Will demographics challenge our neighborliness?

Bonnie Willis's picture

When we first moved to Fayette County and particularly our subdivision, we fell in love with the open space, large lot sizes, mature trees, and the uniqueness of every home.

But over the years I’m finding that the best thing about our neighborhood is our neighbors.

This past week I had the wonderful opportunity to go out to lunch with a group of ladies from my subdivision. To my embarrassment, despite having lived there for over five years, I only knew a couple of them.

However, over the course of our meal I got a chance to learn from, and about, these fascinating ladies, and heard the news going on in our neighborhood.

As I went to pay for my meal, the hostess made a small joke about me being the “baby” of the group, and I guess if an outsider looking in were to look at our group, I would be the odd one, because with the exception of one other woman, I was about 20 years younger than the other women at the table, and I was the only African American.

However, despite these obvious differences, I had a truly enjoyable time with these women and look forward to our next fellowship.

As I reflect on that day, I realize that the contrast between me and these lovely ladies is representative of the changing demography of our county.

We have a significant “baby boom” population who know the history of this county and can vividly recall, for example, when Ga. Highway 54 was a two-lane street.

At the same time, diverse groups of people are being drawn to Fayette County, probably in part because of why my husband and I wanted to live here: we liked the school system, appreciated the leisure lifestyle, and wanted something that was in proximity to the metro-Atlanta area.

In light of this changing demography of Fayette County, I have some very real concerns.

For example, I am concerned about how some may perceive Fayette’s emerging demography, and how their perceptions could fuel racial and generational tensions in the county.

Further, I am concerned that many citizens of Fayette will correlate — and blame — the economic challenges facing our county on the changing demographics.

I fear that they may perceive neighborhoods that are becoming diverse as declining in value and quality — even if the homes/neighborhoods are not deteriorating and student performances in public schools are not negatively affected.

I also fear that those who are newer citizens of this county will fail to take the time to learn and appreciate Fayette’s quality lifestyle, take advantage of the community parks and recreation services, or participate in community events like Christmas tree lighting ceremonies and parades.

I also fear that because certain government offices have not elected or appointed any persons of color in the county’s 181-year history, neighbors will harbor resentment towards other neighbors, and will not attempt to understand the perspectives of those who are ethnically, and perhaps ideologically different from them.

Depending on one’s perspective, one can point to a variety of evidences that racial and generational tensions are mounting in our county.

Whether one reads an article about the NAACP’s lawsuit against the county, or declining property values and foreclosure rates, there is ample ammunition to justify one’s own biases.

However, I think the key in us working through this change can be found in the lunch that I had with the women of my subdivision.

For me, I had an opportunity to learn a little about the history and heritage of Fayette and my neighborhood. I also had a chance to receive some tips on how to maintain a beautiful lawn.

I hope they, in turn, had an opportunity to see how our family wants to be helpful neighbors who hope to add to the quality of lifestyle that has drawn us here.

After all, our differences as a people should never be reasons for us to not get along with each other. Rather, than causing conflict, our differences can work as complements enriching our individual lives and our community.

[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]

AtHomeGym
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Spyglass & ClayCo

I didn't grow up there but lived in Pointe South from 77-83. Returned n 86 and saw a startling difference in just those 3 yrs. Unincorporated Fayette has been my home since 86--wouldn't have it any other way.

PTC Avenger
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Biases? What biases?

"Whether one reads an article about the NAACP’s lawsuit against the county, or declining property values and foreclosure rates, there is ample ammunition to justify one’s own biases."

Let's not forget the wave of black crime we're experiencing. Seems like you forgot to mention that.

jpopeye
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Build a better world each day through your contribution to life,

start today and don't let up.

Thank you Bonnie Willis, changing demographics are going to rock some Fayette county worlds. There will be ugly talk and white flight. Reasonable people need to see that the changes will be positive if we try to make it so. And we need to stick together.

