SEN. FREDDIE POWELL SIMS: Political gamesmanship betrays public trust

GUEST COMMENTARY: Political gamesmanship stifles economic productivity and creates needless political polarization

Freddie Powell Sims

Freddie Powell Sims

The Fine Arts building project for Albany State University has been a priority of the Albany legislative delegation for quite some time. Each year just prior to the legislative session, the Albany delegation meets with local governmental agencies, along with Chamber officials representing businesses, military affairs, economic development groups and others, to determine legislative priority for the Albany/Dougherty County community. This session is no different, in that this classroom construction project remains high priority.

Various members of the Board of Regents have toured the old facility and agree that Holley Hall is obsolete and does not come close to having any technological connectivity desperately needed to enhance any instruction. And for those who remain visually uninformed about this much needed project, at your earliest, please go to campus and take a tour. It is a shocking experience to say the least! Faculty and staff responsible for delivering academic pedagogy in such an inferior facility have been patient and very gracious in their quest for a new building. Teaching in such a mediocre environment should have diminished academic output, but in spite of compact teaching space, ASU students are extraordinarily competitive among Regents’ institutions and beyond. Imagine music classes being taught the same time as language and speech instruction are taking place!

As a delegation, each session we try navigating political environments that are beneficial to our constituents; political environments of which we may or may not have control. As representatives of the people, we play by political rules; do all of the right things to get our projects in the budget, even struggle with votes that are sometimes unpopular back home. Nonetheless, this construction project remains a huge question mark. Just recently via print media, the delegation was told that “as long as the community is politically smart enough not to create any unnecessary hurdles” that perhaps some concessions could be made to expedite this construction project, which I interpreted as political gamesmanship. Political gamesmanship stifles economic productivity and creates needless political polarization, especially for regions like Southwest Georgia plagued by large indigent populations and high unemployment. Such a callous statement serves no good purpose other than idle intimidation!

The construction of this $24 million project will infuse much needed local revenue into Southwest Georgia. These dollars will bring construction jobs and an economic boost for local vendors also involved in the construction phase. The end results of this construction project will provide, not only needed classroom space, but a beautiful performing arts center open to public use for all Southwest Georgians.

The strength of economic development is contingent upon tangibles that regions have to offer. Businesses that either plan expansions or relocations look for regions with strong educational institutions and engaged fine arts programs that are research-based as a means of improving the quality of life of surrounding communities. The construction project for Albany State University will most definitely extend to Southwest Georgians opportunities to move into a more competitive economic position.

State Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, D-Dawson, represents the 12th Senate District in the General Assembly.