The reporting teams at The Telegraph deserve applause for featuring two stories over two days that had everything to do with each other, but nothing to do with each other. The readers of the paper could draw the connection themselves without ever being led there by reporters. This is what good journalism looks like.
The first story involves the continued failure to fix Jeffersonville Road, a project we were discussing when I was on Macon’s City Council in the last half of the first decade of this century. The road is a mess. I would challenge my friends in north Macon to get in their cars and see the part from Emery Highway to Recreation Road. Writing the words I so rarely ever write: I agree with Elaine Lucas. It is way past time for this road to be paved with something other than good intentions.
The second story involves our local bridge to nowhere. It is quite an impressive bridge. It crosses Mercer University Drive funneling students from a Mercer-owned building to campus. You may not know this, but you too can walk into that Mercer owned building, climb the steps to the bridge level, and walk across to campus. Your tax dollars went there instead of to Jeffersonville Road. Mercer students got a beautiful bridge with rainbow lights, and Macon citizens got more potholes in exchange.
As a Mercer graduate, I am impressed with the developments on campus. It is a similar experience to me having grown up in Dubai. There, developers bulldozed my childhood neighborhood to make way for the newest, latest and shiniest buildings. At Mercer, what has not been bulldozed and rebuilt has been renovated. My children go to campus and stand in amazement that their dad went there. They want to go there, too. I have to explain to them that it didn’t look like that when I went there.
I have no problem with Mercer collaborating with the city on projects for development. So many Mercer students wind up becoming residents of this city, myself included, that the growth and development of Mercer is a good investment. But I have to wonder if our city leaders are making an idol of the Second Street corridor.
When Sherman’s Second Coming, also known as the I-75/I-16 rebuild, is complete, Second Street will be the main entrance into downtown Macon. It has long been the plan of our city leaders to turn Second Street into a fancy corridor that circles around to Mercer University Drive. Having punished us all with that ridiculous bit of backward parking between Cherry and Poplar, the city planners intend to distract from that stupidity by making the whole far more picturesque and walkable.
In doing so, they are pouring in tax dollars, grants and other funding to get it ready. I do not blame them, but other residents of this city need their roads built, too. Let me say what others want to say and get ignored for saying: There is a bias towards developing for rich, white people dwelling in lofts downtown at the expense of poorer neighborhoods. Our planners have made Second Street an idol, thinking if they develop it we will get an influx of more people. The Mercer bridge is part of that. But Macon is more than Second Street, and if we cannot take care of the whole, that part will not sustain us. Hiding behind funding source excuses to explain the disparity of project funding is just excuse making. Fix Jeffersonville Road.
Erick Erickson is the host of Atlanta’s Evening News on WSB Radio.