Punishing the Islands?

I am not going to make specific reference to the ignominy that’s being visited on the citizens of Glynn County by their elected and appointed public officials because, to be honest, they are an embarrassment in a democracy.

To the editor of The News:

Are Sea Island and Saint Simons Island residents being punished for having even considered declaring themselves independent of the bungling Glynn County Commission? Is that why residents are last in line to be allowed to return to their island homes after a hurricane that didn’t deliver all the promised destruction and, therefore, not all the dollars from Washington our officials counted on getting?

Of course not! This FUBAR was planned as far back as 2011 and the reason there are no shelters in Glynn County is because FEMA and Homeland Security supposedly set it as a condition for reimbursing whatever expenses the state experienced from a natural emergency. Was there citizen input at the time? Probably not. Citizen participation in local government has been minimal in Glynn County for a long time.

In fact, the Job Corps Facility on the Golden Isles Airport property has been constructed to withstand hurricanes and those students, unlike the dormitory residents of the College of Coastal Georgia, did not have to be evacuated. And, indeed, some of our Inns along the interstate served both travelers and affluent residents well during our most recent rain and wind event.

That Southeast Georgia Health Systems, whose buildings are, for the most part, relatively new (constructed since Hurricane Floyd prompted an evacuation of the area in 1999), have not been built to withstand a category three or four storm because they and their architects do their own thing, without citizen oversight, is a damned shame. Though, I can see why the health care bureaucracy is eager to avoid public review. Just look at the agitation the proposal to remove a tree buffer along a little lake has caused!

Trees! That’s the problem. Isn’t protecting the canopy of trees on Saint Simons Island one of the main reasons for the incorporation movement? Hasn’t the wholesale removal of the trees at the Mariners’ Landing been central to the controversy? Aren’t we still waiting for a tree protection ordinance just for the islands while the Canal Road shopping center, the solar farm on Harry Driggers Boulevard and the Development Authority’s tract along highway 99 have been stripped of all major vegetation with great abandon and the County’s blessing?

Just you wait. The few trees left standing along the Golden Isles Parkway in conjunction with the shopping center project are going to become poster boys for why leaving trees standing is a bad idea. Which it is, when you fill all around them and turn their habitat into a swamp. Standing water liquifies the soil and then, when a wind comes, it knocks the trees down. The substitute palms in the parking lot were just broken in half. That’s what happens to things that stick out like sore thumbs because there’s no overarching canopy to disperse the thrust of the wind.

I’m not sure our public officials understand that the canopy of vegetation serves as a buffer against the wind, in addition to storing rain water, cooling the surrounding air and putting out oxygen. All they see is that when the trees are trimmed by the storm, there’s a mess for public works to clean up. That some of the mess could be avoided by routine annual pruning is not appealing because that costs money for men and machinery Glynn County doesn’t want to spend. Having the National Guard sit on street corners to arrest citizens until some contractor has run up a bill for the feds doesn’t cost them a dime.

But, of course, it’s all our money and it’s all our time that’s being wasted to make some public officials feel more important than they should. Is that a problem setting up a separate municipality would avoid? The City of Brunswick did manage to get back to normal in record time. But, declaring emergencies and using them as an excuse to order the citizenry around is a problem that needs to be addressed at the state and perhaps even federal level. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security was a big mistake. Putting more agencies under their umbrella doesn’t diffuse the militaristic attitude, which argues that populations have to be controlled to keep them “safe and secure.” Things are kept safe and secure by being locked up or tied down–behaviors that violate both human and civil rights.

And don’t let them tell you for a moment that their intentions were good!