DUI Schools Flourish in Athens

On St. Patrick’s Day Daniel Wetmore, was stopped at a DUI checkpoint as he escorted a handful of downtown fun-lovers home.  Wetmore is an employee of Zingo, a transportation service aimed at cleaning the streets of drunk drivers.  

Athens’ downtown nightlife and alcohol culture makes Athens a great market for the DUI school industry. 

Athens has four DUI school, more schools than any other city in Georgia -minus Atlanta- according to Georgia Department of Driver Services.  Augusta and Columbus have three DUI Schools and have nearly twice the population as Athens.

The University of Georgia Police Department and the Athens Clarke County Police Department executed a DUI crackdown on St. Patrick’s Day and set up various checkpoints on Athens’ roads.  Police arrested 63 people for DUI after over 700 vehicles were stopped, according to The Red and Black. 

“[After arrest] there are many avenues that a DUI offender might take,” said Officer Darrell Ponder from the UGA Police Department.  “A DUI is a misdemeanor until their fourth offense, but every time a person arrested for a DUI punishment can vary from mandatory DUI classes and community service to jail time.” 

Some of these 63 DUI arrests will soon be presented with the option, maybe only option, of taking a course at one of the four Athenian DUI schools, Officer Ponder said. 

The course is 20 hours long and the total cost is $280, according to Georgia Department of Driver Services. 

Athens drinking and driving problem is a blemish on the community but the DUI schools flourish.

DUI offenses within five years of each other for one violator are beyond DUI schools’ help, according to the Georgia Department of Driver Services.  Multiple DUI violations require a heavier punishment.   

Upon the fourth offense they are considered to have a habitual violation status and a system is placed in the offender’s car.  He must pass a breathalyzer test to start his car.  If he fails the test he will be arrested, Officer Ponder said. 

“If they take a DUI class or not is up to the judge,” said Susan Poss, a DUI instructor that teaches the Prime for Life class at A-1Athens DUI and Defensive Driving School. 

“My class has an average of 15 students and there are always UGA students-an average of three or four,” Poss said.  “It teaches low risk guidelines in order to avoid future course of prevention and figures out [the DUI students’] level of risk.”

The University of Georgia Police arrested 207 people for DUIs in 2008, said Ponder.

The DUI industry has marched in to swallow the market Athens provides, said Mike Salck owner and of A-1 DUI and Defensive Driving School, the biggest DUI and defensive driving school in Georgia, owning 14 schools. 

Georgia consists of over 200 DUI schools owned by individually owned companies that fund and found two trade associations (Driving Educator of Georgia and Georgia association of Risk Reduction Education [GARDE]) that participate in the companies’ public relations and collaborate between the companies, Salck said. 

The state’s regulating hand is firm in this industry.  The state requires licenses for everything.  “The state licenses all DUI companies.  Each school has a separate license to operate.  The instructors of the courses have to receive a license,” said Salck.  “This ensures that all the classes are the same and that the students get the highest caliber of learning and training.”

Many options are available to prevent partiers from driving while intoxicated and all the dangers that come with it, other than a tag-along designated driver. 

Zingo sends designated drivers, like Wetmore, on scooters that collapse into the trunk of the customers’ vehicles and drive them to their destination in their own car.

On the busiest days of the week Zingo gets an average of 10-14 calls a night and over 20 calls during football season, said Wetmore, dispatcher and driver for Zingo. Zingo’s set price is $20 per ride and two dollars per mile after three miles. 

“I’d have to say 80 to 90 percent of our calls are from downtown [Athens],” said Wetmore.  “I’d say that most people, if Zingo did not pick them up they’d drive home drunk.”

 “I probably saved them thousands of dollars and their lives,” Wetmore said from that St. Patrick’s night.  “I love my job because I do feel like I’m saving lives.”



Local non-profit prospers with volunteer support


Putting down the phone, Mary Miller sighs a breathe of relief.  She smiles at the photographs online and chuckles at her own picture.  Turning back to work, she knows she will be back again this weekend.

At first glance Mary Miller is your typical librarian – a studious, literature loving worker at the University of Georgia’s Peabody Awards department.  A documentary junkie and novel enthusiast, her desk is cluttered with dusty books and archaic tapes of television classics.

But look a little closer, and you’ll find more than meets the eye.

An active philanthropist, Miller is one of many who dedicate their time each week to Athica, Athens’ own Institute for Contemporary Art.

Beginning in 2002 as a completely volunteer organization full of UGA students, faculty and local artists, Athica has recently matured enough to hire a paid director to run its front office.

Located in a 2,200 sq. foot warehouse within a growing area of downtown Athens, the Tracy St. “Unit 4” has slowly matured and developed a healthy number of local followers.  With the utilization of social media, Athica has been able to target a larger audience than with traditional mailings.

Facebook and Myspace invitations have enabled personalized messages and responses, something that Miller believes brought record turnout to their latest show.

