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The Story of PPA

This represents an important interim step in the PPA process and is part of the effort to maintain openness and to communicate our work to the public.
This is not the final product. The final product will only come after the steering committee retreat and after the Athens community has an opportunity to review and comment on the steering committee's recommendations.


There are several themes that permeate the recommendations developed by our community during the Partners for a Prosperous Athens process. First and foremost, it is very obvious that Athenians have a long-term commitment to improving the quality of life for all community members. At all levels, our community wants to help and it wants to help in meaningful ways. As proof, one need look no further than the overwhelming approval of SPLOST for improving our city and schools.

Although the various PPA committee "stories" that follow address many barriers that contribute to our high poverty rate, there seems to be one underlying challenge. This challenge is our "culture of fragmented response" to poverty and our community's "focus on process and talk" without follow-through. Each committee's story calls for a "culture of comprehensive, collaborative action and accountability for community results." The message is clear - we must change the status quo.

Almost every "story" from the PPA committees focuses on the need to develop a comprehensive strategy -- a comprehensive health care strategy, a comprehensive housing strategy, a comprehensive education reform strategy, and so on. While every community institution can justify the programs they operate (i.e. many patients receive free medical care, individuals receive housing assistance, families are counseled, people attend workshops, and program participants are getting jobs), the negative indicators for the community stay constant. Our kids continue to drop out of school, many in our workforce continue to be unskilled, businesses are locating in other communities, and our poverty level remains the same.

Obviously something isn't working. By themselves, our institutions and our systems are unable to address these big community issues, and inadequate results are accepted as the status quo. This discourages people from serving on community boards, wastes limited resources, and creates a disempowered, disenfranchised citizenry. The PPA process has shown that people are not apathetic, though they may be cynical. People have doubts that meaningful, systemic changes can occur to address the serious issues behind the committees' recommendations. History has shown that tough talk is much easier than tough action.

Our biggest challenge is to lead this community into a "culture of collaboration," working together towards a greater vision. We must demonstrate our willingness to embrace new ideas, share power, become involved, demand excellence, and, where necessary, consider the appropriateness of new ways to govern.

The 155 PPA recommendations offer a path to prosperity for every person in this community. They tell a story of how the people of Athens are coming together to face real issues and offer creative solutions. Clearly, the people are ready for tough action.