I Heart Fayette
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Bonnie, You are an asset to

Bonnie, You are an asset to this community. I always enjoy reading what you have to say.

rmoc
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Good Neighbors are Good Neighbors

As far as my neighbors go I don't care if they are black or white or anything..what I care is the quality of the people..I lived in Clayton County and stuck it out until it was about 80% black..moving had noting to do with black or white it had to do with the people..and too many criminals and folks who did not care for their property. I have said this a few times but I have been a victim of crimes a few times and they have yet to be the same race as me..sorry but it is a fact..My old neighbor (who was black) moved to a gated community for the same reason. I guess if I lived in rural Alabama I would be afraid of the redneck meth head...You brought up race and I saw what happened when the "MAJORITY" insisted on leadership that looked like them..and again Clayton County might lose accreditation. Officials should be elected based on qualifications and many of the black candidates who have run lately(or sued to run) are political hacks who milk the race card..I know a few of them...If Herman Cain decided to run for Fayette County Commission I would be the first one to sign his petition. It is the "QUALITY OF HIS CHARACTER". to quote the great MLK...

Davids mom
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Rmoc

Thanks for sharing'. To tell you the truth, I don't know too much about the elected leaders in Fayette County - but according to some postings, they're not exactly stellar ! Just saying - incompetence comes in all colors.

rmoc
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oh forgot

Politically I agree with Herman Cain but he did not follow the Billy Graham rule about leaving yourself beyond reproach with members of the opposite sex which all national political leaders should follow..

Citizen_Steve
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New Tradition

I thought the 181 year tradition was weak ethics and shallow character, am I wrong? In any event having a local official with Bonnie's difference - keen perspective and common sense would certainly be a welcome start to a new tradition.

Davids mom
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Citizen Steve

Amen!!

skittles44
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Racism is a double-edged sword

How and why does race always play a role? How about just going out with some friends for lunch and not focusing on skin color? Or enjoying company of friends from diverse backgrounds and appreciating and learning from them, instead of realizing that you are somehow different because of your skin color. I know when I go out to dinner/lunch with friends, I pay no attention to what color their skin is, and yes, I have friends of all colors.
Who cares if no person of color has ever been elected to certain public office seats in Fayette County's 181-year history? Maybe a qualified candidate of color has never run a successful campaign and been able to sway votes in their favor. Again, I vote on issues, not color.
People speak of racism and automatically assume that this is whites being racist toward blacks. Honestly, and I say this sincerely, in my experience blacks are much more racist toward whites. Most don't call this racism; they call it "celebrating their heritage". I'm so tired of racism of all kinds and especially in situations when the pot is calling the kettle black. Hypocrisy is dangerous.
Why is it that whites can't "get away" with celebrating their heritage? Why no White Entertainment Television (WET) or social groups of any kind those only allow whites? Everyone knows this wouldn't fly in our society and the NAACP would be all over this. But why, if blacks are able to celebrate their heritage how come whites can't celebrate theirs without cries of racism? Why the double standard?
I don’t believe our racial issues will be solved in our country, until racism from BOTH sides cease to exist.

Davids mom
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skittles - Excellent points!
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How and why does race always play a role?

Because some on this blog have expressed such a fear of CLAYTON COUNTY coming to Fayette County. They seem to completely ignore that the 20% of 'blacks/minorities' that are here are middle class, taxpayers, homeowners, contributors to the community, etc. (Minorities/blacks own 20% of the businesses in Fayette County) What I have also found to be true is that most residents of Fayette County react to PEOPLE not skin color.

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Who cares if no person of color has ever been elected to certain public office seats in Fayette County's 181-year history?

Maybe those parents of children of color who would like their children to have role models in public office like 'white' children have. Unfortunately, in the United States, we have not yet been able to identify all of our citizens as Americans - but by 'race'. 181 years is a long time!

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People speak of racism and automatically assume that this is whites being racist toward blacks. Honestly, and I say this sincerely, in my experience blacks are much more racist toward whites.

MLK realized this and spent a lot of time teaching the power of LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR - rather than the strategy of DO UNTO THEM AS WAS DONE UNTO YOU. It appears to me that the younger generation is moving away from this negative identity of heritage. If we are all 'immigrants' (except for the Native Americans), then we all have an ethnic heritage that adds to our Americanism.

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Why is it that whites can't "get away" with celebrating their heritage?