“I think we’ve gotten a little bit smarter in communicating with the community,” Miller said.  “We have a Facebook page, so instead of just sending something in the mail you can specifically invite people.  Everyone on the board invites 50 people – that’s 500 people who have specifically been asked to come.”

The Saturday opening brought 300 people and set a benchmark for future Athica events.  Focusing on America’s addiction to fossil fuels, the event featured Christoph Gielen and art illustrating greenhouse gas emissions’ effects on global climate change.

Athica gained national recognition by receiving the Andy Warhol Foundation grant early last year for the organization’s dedication to non-mainstream art.  The three-year-long donation will be used to bring a nationally known artist to Athens whose work has been controversial in other venues.

“That’s real recognition of Athica’s success as far as our ability to mount interesting shows and promote arts that would otherwise lack a venue of expression,” Miller said.  “It’s a prestigious grant for an institution like ours, and having won it is a ‘You’ve come a long way, baby’ kind of thing.”

Money is the real contention for the group.  Miller fears community donations can affect Athica’s choice in exhibit selections, and says a careful balance must be maintained.

“We do want art that will make people think, but some of that is art that some people will be uncomfortable with,” Miller said.  “Do you not exhibit that because you want the county to give you money?  Especially with the economy tanking, it’s a balance to make ends meet.”

Local donations are appreciated, and a list of preferred items are available online on their Web site, www.athica.org.  Suggested items include 120 watt flood and spot bulbs, small tools and pedestals.

Mayor Heidi Davison contributes a yearly donation from a personal discretionary fund, but the group is careful in how they choose to use it.  Thank-you postcards are often made, and the image is thoughtfully chosen.

“We’re not being controversial for controversy’s sake, but there might be the moment that your donor is one of the people that finds the art that you brought difficult,” Miller said.  “How do you structure your relationship with them so that ultimately they’re at peace with that?”

Local musicians playing for a cause

Children sit Indian style on the classroom floor of Thomas Lay Community Center as Carl Lindberg plucks on the strings of his upright bass. The children stare, wide-eyed and spellbound as they listen to the music being made right in front of them, most have never seen or heard such an instrument before.

Community centers across the Athens such as Thomas Lay, Rocksprings Community Center, and East Athens Community Center are witnessing scenes such as this every week in a new program, AthFest AfterSchool.

AthFest is a non-profit corporation with the mission of educating citizens and
visitors about the music and arts scene of Athens, GA. Since 1997, AthFest has organized an annual festival in downtown Athens to showcase the incredible musicians, artists, and businesses of the community. What most people don’t know is January 2009, AthFest introduced a revolutionary way to showcase Athens music through AthFest AfterSchool, a series of music-focused educational performances for children in the Athens area.

The goal of AthFest AfterSchool is to expose students to all aspects of music, from musicians playing instruments to the recording and production process.

So far, there have been eleven performances in after-school programs at area recreation centers with plans to bring the program into local schools.

“As Athfest’s mission as a non-profit is to promote education of Athens music and arts, its only natural that we would look to our schools as our next way to promote our cause,” said Jared Bailey, director of AthFest. “Public school systems aren’t able to make room in their budgets for music programs like they do for say English or math. Who’s to say music education isn’t as important as math? I personally would argue that it is.”

Apparently Bailey isn’t alone in his sentiments.

A study released by The National Association for Music Education shows that the vast majority of school administrators interviewed believe that music education has a powerful and lasting impact upon their students, making music education an essential element of every child’s education. In fact, 96 percent of public school principals interviewed believe that participating in music education encourages and motivates students to stay in school longer, and 89 percent agree that music education contributes to higher graduation rates.

“I was at one of AthFest AfterSchool’s first performances by Joel Byron of Grogus,” recalls Jennifer Kumnick. “Byron did a performance for a large group on a Chinese violin. All the kids laughed when they heard the strange sounds coming out of the instrument. They loved it! Each of the them wanted to go up and touch it and see how it worked.”

Kumnick is a social worker for Clarke County School District who has worked closely with AthFest AfterSchool since its inception.

“Bailey and I were on several committees together and when he mentioned the ideas for such a program, I offered to be his connection to the school system,” said Kumnick.

AthFest AfterSchool is designed as a continuation of the state set curriculum of music education, such as chorus or band practice, already in place. The program is targeted at mentoring children, specifically middle school students, to get them thinking about music as a possible creative outlet.

In the future AthFest Afterschool hopes to introduce programs not just in after school programs but in the classroom as well. They also hope to present aspects of music business to the program.

“We want to expose them to new kinds of music that they might not have know are out there,” said Kumnick. “One of our goals is to introduce music business as a possible career path and have presentations from not only musicians, but also song writers, promoters, producers, and managers to share their experiences in the music businesses. We want to get the kids thinking: this is something cool I could do with my future.”

“AthFest AfterSchool is a win, win situation,” said Bailey. “Not only are we providing music education to the future of our community, but we are also providing an opportunity for local musicians to make a little extra money. Every bit counts for local artists, especially now with how bad the economy is.”

