Saturday, August 9, 2008

Why Are People Moving Out of Chatham? Why Do We Lose Major Companies to Other Counties?

UGA demographer Doug Bachtel recently issued a report on the changing demographics of Chatham County (you can read the entire story at empire/8/9/09).

The paper writes, "In recent years more people have moved out of Chatham County and into neighboring counties. Most of these people have been white, with more education with higher incomes, he said." Futher, "Chatham County and Savannah are not growing like they should, people are moving to the suburbs. This issue is not going to go away. Once it starts, it's really hard to stop."

I don't think it's limited to whites and you must wonder what the reason is that so many people, family people black and white, are moving out? I  will say that the number one reason is the school system. The school system is also the reason that many companies choose not to locate here. Company executives have to ask what kind of school system is available to our employee's dependents? Is it a good school system, is it achieving at par with other school systems? Is is safe? Will we be able to attract and retain our workforce based on the local schools? It is the answers to questions like these that cause companies to look elsewhere and local people to move out of Chatham.

According to Bachtel, "It's going to take a total community-wide effort to improve the quality of life in Chatham County." Amen.

I would like to add a further definition to the demographers solution and that's the specific issue of achieving better public policy from our local governments: county, city and schools. Improving quality of life is a goal, not a plan to improve it.

The next posts I make will be about specific public policy ideas/changes that I believe are the ways and means to improving quality of life in our community. I look forward to hearing from you as to what your thoughts and ideas are on these important questions.


Anonymous said...

Those who have been involved in shaping public policy in Chatham County in the past 10 years should look to themselves for the failures of Chatham's school system.

The dirty little secret in Chatham County is that the school system has had years to deal with AYP, or lack of "adequate yearly progress".

It is a scandal for the school system to now propose virtual classrooms and worry (too late) about "good schools" being overwhelmed with students transferring from failing schools--these difficulties should have been seen a mile away and years ago.

Instead of trying, say, one new charter KIPP school at the middle school level where many of our students start to fail, Chatham County opted instead for talk, talk, and more talk.

As even the Savannah Morning News's Tom Barton admitted in print recently, "egos" were responsible for the failure of Chatham's school systems to start even one KIPP program seven years.

And there is no one "ego" responsible--ruling elites supported disastrous new hires long after they should have been let go, elected school officials had no clue about the inevitable problems on the horizon and people who have outstayed their effectiveness on the school board and in the classrooms just can't be uprooted.

Other cities and states have begun to reclaim their public schools, one by one. When will our ruling oligarchies chose to get behind some new thinking and believe that Chatham can have higher expectations for our schools and not just "lip service" ?

Johm, I hope you will keep talking about the issues that matter in Chatham County. What we need now is the will to find new solutions for our old and growing problems.

John McMasters said...


Thank you for posting. I believe you said it well that we are living in a very old city with equally old problems. The way out of our current and historic problems requires, (demands) new thinking and finally that will lead us to better public policy.

So what matters most is we must keep talking about what matters and questioning why the problems continue unabated. This is true for our schools, drug enforcement policy, environmental best practices, and impact fees for new construction so we can back off of taxing ourselves to pay for growth.

There are 5 or 6 candidates this election cycle that seem to "get it" and are running campaigns on new ideas and better public policies. It's a start!