St. Patrick's Day? October Fest? I think that I have joined friends and neighbors celebrating events honoring different ethnicities right here in Fayette County. I never noticed that this was looked down upon by anyone. I've also enjoyed Ramadan activities; Chines New Year; and Greek Festivities.

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Why no White Entertainment Television (WET) or social groups of any kind those only allow whites?

Now this is really interesting. Maybe you're too young to remember. There were no 'minorities' on NBC, CBS, etc. for years!! There have been Black, Hispanic, radio stations and movie companies for years before BET. The scenes of some movies where Lena Horn appeared were deleted in the South. (Lena Horn was an 'black' movie star in the 40's, 50's and a large part of the 60's.) Did you really expect any large successful enterprise to close their successful business that benefitted from segregation? As for social groups: These groups (minorities) were organized in the late 1800's or early 1900's when segregation was in full force in this country. They are very proud of their history and accomplishments - just as 'white' groups - and why should they (minority groups) dissolve their membership when the 'white' groups have not dissolved theirs?

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I don’t believe our racial issues will be solved in our country, until racism from BOTH sides cease to exist.

And I agree. Watch To Be Black in America Sunday night. 8:00 pm on CNN. You may be surprised at the changing attitudes.

meanoldconservatives
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You might want to try a little soul searching yourself DM
Quote:

"Maybe those parents of children of color who would like their children to have role models in public office like 'white' children have. Unfortunately, in the United States, we have not yet been able to identify all of our citizens as Americans - but by 'race'."

How typically hypocritical of the resident race baiter and sympathy seeker. At first she plainly states that children of color require non-white politicians to qualify as their role models. Then she whines that we identify by race and not as just Americans. Irony abounds.....

Davids mom
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Moc

Is the 'identity' statement regarding Americans untrue? I don't need any sympathy - I lack for nothing and work with many citizens in this state of all colors and backgrounds . The icing on the cake is they are not only gifted and knowledgeable - but they have that much admired southern charm. . . and know how to get things done for all those that they are concerned with
It's understood by most educators that children benefit from role models who 'look like them', especially if they have been in a post Jim Crow environment . My role models were my family members and neighbors, who after the 60's felt empowered to expect to be treated as all Americans are treated. No hypocrisy intended - just a fact of life.

Have a great day moc!

suggarfoot
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it is called evolution

Some have never evovled but had a population exposion because we are "feeding the bears'. Everytime this group has taken over (Clayton is a prime example) EVERYONE takes a step backward. This isn't evolution. You can't put the bears in control. Every experiment with letting them control anything has failed miserably. If there has been any evolution in this process, it has been to set the human race as a whole, backwards.

The drivebys, the gangs, smacks of tribal warfare. "Crime is the culture , and it's fairly obvious the electorate wants it that way." So much for evolution. It is causing this country to rot from within.

Davids mom
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Suggarfoot

All blacks exist in the 'gang' culture? All whites are racist? All black neighborhoods are poorly maintained? All whites have an IQ above 90? All blacks are ignorant ? Persons who make statements about 'others' with the inference that they are familiar with 'all' are truly knowledgeable . (NOT) We are so fortunate to have their contribution on the site. What is the culture of the 'white' drug dealers? Does that culture represent all 'whites'? I will continue to post my opinion on this site. No one has to agree with me - that is not the point of my participation. There are great people in Fayette County who treat others as they would want to be treated - with respect. The citizens who I know are here in Fayette County because of the relatively good school system, the well maintained neighborhoods, and the genuine southern hospitality that is practiced. Ignorant and hateful statements are found often here - shared in many cases anonymously , do not represent Fayetteville. ( I don't know about Peachtree City.). Are you unhappy that there are people in the south who really do associate with others based on character rather than skin color or perceived ethnicity? And, there are people in this county who associate with others in spite of their political affiliation. (Surprise, surprise!). I appreciate those who have shared that they want neighbors who maintain their property; behave in a neighborly manner; etc. regardless of their 'color'. This is the 'evolution' that is present throughout our country. Suggarfoot, it's been a pleasure exposing your and others antiquated and outmoded opinions.. You are in the minority!!

suggarfoot
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as always, you haven't "exposed" anyone but yourself

"Suggarfoot, it's been a pleasure exposing your and others antiquated and outmoded opinions."