AthFest AfterSchool is made possible by a grant from Grassroots Arts Program (GAP) of the Georgia Council for the Arts. According to Clayton County Arts website, GAP is designed to encourage regional collaborative efforts that maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of the delivery of arts programs and services. Activism at the local or regional level ensures that decisions are made by individuals who are most informed and concerned such as Bailey and Kumnick.

Because the AthFest AfterSchool’s grant is just $ 2,000, they’ve had to do some creative fundraising to make the program successful. Last June REM donated a signed Gretsch guitar, which AthFest auctioned off on Ebay with all proceeds going to AthFest educational programs. This year Widespread Panic has offered to donate a guitar for auction.

Artists to perform for AthFest AfterSchool so far have been Carl Linberg and Joel Byron of local music group, Grogus as well as by Jason Harwell, Rebuilt Records president and recording artist. Every performance has been acoustic to keep the setting as quiet and intimate as possible.

Carl Lindberg founder, producer and director of Grogus, plays upright bass, congas, percussion, and guitar. Lindberg jumped at the chance to help with AthFest AfterSchool. At Lindberg’s performances he has played the guitar, African drums and stand up bass for groups of children of all ages as well as discussed how different instruments are used and how he writes songs.

“I think it’s a really beautiful program because I get to share culture with young people and expose them a style of music they wouldn’t necessarily hear on the radio and might not hear at school or at home,” said Lindberg.

“I’m excited to share my love of music with the kids of Athens and plant the seeds of self expression in the young generations.”

This Friday will be the first of many AthFest AfterSchool presentation at a local school, Coile Middle Schools with many performances expected to follow.

AthFest is actively seeking musicians interested in participating in AthFest AfterSchool and local educators who are interested in bringing the program to their schools. More information can be found on http://www.athfest.org. Please contact Jennifer Kumnick for more questions about participating in or donating to AthFest AfterSchool at education@athfest.org

Athens receives prestigious preservation award

The Athens-Clarke County unified government website lists accolades that the city has received. This list is extensive and includes titles like “Best Place to Recapture Your Youth” from Fortune and “College Music Scene That Rocks” from Rolling Stone. Now the ACC webmaster can chalk up another one.


Athens has been named one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations for 2009.


The other 11 cities honored with this designation are Santa Barbara, Calif., Saugatuck-Douglas, Mich., Virginia City, Nev., Santa Fe, N.M., Buffalo, N.Y., Lititz, Pa., Bristol R.I., Hot Springs, S.D., Franklin, Tenn., Fort Worth, Texas and Lake Geneva, Wis.


Many of the distinguished cities are not widely recognized. The destinations are not chosen solely for their night life or sightseeing opportunities. Honored cities meet a list of criteria that many travelers overlook.


Distinctive Destinations “offer an authentic visitor experience by combining dynamic downtowns, cultural diversity, attractive architecture, cultural landscapes and a strong commitment to historic preservation and revitalization,” according to the Dozen Distinctive Destinations website.


Athens is the fourth city in Georgia to be designated. Jekyll Island, Thomasville and Macon precede it. This year marks a decade of Dozen Distinctive Designations awards.


The National Trust for Historic Preservation is the most renowned organization in its field, and their awards carry high levels of prestige.


President Harry Truman signed The National Trust for Historic Preservation into law in 1949. The purpose of the institution is to provide “leadership, education, advocacy and resources to save America’s diverse historic places and revitalize communities,” according to the National Trust website.


Representatives from the Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau, Welcome Center and Heritage Foundation coauthored the nomination form. The exhaustive application covers nearly every aspect of Athens culture, from historic home restoration to downtown shopping.


“Nestled just below the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the vibrant college town of Athens, Georgia is known for its unique blend of traditional heritage and trend-setting Southern culture,” the application reads.


Letters of support were submitted by Athens Downtown Development Authority, R.E.M. manager Bertis Downs, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, Mayor Heidi Davison and Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner Michael L. Thurmond.


“Thank you for the opportunity to share what is so special about Athens,” Mayor Davison said in her letter. “A few years before his death, our favorite hometown poet, John Seawright said, ‘If I find a better place, I’ll go there.’”


Mayor Davison accepted the award on behalf of Athens. She was presented a plaque from the National Trust at a ceremony held at the Taylor-Grady House, a National Historic Landmark.


Athens will benefit in several ways from this award.


There may be no discernable changes in historic preservation practices, but people will “acknowledge the value of historic preservation and the value of the work the Heritage Foundation promotes,” Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation executive director Amy Kissane said.


Historic preservation is a painstaking and costly endeavor. Athens Preservation Planner Amber Eskew believes that the recognition from this award will garner the interest and funds needed to sustain preservation projects.


“This designation offers recognition to the importance of historic preservation which will help to ensure the continued support for these programs from our citizens and our government officials,” she said.


Kissane also anticipates an increase in tourism in Athens.


“Having this award, we get a good amount of free publicity,” she said. “We are featured on a section on their website. We will be in the Preservation magazine. There are 11 other communities, and most of them have run stories about their own destination, but typically they list the other communities.”


