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Grumpy Old Men

The Who’s “My Generation” is my #16 rock’n’roll song of all time. The Who made it clear that there was a new wave coming: young people. And that while the old codgers were putting them down, the new generation had something to say. The classic line, the one that never gets old, is: “I hope I die before I get old.”

That is the my hope as well. But old isn’t a physical age. I plan on skiing when I’m 95. I doubt I’ll still be doing 74 mph down the slope (I am sometimes a realist), but just to be skiing at 95 will be fun. I’ll be laughing and hooting and hollering like a kid. That’s what I want to be, a big kid who happens to be 95.

Some in our community stand up at county meetings and declare that too much money in the new SPLOST proposal is spent on kids. Apparently they would rather be able to call a policeman at 2 a.m. about the teenager trespassing in the yard instead of spending some money (and time) on that youngster when he’s a kid. Hey, I’m all for adequate funding for law enforcement, but my years as district attorney showed me that kids who had recreational opportunities weren’t the problem kids. So when is this county going to spend some money on kids?

In the past twenty years we have spent more than a hundred million dollars of SPLOST money on roads and buildings. Now, let’s think about spending something on the kids. I’m not talking about building elite schools, or new football stadiums for the great football programs, or even that beautiful Southeastern Little League Park that gets used two weeks of the year. No, I’m talking about parks. Remember those, you old codgers? Places where parents could take their kids to play tennis, swing on swings or ride a bike?

We last built a park in 1979. Some of you old codgers were young then, since that was 38 years ago. It was Ted Wright Park and it’s still in use today, as it should be. But the county, with the will of some delightful old codgers, abandoned the recreation program years ago. Houston County turned over the “recreation” program for county residents to the cities. And the cities have not done a bad job. I’m chair of the Warner Robins Noon Optimist Bowl program and I admire the effort that the cities have put into the football and cheerleader programs. They do other things too but they do it with such a meager budget that we, as a community, should be ashamed.

But no, the old codgers want more roads and bridges. They want to move State Court to Perry because why? Oh, the tax commissioner and sheriff need more room! Here’s an idea. Move the commissioners offices out of the county annex and put them in an economical metal building down at the “state of the art” landfill. One, hardly anyone ever needs a commissioner anyway, so the trip isn’t that big a deal. Two, their work can go right out the back door into their dump, where much of it belongs.

How about instead of building a single new road, we build a bike trail? Instead of double sidewalks to nowhere, they could have a bike, walking, jogging, skateboarding trail but not in a lane of traffic. How about building a state of the art recreation center, that would include a natatorium? How about thinking about the 38,400 youth in this community who are under age 18 instead of the old codgers who run things?

I know I’m starting to sound bitter, sorta like a grumpy old man who uses his spare time to sit at county meetings instead of going to an elementary school and reading to kids. But I’m not bitter at all. I don’t have time to sit and listen to that stuff, I’m trying not to be that old codger. What this county needs is for more of “my generation” to start thinking about the kids and less about being grumpy.

If you think you’re the grumpy old man, do something about it. Either tell me that I’m wrong and why, or get off your duff and help. We’ve got a new generation to raise. Next week, I’ll give you ideas for how the greatest generation can stop being grumpy old men and instead make a difference for the next generation.

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