You have sat here for years harping on race. You are a race bater and people have told you that over and over. You have only exposed yourself. And having a made up person like you constantly harping on race does justify a weekly columm soft pedling the same thing doesn't it?

S. Lindsey
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Moc it's lost on her...

... but I caught the rebound and passed it back to you.

meanoldconservatives
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Thanks SL

I think Matthew 7:5 speaks to her affliction:

Quote:

"Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."

But, at least she volunteers her time to go to community events and observe how whitey responds to non-whites attending these events, then report her observations to us. She's clearly working on whitey's issues with race. Now who is monitoring her and working on her issues?

Davids mom
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Moc

Are you one of the minority who would not respond to me in public with respect? Fortunately, I've never encountered you or those like you. Does it bother you that I truly find the citizens in Fayette County intelligent and react to others based on character, similar interests, rather than skin color? Interesting.

meanoldconservatives
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DM
Quote:

"Are you one of the minority who would not respond to me in public with respect?"

To be honest with you, I probably wouldn't if you said something as moronic to me in public.

Quote:

"Fortunately, I've never encountered you or those like you."

You have no way of knowing if you have ever encountered me. Another bizarre statement you have no way of quantifying. I know this though. I may or may not have encountered you anywhere, but I have sure as hell encountered plenty like you.

Quote:

" Does it bother you that I truly find the citizens in Fayette County intelligent and react to others based on character, similar interests, rather than skin color?"

Not at all. It amazes me though that in these days and times you bother to gauge the way people who don't have the same skin color interact. It really doesn't occur that much to those of us trying to live in 2012. Again, you are so blind to your own biases and hangups that it is sad. Oh by the way, all of us who interact with people of different skin color the way you think we should, really appreciate your thinking that we are intelligent.

Quote:

"Interesting"

Hardly.....

Davids mom
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Moc

Typical response of one who can only see the world through their own eyes and never bother to try to see another's point of view. In studying the interactions of humans in the world, one learns from mistakes and so progress in human relations continue. Try it sometime. Remember, I have shared what I've observed, not what I think is happening with human relations in Fayetteville. What you have expressed represents personal insecurity IMO. Nothing you have shared constitutes intelligence.

meanoldconservatives
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DM

You brag on here constantly about all of your "research" and now about "studying human interaction". Yet you still make hypocritical and moronic statements that are either challenged or more likely, just ignored. And now, somehow you think you have achieved the ability to see the world through other people's eyes. News alert....you still see the world through the tired old eyes that are stained from your ugly past. You can't move forward with the rest of us and to prove it you talk about race on here every day. I'll bet you talk about race while you stand in line at IHOP for the 4:00 Senior Citizen special. Heck, you're so obsessed with it that you probably try to talk race with the person in the next stall in a public bathroom and even in your sleep.

Quote:

" What you have expressed represents personal insecurity IMO. Nothing you have shared constitutes intelligence."

I am secure about one thing for sure DM. I've read enough of the tripe you have posted here to know I am more intelligent than you. You're just a one-trick pony.

Davids mom
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Moc, Joe, Suggarfoot

I stated long ago (7years), that I joined this discussion to discuss 'race relations'. I had some very embedded, negative, ideas about southerners , especially southern white men. Through my involvement in discussions and observing the citizens in action in Fayetteville,, I have learned that the new south has positively far exceeded my expectations. I consider Fayetteville, GA an outstanding representation of the new America, not just the new South. Your and others in the discussion, IMO, resistance to celebrating all citizens in any community and inferring that only 'blacks' or liberals bring crime and poverty to a community is a minority opinion. You seemed threatened by anyone expressing an intelligent, yet opposing opinion to your own. . . hence my opinion that you are insecure. Thank you for pointing out that there are still remnants of ignorance in Fayette County. I have personally met some of the posters who have a very different ideology than mine, but they are not ignorant nor racist. Moc, my past is not 'ugly'. Being 'Black', in America is not ugly - but still a challenge when confronted by those like you.. As all citizens, there are challenges to be met. I have greatly benefitted from the opportunities that were obtained through the Civil Rights movement - and of course the women's suffrage movement. These opportunities were obtained through the sacrifices of Americans of all colors.