She acknowledged that people are not traveling as much due to the poor economy, but she did not discount the people within the region who will make weekend and day trips to Athens.


“Athens is an ideal hub for quick and easy excursions to nearby areas that showcase the best of Georgia’s natural resources and attractions,” the Dozen Distinctive Destinations website reads. 


The Heritage Foundation is organizing a year of special events, including tours of the elements that made Athens worthy of the title “Distinctive Destination,” to celebrate the honor and to draw more tourism to the Classic City.


“Heritage tourists spend more money and they stay longer,” Welcome Center director Evelyn Reece said. “The marketing value of the award is beneficial. With the economic downturn, this could not be better timing.”

As University graduates move on, downtown restaurants cash in

By: Whitney Skeeters

            When Pomp and Circumstance plays in Sanford Stadium this May, you can hear a different tune in downtown Athens: cha-ching.


            UGA’s graduation weekend provides a welcomed oasis to downtown restaurants, shops and hotels suffering a drought of home football games.


            In 2008, between December and May commencement ceremonies, the University spit out almost 9,000 bachelor’s, master’s, first professional and doctoral degrees. During the weekend of May 8-10, thousands of students will don their caps and gowns and take their seat in the stadium. The even more intimidating number of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends invited by these graduates will descend upon the Classic City. Seasoned locals may groan at the traffic, but must keep in mind the money getting pumped into the Athens-Clarke County government. Athens citizens stand to benefit from the visitors due to various taxes, the hotel-motel tax in particular.


            The Starbucks downtown is one popular hub for the graduation crowd. It is located on the corner of a historic building in the heart of downtown, and conveniently close to the Arch, a spot guaranteed to be swarmed by black robes and gushing parents clutching digital cameras. The familiar symbolic icon reassures visitors of a place to relax from the bustle, and the interior oozes of an artsy Athens culture parents and students want to be a part of.


            Starbucks employee Sunny Sorrells said they are already planning for the weekend, making sure to staff up to accommodate the numbers.


            Heery’s Clothes Closet also anticipates more sales. Manager Linda Rasch said foot traffic that weekend is almost comparable to that of home football games.


            “The weekend is great,” Rasch said. “Parents come in here with their children – they love to come in the store.”


            Rasch said not only are the families simply browsing what the town has to offer, they also seem more likely to make purchases that weekend.


            “The parents are paying the bill,” Rasch said, explaining why students are likely to bring their parents to the store. “I also think parents love to see the different stores their kids have been involved in during the four years they’ve been here.”


            Next door, Encore boasts more sales that weekend, but according to co-owner John Widmer, it isn’t much more.


            “You’ll see a lot of parents in town and students in the graduation outfits, but as far as business I’d say it’s a little busier but nothing great,” Widmer said. “It’s a weekend and weekends in general are always good. There are always functions going on.”


            Widmer predicts restaurants are the biggest benefactors from graduation, and restaurant employees whole-heartedly agree.


            The Last Resort Grill is crowded with students on any given weekend, so it makes sense they would choose it to celebrate one of their last weekends here. Colorful, abstract paintings hang on bare, brick walls while water is delivered in rustic glass pitchers. The playfully elegant font on the menu seems indicative of the items on it: strange and creative combinations but always exquisite and superior quality. To graduates, it is the perfect way to celebrate the final chapter of their Athens story: a mix of culture and sophistication.


            “Are we busy at graduation? Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely – incredibly,” said Last Resort employee Jeffrey Taylor. “It could be raining, snowing, or 150 degrees and we would still be incredibly busy.”


            Although Last Resort does not accept reservations, it certainly doesn’t stop graduates from trying. Taylor said the calls began before Christmas.


            East West Bistro is also a favorite that weekend. Long-time cook Chino Hathcodk said they are typically completely booked the month before graduation.


            “Our Sunday brunch after graduation is one of our busiest brunches of the year,” Hathcodk said. “The whole weekend is busy. We’re pretty much booked Thursday through Sunday.”


            Mama’s Boy feeds graduation crowds for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Known for its elaborate brunch and unique twist on down-home cooking, Mama’s Boy is ideal for family celebrations. Cooper Currin said they began taking reservations last month.


            “We all stand around waiting and then they all come in at once. It’s been like that at every restaurant I’ve worked at in Athens during graduation,” Currin said.


              She thinks all restaurants in Athens benefit from the weekend.


            “Everyone wants to take their parents to their favorite restaurant, or at least a nicer restaurant,” Currin said. “But the truth is, you’ve got to eat, so a lot have to go wherever they get in.”


            As openings for reservations rapidly dwindle, no industry in Athens can attest to the need to plan ahead more than the hotels. Most are already completely booked, especially ones located downtown.


            A sales representative for all three Hilton hotels in downtown said many people make graduation reservations a year in advance. As of press time, they are 90 percent full, and employee Cassie Hayes said they are typically completely booked by the month before.


