Growth isn’t always good

I moved to Savannah from Missouri a couple of years ago. The city I moved from, O’Fallon, is the fastest growing city in Missouri. It shows, and not in a positive way.

We had little in the way of parks, few sidewalks, no bus system, and wall-to-wall stores and shopping centers (and offices). The roads are a mess, and the water/sewer utilities are a disaster.

One of the more famous parks, the Katy Trail which uses the old railroad system to create a walking and biking trail that crosses the state, was damaged when the county decided that heck yes, a developer can build mega-priced homes on the cliffs overlooking the trail.

It’s not a pleasant place to be solely because the county and the city value growth over quality of life.

So take it to heart when I warn you that growth isn’t always a positive thing.

Housing is an issue already in Savannah, as is strains on the necessary utilities to support a growing community. Savannah is already constrained by being bordered by an immovable object, Fort Stewart—not to mention the rivers, flood plains, and marshes. And I’ve heard many folks complain of too much development around already overcrowded roads and freeways. Big big houses on tiny matchbook sized lots, and all of it too expensive for the average citizen.

Savannah is not considered a good place to retire because of lack of adequate medical care.

The real question is: what does Savannah want to be when it grows up?

Does it want to be a major port with lot after lot full of containers and warehouses? Does it want to be an industry hub? Or does it want to be a quaint tourist town with lovely homes and parks and waterfront activities? How about being a new Hollywood or artsy academic center with SCAD?

All of these aren’t mutually exclusive…but it takes care and caution and planning to do it right. What I’m seeing now is less careful planning, and more of what happened to O’Fallon in Missouri. And once you’ve done the damage, there’s no going back.

Places Political

On my way to writing there was a pandemic. And we moved to Georgia. And Trump.

I had such good intentions at the start of the year. I was going to lose weight, get in shape, and most of all, return to writing on a regular basis. And then the rest of 2020 hit.

It started with COVID and it ends with COVID and a parade of masks and hand washes and furtive outdoor trips. We made it worse on ourselves by deciding come hell, high water, or pandemic, we were still going to follow through on our decision to sell our home in Missouri and move to Savannah. And we did make the thousand mile move, though it’s not something I would recommend to anyone else during a pandemic.


Moving truck about to leave Missouri


Old home vs New home

Now that the house purchase is a done deal (I don’t expect problems with loan), time to explore the differences between homes in Savannah, versus homes in Missouri.

TL;DR it’s like they’re on different planets.

Almost every home in Missouri has a basement. You get so used to it that home sizes such as 1270 don’t bug you, because you know you’ll have a basement of almost equal size.

Coastal Georgia homes do not have basements. Ever. Forever and ever. If you go to dig a basement, you’ll strike water.

Because there are no basements, do you know where hot water heaters are frequently located?

In the attic. In the friggen attic. Our home has both heat pump innards and hot water heater in the attic. Well, until we either replace it with a tankless hot water heater, or relocate that puppy to the garage.

In Missouri, every home has gutters and every Missourian constantly frets about their gutters. Why? Missourians live in constant dread of water around the house. The reason for this is Missouri is primarily clay and limestone. And clay. A drop of water is grabbed by the soil and held until next July. And all of it wants your basement.

In Savannah, few homes have gutters. If they have anything, it’s these wing things that direct water away from doors to the side, but no one gives a damn if there’s a swimming pool right next to the house. And the reason for this is the soil here is sand. In Savannah, we’re living on the world’s largest beach. Two inches of rain can fall in three seconds, and five seconds later, it’s all wicked away.
(Or evaporated into the air, so that every time you walk outside, your glasses fog over.)

In Missouri, homes don’t tend to have a lot of geegaws and frufrus, especially middle income homes. What you see, is what you get: typically a ranch, with a porch, and a deck. And maybe a flat lawn.

In Savannah, a significant number of homes have faux gables. These are little roof peaks with fake windows that are supposed to add curb appeal. Our new home actually has one, but thankfully it’s hidden by a good, honest tree.

And all the homes we’ve seen in Georgia have some variation of popcorn ceiling. Every single one. The home we bought is the only one that didn’t have a popcorn ceiling. I don’t know if that was a leading reason why it appealed to me, but it didn’t hurt. I don’t know why homes in this area rarely have smooth drywall. I suspect it must be something to do with the weather. In Missouri, popcorn ceilings will be the death of your home sale.

Trey ceilings. Georgians love their trey ceilings. True, many Missouri homes have trey ceilings, but here in Georgia, I’ve seen rooms that have trey ceilings stacked three levels high. Can you imagine painting the thing?

