“We have broadband”, said Bill Slaughter, while other people had different opinions on that and other topics Wednesday night at the Mildred Hunter Community Center.
Corey Hull introduced the session and a small but vocal group of citizens discussed all the main topic headings. He noted that there are more than twelve plans already in place in the various cities and counties in the Valdosta Lowndes Metropolitan Planning Area. Yet there were many common themes in those plans, and VLMPO was looking for other common areas in these meetings and online, and more specifically strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. If you have a community group of any size, VLMPO can come talk to it. They’ve been to the Chamber, to Rotary, to churches, etc. They expect to wrap this process up in December, with common vision and goals for the next ten or twenty years.
Local officials present included Matt Martin, Planning and Zoning Administrator for the City of Valdosta, and Lowndes County Chairman Bill Slaughter. Martin didn’t say much, but Bill Slaughter was quite vocal. I thanked him for speaking up, even though I didn’t agree with everything he said. He helped clarify current county codes for stormwater retention, and Martin helped clarify the city’s codes.
As a long-time participant in local development (he’s CEO of Waller Heating and Air) Slaughter said when people are buying houses all they look at is the up-front price; they won’t even take into account utility bill savings due to efficiency, and they don’t look at resale value. This was in the context of solar power. On the other hand, he also said they’d tried solar back in the 1970s and people used it as long as there were subsidies and then it faded away. I asked him if he was aware that solar was a lot cheaper now. He nodded but didn’t seem interested.
Slaughter made a very good point that many municipalities own their own electricity companies, which lets them implement many kinds of incentive programs that other local government cannot. I concured that that’s why it doesn’t work to say everybody else can do everything Austin, Texas has done, because Austin owns Austin Energy, and Austin is a lot bigger than our local community. There are specific things Austin has done that can be implemented elsewhere, but not everything. Slaughter nodded his head at that.
About the Internet, Slaughter said “We have broadband” and “his researches” show that the only problem is when lots of people use it it gets slow connecting to the rest of the world. In answer to a question from Bill Branham, Slaughter said yes we have 4G (we do, but that doesn’t mean everybody has it) and we even have 5G (which was quite puzzling, since that isn’t expected anywhere until 2020). It’s nice to see he’s defined away what only in February he called “one of the number one issues”. I suppose that’s not surprising, considering that in that same Industrial Authority meeting VLCIA Executive Director Andrea Schruijer remarked, “I don’t want to say we don’t have broadband.” This is a common head-in-the-sand theme I’ve heard from others of our local “leaders”, as they define away our problems!
Actual rigorous research shows that for income, jobs, and creative workers we need as many people as possible to use fast affordable Internet connections adoption matters more than availability, and speed matters for creative workers. That research demonstrated causality. In addition, a smaller study showed a correlation of broadband fiber with higher house prices, which maybe means some people do care about fast Internet access as part of a house purchase package. And no, most people around here don’t have broadband; many don’t have Internet access at all because they can’t afford $60/month. Even those who do have 6 Mbps Mediacom links don’t really have broadband of a speed that creative workers need.
More on Bill Slaughter and transparency in a separate post.
Here’s a video playlist:
Open House at Mildred Hunter on Common Community Vision
Common Community Vision,
Open House, Valdosta-Lowndes Metropolitan Planning Organization (VLMPO),
Videos by John S. Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE),
Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 23 October 2013.