            Each business agrees the weekend does not bring in quite as much money as gameday weekends they all look forward to seeing that familiar processional of spenders.

Parking fine increase affects students, businesses

Trent Mize returned to his black Ford Mustang after finishing his only class to find a bright yellow envelope placed in between the automobile’s windshield and its wiper on Monday.


Mize lifted the envelope off of the front of his car, smiling, knowing he was late returning to his vehicle parked in a downtown Athens parking space. The hour-long meter ran out and a $3 fine was levied.


No big deal, right?


“I think I’ll manage,” Mize, a sophomore pre-med major from Alpharetta said. “I’ve actually received plenty of tickets but it’s not a big deal since it’s only $3. It’s actually cheaper to receive a downtown ticket than to park in a parking deck on campus so I’m OK with it.”


Unfortunately for Mize, those days are soon to be over.


Last week, the Athens-Clarke County Commission voted to raise downtown parking ticket prices – but not by a small amount. Tickets costing $3 for parking at an expired meter will more than triple to $10. The fine for putting change into a meter after it’s expired will be $15 as opposed to the $5 ticket levied now.


Mize was unaware of the changes that will take effect on July 1.


“Wow, I guess I only have a couple months to get away with parking downtown for cheap,” he said, laughing. “I mean, $3 is fine, but $10 adds up a lot faster.”


Athens-Clarke County Commissioner David Lynn approved this decision, saying it might garner some attention for those who park downtown and receive $3 fine after $3 fine.


“This decision has absolutely nothing to do with making the county more money,” Lynn said. “But rather it has to do with parking demand. A lot of people are taking up downtown parking spaces, limiting spots for those coming to shop or dine. This change will hopefully prevent anyone from parking downtown for too long since they will no longer only expect a minor fine.”


Also, those seeking downtown parking in any of its 750 spaces will see a raise in meter fees, as parking time will be raised from 25 to 50 cents per hour.


Brett Smith, one of the managers at the downtown Athens restaurant Pita Pit, said he’s worried how this change will affect business.


“I’m worried that more people may want to park and eat elsewhere,” Smith said. “If customers now have to worry about a $10 fine and pay an extra quarter, especially in an economic time where everyone is hurting, then they may want to go to a competitor or try something else away from downtown where they don’t have to pay to park or worry about paying a lot in a fine.”


Enforcing meters will change too, as cars parked downtown face ticketing possibility from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. – a change from the original 6 p.m. cut-off.


Junior University of Georgia student Lou Woods, a finance major from Brunswick, said he’s in favor of the Athens-Clarke County’s decision to raise parking ticket prices.


“It’s not that big of a deal to me,” Woods said. “If you’re going to park downtown, just pay the meter and keep it fed whether it’s a quarter or 50 cents. If you pay the meter, then you won’t have to pay 10 bucks. I would rather find a space downtown and pay 50 cents an hour than have some chump park in a spot for four hours and receive a $3 fine.”


Already written on the Athens-Clarke County law books was that parking fines double after 30 days. Simple arithmetic shows this will be more costly with the higher fines. If someone lets a parking ticket slip through their memory, the fine will increase to $20 instead of just $6.


“It’s a shame, really,” Smith said. “I just hope it doesn’t affect business.”


While the Athens-Clarke County Commission hopes to eliminate people that don’t mind a cheap $3 fine from parking downtown, Mize said it won’t affect him for the short term. With a number of Mize’s classes on the University of Georgia’s north campus, he said it’s been a lot better to pay an occasional $3 fine downtown than a $40 fine from the university’s parking services.


“As long as the change hasn’t gone into affect I’ll probably still park downtown – at least until the end of the semester,” Mize said. “But after that, who knows if I will take that risk? The county might win on this one because I can handle a $3 ticket every now and then but a $10 fine? I’m not so sure about that.”

ACC Solid Waste Department continues to educate with resource guide

Lauren Middleton recycles. She recycles paper, plastic, batteries and even old light bulbs. But when the triathalete wanted to recycle her old bike, she did not know where to look.

Then she received the 2009 Environmental Resource Guide for Athens-Clarke County in the mail. Suddenly, all her recycling questions were answered.

“I am a stickler for recycling, but some things you just don’t know where to take,” Middleton, a senior biology major, said. “When I got this guide, I found out where to not only take my bike, but where to things like take food scraps too. I did not even know those could be recycled!”

Suki Janessen, Waste Reduction Administrator for the ACC Recycling Division, wanted just this thing to happen.

“We are hoping people will learn and act on something from the guide they did not know, because that will keep out community continuing to recycle and staying green,” Janessen said.

The Guide, which is twenty pages long, is an extensive list of recyclable materials and where to dispose of them. Some included are: eyeglasses, ink cartridges, pizza boxes, shoes, propane tanks and cooking oil.

It has been printed and mailed out to everyone with an account at the Water Department for the past nine years. Suki, who has only been with the Solid Waste Department for the past four years, said she sees it continuing to be distributed.

