Wherever you or I live, next door is a bad place for a lighted football field. Or a landfill. Or a low-income rental housing project.
We don’t so much mind those things somewhere else. In fact, we kind of like them. Somewhere else, that is.
We like that Richmond County has a big landfill. That gives us a convenient place to dump garbage since Columbia County’s landfill closed. We love lighted football fields, happily drive to them for Friday night games and enjoy them even more afterward the farther away they are in our rear-view mirrors.
And we love low-income rental housing, somewhere else, because that means scary people who don’t look like us can be warehoused elsewhere, presumably procreating like rabbits, ingesting drugs and listening to booming primal sounds erroneously referred to as “music.”
I’m admittedly a snob about such things, and have said so. I don’t want more low-rent housing or apartment complexes in Columbia County. My reaction isn’t an aversion to having such things next door; I don’t live where that’s an issue. I suppose if it were, I’d raise NIMBY cain, too.
Instead, I don’t like low-rent housing or apartment complexes specifically because they lower the entry cost for people moving to Columbia County and putting their kids in public schools. Period.
Let’s face it: The single greatest attraction of Columbia County, especially to lower- and middle-income residents of Richmond County who have children, is its public school system. The more expensive it is to live here, the higher the “entry” fee to people who would like to escape Richmond County and send their kids to school in Columbia County.
So whenever an apartment complex opens, or people who can’t sell their older homes instead rent them out, or low-income projects are built, it lowers the price for those who’d like to move here. That’s why, for example, Lakeside Middle School long ago became a Title 1 school: get enough kids on the lunch rolls who qualify for free- or reduced-priced lunch, and there you are.
Statistically, those lower-income kids generally also score lower academically. Like it or not, that’s reality. The result is that parts of Columbia County over the past few years have been fighting a rising tide of declining family incomes, a result of the higher availability of lower rent.
That, alone, to me, is plenty of reason to dislike such things as Magnolia Trace. And not that there’s anything wrong with it, but it just strikes me that the main opponents of the project would not give two hoots in hell about the proposal if it were somewhere else – preferably, far enough away that they would never have to worry about inadvertently seeing any scary people who don’t look like them.
The scary people to me, though, are the families who move to the county on the cheap, increasing demand for services and raising my taxes because we have to build more schools to make room for their kids and hire more cops to keep an eye on them when they aren’t in school.
Why in the world should we encourage that next door to me, or you, or anybody?
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher The Columbia County News-Times. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (706) 863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/barrypaschal.)