argument lengthens, you see more and more people leaving your side and taking the other side - until you're all by yourself?

At some point, you might have to admit the actual problem: It's you.

We sincerely hope the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers feels that way. They should, about the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam.

We'll sum up the controversy for those of you coming in late.

The Lock and Dam, standing since the 1930s, has helped maintain a steady water level of a pool of the Savannah River at or near Augusta and North Augusta. That steadiness benefits riverside property owners, area industry, recreation and our water supply. The federal Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act was amended in 2016 to "deauthorize" the Lock and Dam, and to proceed with one of two options - repair the dam and provide passage for sturgeon to swim upriver to spawn; or tear the dam down and replace it with a structure that fish can navigate but will keep the proper pool level. The concern over fish is because the city of Savannah is deepening its busy harbour. Deepening the harbour is expected to disturb the sturgeons' spawning ground.

The Corps supports a plan to remove the Lock and Dam and replace it with a rock weir that can't be adjusted like the dam's locks. That means Mother Nature decides what the river level will be, and that's not always optimal. Twice in the past 20 years, the Corps has conducted experimental river drawdowns to mimic the effect of removing the Lock and Dam. In both attempts, water levels dropped noticeably - some might say dangerously - and just about any worthwhile local endeavour connected to the river suffered.

Another plan involves, as we mentioned, fixing the dam and building a fish passage. Know who agrees with that plan?


An exaggeration? Not by much.

Its sentiment is accurate. The city of Augusta approves of that plan. The city of North Augusta agrees. The Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau agrees. The Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce - representing the area's most influential business leaders - agree.

If you're a local resident who has devoted just a few minutes of time to think about it, you likely agree. And probably the people living on either side of you agree that fixing the Lock and Dam is the best option.

Now Georgia and South Carolina's elected officials, on both state and national levels, are sharing nods of agreement with that ever-growing group calling for repairs.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson likely would agree. The South Carolina House of Representatives recently attached a proviso to a bill that would prevent the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control from issuing a permit to the Corps if it goes forward with its dreadful weir plan.

State Rep. Bill Hixon, an Aiken Republican, is optimistic that the amended bill also will pass the Senate, and will be signed by the governor because he's already approved the bill's language.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp agrees, too. He was in Augusta with his family Thursday, taking the city's Red Carpet Tour that touts local economic development successes.

"I know it's a critical issue for economic development and property rights and other things," Kemp told The Augusta Chronicle. "I'll have to deal with the Corps of Engineers myself. I understand they have a role but they've got to treat our citizens and our taxpayers in a fair way. I'm hoping at the end of the day they'll heed what our congressional delegation is saying but we stand ready when asked."

And now, both U.S. senators from Georgia and South Carolina, and U.S. representatives from Augusta's and North Augusta's congressional districts, have fired off a letter to federal officials about the Lock and Dam.

The letter's tone is diplomatic and respectful. But combined with the anger and dismay of most of the Augusta area's population, it is a shout. It demands answers and action that up to now the Corps hasn't seemed to provide to the satisfaction of anyone who relies on the bounty of the Savannah River and appreciates its beauty.

For all those people, and for the generations who come after us, the Lock and Dam must be repaired.


News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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