“Luckily, we have not had to stop sending the guide due to budget cuts,” Janessen said. “Unless times get really tight, I see it surviving.”

A cut they have had to make is the calendar. The guide used to come with a yearly calendar, and removing it was a creative way to keep the guide going, yet make it cheaper to print, Janessen said.

“So far we have had not complaints about taking the calendar out, but I have a feeling the older community members might,” Janessen said.

The Recycling Division of the Solid Waste Department, located on College Avenue, is not the only group who contributes to the guide. Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful, a non-profit group that focuses on issues that affect the appearance of the community, also contributed.

“We are a small organization and need to have a big voice to stress the importance of keeping Athens beautiful,” Stacee Farrell, Executive Director or KACCB, said. “Community support is what we depend on to keep Athens-Clarke County beautiful.”

According to the ACC Solid Waste Department’s Recycling Division Annual Report (which can be found online at http://www.helpathensrecycle.com), there has been a 12 percent increase in the amount of tons of recyclables from 2007 to 2008.

Farrell said one of the biggest ways they have connected with the community is through the Cigarette Fairy campaign.

“We have gotten such a positive response from this [campaign] and we think it really is working,” Farrell said.

The campaign, which is mentioned in the Guide, is a public awareness campaign to inform the community to dispose of cigarette butts.

“You cannot recycle cigarette butts, but it is important for people to see that they are litter,” Farrell said. “By seeing our ad campaign, [the public] will hopefully be linked to recycling information as well.”

Information about litter abatement, solid waste management, recycling, water quality, graffiti prevention and beautification can be found online at http://www.keepathensbeautiful.org.

Another resource available to the public is the newspaper insert “One Man’s Trash.”
“We put out [this] quarterly newsletter to keep the public updated on recycling tips, volunteer options and news in the Solid Waste Department,” Kristine Kobylus, Program Education Specialists for the ACC Solid Waste Department, said. “It’s important to put our information directly in people’s hands because some people still like the hard copy, and honestly, how many times have you visited our website?”
Kobylus and Janessen work together to create the Environmental Resource Guide. She also takes submissions for articles for “One Man’s Trash” and produces all the Solid Waste Department’s educational promotions.

“The best thing is for the public to be aware of all the recycling options,” Kobylus said. “[Recycling] is an issue that should be just as much on the forefront as the economy.”

Luckily, students and community members like Lauren realize this.

“I think recycling is just as important as saving water or turning off unused lights,” Middleton said. “This resource guide has really helped me become a better citizen and show greater respect for my planet.”

“We need to keep these guides going, even through hard economic times,” she said. “People are statistically recycling more, so we need to keep up our job and help these numbers grow even more.”

Environmental Resource Guides can be requested online at http://www.acc-recycle.org.

Downtown Athens, A Benefit to Education?



Downtown Athens has a reputation for ruining the academic careers of some students, as college kids spend late nights out on the town instead of studying.


But for a younger demographic, the downtown area is used to spark motivation in school.


Some mentors of Clarke County students have used venues around Athens to spend some time with children away from the pressured setting of a school.


“Mellow Mushroom and Wild Wings downtown turned out to be the perfect place for me to take my student,” said Shaun Spade, a University student majoring in education. “He is a 12-year boy, so pizza, wings and sports pretty much runs his life.”


For some children, raising their grades can be generated through a mentor providing an outlet.


Trudy Bradley, director of the Athens Clarke County Mentor Program is a big proponent of this relationship being characterized more of as friends, rather than an authority figure.


“We found that lots of kids, what they really need is someone who says, ‘I know you can do it, and I’m proud of you,” she said. “We’ve got kids in the program that are extremely shy and they just need somebody to give them a little self confidence. Some of them are dealing with horrible situations at home, bless their hearts. They need a friend.”


The Mentor Program was created in 1990, after the drop-out rate was deemed to be a growing problem. The number of kids in the program has grown every year since the program’s creation.


“We started in 1991 with 30 kids,” Bradley said. “We’ll be 18 years old in March. We ended the last school year with 900. We’re the largest in Georgia.”


There are 11,598 children in the Clarke County school system. The 900 children with mentors make up 13 percent of the student body. And that’s not including mentors like Spade, who are not affiliated with the Mentor Program. Spade, like fellow mentor David Payne, were paired with his student through a class at the University.


“I’m not going to lie, I was dreading the whole mentor part of my major,” Payne said. “I didn’t know the kid, she didn’t know me and the feeling out process was kind of a nervous deal. But I ended up really liking the kid I was paired with.”


Through the connection Payne forged with his student, he decided to do something special. He went to the Bel-Jean Printing Company downtown and put together a scrap book of pictures and class work.

“I feel kind of lame doing things like this, but I felt like she needed something like that,” Payne said. “Nobody had ever really done anything like that for her, and it was simple. It was worth it.”


Payne may not enjoy scrap-booking, but Spade and his student’s interests matched up perfectly.


“We both enjoy ball games, and food,” he said. “I have taken him to a couple of places in Athens where we could get something to eat and watch some basketball or baseball games.”