Lastly, grass. Missourians obsess over their lawns. They’ll stand at their property line and jaw about the mixture of seed making up their lawn until you’re ready to chew your own ear off to get away.

In Savannah, the grass is a tough old bastard that laughs at the sun. And you.

Oh, and azaleas can bloom at Christmas.

Places Political

Poor, Black, and Ugly

Missouri’s Governor Nixon asked the Missouri Attorney General to file suit in court to block the Army Corps of Engineers from blowing up the Birds Point Levee.

Blowing the levee will flood farmland and about 100 homes in Missouri, but not blowing the levee could very well endanger the entire town of Cairo, Illinois. A few years back, I wrote about Cairo, Illinois the town that pulls you in, as it pushes you away.

When Time covered Cairo, Illinois last year it described the town as poor, black, and ugly. It is, indeed, very poor and predominately black, but I cannot find it ugly. Or if I do, it’s an ugliness that reflects the south and our history and the civil rights fight and all that is both good and bad about this part of the country.

I guess the best description I have of Cairo is that it is a very real town.

Of course, none of this matters to the Missouri governor who wants to protect the farmland of Missourians. Missourians who happened to know they were building farms on lands designated as spillway, and that there was a potential for the Corps to breach the levee if flood proportions matched that of the 1937 floods. Well, we’re about to pass the levels of the 1937 floods.

But then again, who wants to save a town that’s poor, black, and ugly?

Critters Places

Pride of Place and puppy mills

Time is running out to prepare for arguments to save Proposition B, the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act. This afternoon, the Missouri Senate will debate SB 113, and most likely vote whether to support it or not. I expect the House to follow quickly if SB 113 happens to pass.

I’ve appealed to Missouri representatives’ compassion, by showing them USDA inspection reports that outline how cruelly the dogs are treated in puppy mills. Legally treated, which is morally reprehensible.

I’ve also appealed to the Missouri representatives’ civic responsibility to support the voter’s wishes. We just voted on this act, and it hasn’t even gone into effect, yet. The majority of this state supports this act, while special interests, and too much agribusiness money, are behind the effort to repeal our vote.

The only thing I have to left, is an appeal to pride. Pride in Missouri. Pride in what Missourians accomplish, what we do, the industries we have.

Fact: we have the largest number of large scale commercial dog breeding operations in the country. This isn’t hearsay, the USDA confirms this. More breeders are licensed here than any two or three other states, combined.

Yet, no one brags about the number of large scale commercial dog breeders we have. You won’t find Governor Nixon boasting of this number in any of his speeches. I’m sure he doesn’t bring up the fact when he meets with his peers.

You won’t find any of the representatives, even those who want to gut Proposition B, bragging about our number one position for dog breeders. Other than their work to repeal Proposition B, you won’t find these representatives talking about commercial dog breeding, at all.

I looked through the literature for the State and the Department of Agriculture—you know, the brag sheets. We export this much corn and soybeans, and we’re number seven for hogs, and so on. But you won’t find puppies among the listed exports, nor will you find any boasting on being the number one large scale commercial dog breeding state in the country.

Why don’t we brag about the number of breeders we have? Because deep down inside, none of us is happy at the numbers of breeders we have. None of us is proud of our position, or even of the industry. Those who fought in defense of the breeders have done so more to defeat HSUS—because of their concern about other forms of livestock—rather than because they really approve of the large scale commercial dog breeders. They just don’t care enough about the dogs, but they sure as heck care about HSUS.

The breeders, themselves? You can look at their web sites and all you’ll see is cute little pictures of puppies, usually playing with children. But don’t attempt to visit the breeder to pick up your puppy. No, they’ll be glad to mail the puppy or meet you at some neutral spot. If you do meet with them, they’ll surreptitiously hand the puppy over, like it’s made of crack cocaine.

In the days before we voted on Proposition B, if the operations were as good as the breeders said they are, all they would have had to do is show us. Invite some of the more interested folks to visit—have journalists tour their operations.

Yet I know of only three commercial breeders who were willing to meet with the public. Three out of 1,390. One breeder actually tried to run over a Fox news crew camera when they tried to visit the place.

What does this say about this industry, as a whole? An industry that keeps to the shadows, and hides from both scrutiny and public view? One that, in effect, lies to the public by pretending to be a little Mom and Pop breeder with a few dogs, when they have hundreds?

And what does it say about how we feel about this industry, when we never brag about it, never even talk about it—except when another mill is closed down because of horrid conditions. Or because of Proposition B.

If we choose to fight for industries in our state, shouldn’t we fight for ones we’re proud of?