Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Outsider

I am just as guilty as the next person who from time to time checks out forums and blogs on the internet instead of doing what I am getting paid for. At least I have a job.

One tasteless message board is particularly sad. A small group of middle-aged musicians, who post their own articles or quotes from a mean spirited rag, is just an example of the apathy and low self-esteem that plagues downtown Augusta.

And what about a group who meets every Tuesday morning that moans and groans about flower pots and kiosks? Are we to let these troubled few who talk and do nothing continue set the tone for downtown?

No, it is time for these idle few to step aside and let visionary movers and shakers set the new course for downtown Augusta. While the new regime is constantly criticized by the press it is because they are rolling up their shirt sleeves and doing something. They have learned through experience that talk is cheap. And they have better things to do then to respond to message boards.

Let’s start with our bright young mayor, Deke Copenhaver, who in the past year, has brought 1700 jobs to the Augusta area and an exciting condominium project on the river at the old train depot. He should be applauded for investing in the old Commerce Bldg on Broad Street. We are all familiar with the old saying, “put your money where your mouth is?” Deke has.

And so has new Downtown Development Chairman, Julian Roberts. Yes, he is part-owner of the JB White’s Building and absolutely no one has applauded him for the new building facade and other improvements that will pave the way for future retail space and condominiums. Julian has staying power too. He has served on the DDA Board since 2000 and is still an eternal optimist.

Chris Altweit, owner of New Moon Cafe is a breath of fresh air to downtown Augusta because she gets involved. She saw the potential and opened a second location here and continues to operate in Aiken as well. She donates proceeds to a local charity each month and donates her precious time as well. She is a new committee member for the Saturday Market on Broad and she realizes that committee members need to contribute, not talk.

David Hutcheson, owner of the Book Tavern is one to watch as well. He just does not give up! Like Julian, he has staying power. He took a leap of faith and moved his book store to Artist’s Row instead of closing shop for good when his shop did not fare well on 8th street. He attends meetings. He is involved. He is open seven days a week. And he never tires of speaking of the good things happening in downtown Augusta.

These are just a few of the new folks who are making a difference and you will hear more about others in the weeks to come. These are people who have a vested interest in the future of our downtown and work with not against other organizations such as the Downtown Development Authority and Chamber of Commerce.

And we should applaud them.