This out-of-school setting is great to take the pressure off students, Spade said, but the tactic is not commonplace.


“We always recommend you don’t do that until you know this kid well enough to know whether or not you really want to do something outside of school with this kid,” Bradley said. “Seriously, I mean I’m a mother and a grandmother and a teacher and there are some kids, yeah they need a mentor, but it’s not necessarily something that you would be comfortable doing it away from a venue that is safe so to speak.”


Spade said he was cautious at first when his student playfully mentioned they should catch a game together sometime. Payne has avoided it altogether.


“I am mentoring a girl, so we don’t have much in common,” Payne said. “Plus the whole me being a man thing just makes it weird. Once a week at school is just fine with me.”


For Spade, communication is the key for assuring everything goes smooth.


“We’ve only been outside of school together four times,” he said. “Each time his mom sent $10 dollars and she came to pick him up. I’m not sure if I could do it if is was any other way.”


Spade’s out-of-school approach has been a success, he said. For Bradley, this type of bond is par for the course for what she hopes mentors can achieve.


“We don’t want this to be another teacher, or authority type figure in their life,” she said. “A lot of the time the mentor may spend time on spelling words or something like that, but we always recommend that you at least spend half of your time just hanging out and having fun.”


In 2005 the drop-out rate in Clarke County was 9 percent, staggering when compared to the 4 percent national rating. Still, progress has been cited, as the graduation rate in 2008 was 63 percent, up 5 percent from the previous year.


Mentors, like those at the Athens Clarke County Program are steadily making an impact. Parents, teachers and even kids have taken notice.


“Probably a good 20-30 percent of the kids are in the program because they requested the program,” Bradley said. “It’s not seen as a stigma to have a mentor. It’s seen as a privilege.”


Spade said he started seeing a change in his men-tee after the common interest of sports was established and conversation evolved from school-work to back-and-forth banter.


“I can tell he looks up to me, and that was created through our sports talk,” he said. “It’s almost like he doesn’t want to disappoint me now. It’s a responsibility, but it’s fulfilling.”


Add Bradley: “It’s something the mentors get into and they’re proud when they accomplish something, and they get disappointed when the kids disappoint them. It’s good to have somebody to please, and that’s what the mentor is to the student. There is a real sense of pride from the mentor’s perspective.”

Drunken Debauchery and Downtown Athens: Pure Fun or Public Danger?

Downtown Athens and partying have gone hand-in-hand for some time now. The city’s nightlife is well known and draws in many visitors.


Proof of why this reputation exists has been on display this week. According to the Clarke County prison website, over 80 alcohol-related arrests occurred on St. Patrick’s Day and early Wednesday morning.


Yes, it can be fun to go downtown, have a few drinks and throw your worries away for a night. But what about the people who actually live there, the people who have to sleep while others party the night away? Furthermore, do these late-night revelers pose a threat to public safety?


According to police, those inebriated downtown visitors don’t pose too much of a threat. While arrests for underage drinking are common, downtown partiers are not a major problem for public safety.


“Drunk people being a little rowdy and walking around downtown, we can live with that as long as they are of age,” said Hilda Sorrow, public information assistant for the Athens-Clarke County police department. “Our number one priority is to curb drunk driving. Combining drunk drivers with drunk pedestrians who may jaywalk is a dangerous mix, so we always have plenty of patrol cars downtown.”


On nights where the partiers are likely to frequent the bars downtown, one can spot a heavier police presence.


“Our officers act as a deterrent to most behavior that would endanger public safety,” Sorrow said. “On busy nights we like to have anywhere from five to ten officers on bicycles patrolling downtown, not to mention patrol cars. Our officers downtown do a great job, considering that nothing too newsworthy or disruptive usually happens in such a potentially dangerous situation.”


In fact, according to Sorrow, in 2008 no serious injuries occurred to pedestrians downtown. The heightened police presence on weekends has helped to keep this number low, Sorrow said. According to the National Safety Council, pedestrian accidents are most likely to occur on Fridays and Saturdays


Furthermore, two civic groups are working to help keep downtown Athens safe for partiers and non-partiers alike. WatchDawgs is a student organization that offers free rides to partiers on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.


“Basically, if you are have been drinking and need a ride home from downtown, we will give you one,” said Ally Walls, public relations director for WatchDawgs. “We are not anti-drinking or anti-fun by any stretch. We just want to help make Athens safer.”


Walls said on any given night WatchDawgs may give about twenty different groups of people rides home.


Safe Campuses Now is an Athens based non-profit organization that educates college students about the dangers of partying and drinking and driving. As one heads to downtown Athens on Oconee Street, a large billboard on the left side of the road shows a casket and the words “Man, I’m going to be so trashed tonight, they’re going to have to carry me home.”


According to Safe Campuses Now student director Amanda Smith, the billboard is part of their Blitz Poster Campaign, in which the organization places posters warning against drunk driving on billboards and in places such as bar bathrooms.


“I really like the Blitz Campaign because say someone is drunk in a bathroom downtown and thinking about driving home, hopefully if they see one of our posters they may think twice about that,” said Smith


Those who actually live downtown don’t seem to be overly concerned with the partying that goes on around them. In fact, three residents, who live on downtown’s three main streets—Broad, Clayton, and Washington—claim that the rowdy nightlife was a positive factor in their decision to live downtown.


“I don’t have a problem with it. Everyone knows that downtown Athens is a place where nighttime usually means drunkenness, rowdiness, and noise,” said Wesley Hunt, a 33-year-old contractor who lives on Clayton Street, three stories above the bars below. “If you’re looking for a quiet, peaceful, neighborhood, downtown Athens is probably not the right place for you. In fact, drunk people can be pretty entertaining sometimes.”


“I think most people live here because of the festive atmosphere,” said Erin Smith. Smith, a 30-year-old waitress at the Transmetropolitan, lives above the nightclub Level on Broad Street. “Obviously, the noise can be a little annoying, but you know that going in when you decide to live here.”


Shane Lovely is a graduate student and lives downtown in the Georgia Tower off Washington Street. He also does not have a problem with the late-night partying and its accompanying noise. “It gives the area a little flavor, and I like it,” Shane said.


Local experts also have little problem with Athens’ reputation as a partier’s dream.


“In terms of trying to promote downtown Athens, the image of a party city can only help by bringing in visitors and helping the economy,” said Kathryn Lookofsky, director of the Downtown Athens Development Authority. “While we certainly do not renounce the image of downtown Athens as a fun place, we also like to try to emphasize downtown’s other qualities, such as its culture and shopping.”


Hopefully those late-night partiers don’t keep you awake at night, but for the most part they have a positive effect on the city.

Festival brings classic films to the Classic Center

            Athens will get an economic stimulus of its own when the Robert Osborne Classic Film Festival comes to the Classic Center this weekend.

            The festival, celebrating its fifth anniversary, starts today and will last until Sunday.

            It has grown from its inception in 2004, when Singin’ in the Rain was the lone film to be screened.  The official festival began a year later and featured eight movies over four days, and kept that format from then on.

            Osborne is the primetime host for the Turner Classic Movies network and has been since it was created in 1994.  He is experienced both in journalism and in acting; he was in the pilot episode of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” among other things. His other titles include being a columnist for the Hollywood Reporter and the historian for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, according to his Web site at robertosborne.com. 

            Osborne’s expertise draws many to his festival.  In a February interview with the Athens Banner-Herald, festival director Pamela Kohn called the fifth anniversary “a big milestone.”

            “It…says to people that ‘We’re totally stable and we’re here to stay,’” she said.

            Kohn also said that the festival will be eligible for grants now from places like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences that only give grants to festivals going into their sixth year.

            The grant writers encourage submission of proposals that “make festival events more accessible to the general public, provide greater access to minority and less visible filmmakers, and help strengthen the connection between the filmmaker and the public,” according to the Academy’s Web site at http://www.oscars.org.

            The Classic Center, which has a 3,000-person meeting capacity and a theatre that seats 2,000, was renovated in the same year the full-fledged version of the festival began.  Since then, the venue has brought events to town that range from business conferences to concerts.  The city has benefited tremendously from these events, with patrons taking advantage of downtown restaurants and lodging.

            Much of the festival’s audience will be local, as there is a large appeal to the University of Georgia community.  Tickets and packages have a 25 percent discount for students and members of the UGA alumni association.

            The festival’s ties with the University are further-reaching than that, however.  It is being put on in conjunction with the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.  The executive producer, Nate Kohn, is a Grady professor of telecommunications, and the UGA division of external affairs also works to put on the event.

            What makes this film festival different from others? The keyword is “classic.”

            The films featured all “represent the breadth and variety of classic cinema from the 1930’s to the 2000’s,” said Osborne in a Grady College press release.

            “There is nothing quite like seeing a film as it was meant to be seen—on a mammoth screen, in a communal experience,” he explained in a written introduction to last year’s festival.  “That’s something very rare for any older movie these days.”

            The renovated Classic Center certainly lends to that goal.  The eight movies are shown on a 64-foot screen with state-of-the-art projector and sound systems, according to Grady.  Many movies will be shown with “pristine” 35mm archived film from major studios.


            This year, Athens advertising company Sliced Bread is responsible for advertising, promotions and design for the event.  Many other local Athens businesses such as Farm 255, Bel-Jean Copy and Print, and Athens First Bank and Trust are sponsors.

            In addition to film screenings, the festival will feature a panel discussion with Osborne, along with actors and other experts in the industry.

            The festival begins tonight with Goldfinger at 8:30 p.m. The panel discussion is free to the public and will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, followed by a free screening of Rear Window at 4:30 p.m.  The festival wraps up with a showing of E.T. on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.  Tickets for all movies other than Rear Window are $10 for the general public and $8 for UGA students and alumni association members, and in honor of the fifth anniversary, children’s tickets for E.T. are $5.