Most of the younger generation will find and conquer new challenges in our country, but abject racism based on the ignorance of the past will not be as challenging as in the past, IMO.

I think that if Fayette County maintains its standards for all of its citizens, the color of ones skin will not affect the neighborliness that I have witnessed.. (And no - I have never found it necessary to discuss 'race' while standing in line! LOL!)

meanoldconservatives
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DM

We've done this dance a hundred times. It always ends up with you replying back as you did here stating how many years ago you joined this forum to discuss "race relations". Then a short history lesson follows about how you had decided early on that southerners were troglodytes, but were oh so surprised at how far we had evolved once you graced us here with your presence. The next thing that follows is a sermon on how we all should celebrate the same things you celebrate, and a general blanket statement indicting some of us for pointing out the extremely rare occurrences of "black crime" in our county. You wrap it up by trying to assert your superior intelligence, by saying we shouldn't feel threatened by you, calling certain ones ignorant and racist and a sweet Kumbaya ending of all the challenges you have overcome.

Keep those blinders on DM. Keep deflecting questions. Keep diverting the conversation to your liking. Keep on restating things I said to make them look like I said otherwise. Keep thinking we're all racist and you aren't because you're a progressive and have outgrown your "embedded, negative ideas about southerners". Keep on with your race obsessions. Keep on with your desires to have nobody identified by race, but at the same time wanting black role models and being consumed with how whitey acts in the presence of non-whites.

I'll just keep on calling you on your hypocritical thoughts and you keep calling me a racist. I've told you before, that doesn't bother me in the least. That has about the same effect on me as whether the sun sets today at 5:29 or 5:30. Now, head on out soon and see how whitey is acting around town today and get back to us.....

Davids mom
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Moc

Grade: A for recall; D for self esteem ; F for humanity

Happy New Year!

suggarfoot
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DM = Fs all the way across!

Do you think anyone comes away more enlightened after hearing you spew your garbage? The answer is NO! And if you were white and spewing that mess you would be kicked off the blogs. But you are 'sooooo entitled' aren't you?

You and your kind are contemptible.

meanoldconservatives
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DM

I guess retired teachers never realize their days of grading students have ended. School's out now Granny.

Happy Kwanzaa!

Joe Kawfi
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The new segregationists
Davids mom wrote:

It's understood by most educators that children benefit from role models who 'look like them', especially if they have been in a post Jim Crow environment .

MOC - These are the thoughts and ramblings of the new segregationists. They don't want 'separate but equal', they want to be separated from whitey and receive preferential treatment in all areas. White/Asian/Spanish role models and school board members aren't good enough for them and so they want to SEGREGATE a portion of Fayetteville off for blacks only so that they can vote for someone that they feel can be a role model for their children. They don't care who it is or anything about their character, as long as they are black.

These are the new racist segregationists that want to be segregated because they feel superior to other races. The only thing they want from whitey is his money.

Joe Kawfi
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MOC

Note that DM never addressed or provided any facts regarding her contention the color of role models is a factor in student achievement. It's a segregationist attitude that racists like her are just unwilling to admit to.

meanoldconservatives
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Joe

Yep, that is DM's standard operating procedure.

By the way, your earlier comment about parenting was spot on.

suggarfoot
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well it worked well in Clayton county didn't it?

"They don't want 'separate but equal', they want to be separated from whitey and receive preferential treatment in all areas. White/Asian/Spanish role models and school board members aren't good enough for them and so they want to SEGREGATE a portion of Fayetteville off for blacks only so that they can vote for someone that they feel can be a role model for their children. They don't care who it is or anything about their character, as long as they are black"

Clayton county is a shinning example of how well it worked. Everyone is clammering to get into Clayton county schools. Since they took over the school system it has been an example for the rest of us to follow. DM is ALWAYS right! She is the most intelligent, open minded person on here. Let her lead us in the right direction. LOL!!!

Joe Kawfi
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suggarfoot

And since we children live in a "post Jim Crow environment" then they would all be better off being taught and mentored by people that "look like them". Isn't that called parenting?

suggarfoot
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meanoldconservatives

You are too funny!!! And so right

Spyglass
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I grew up in Clayton County in the 70's

and I certainly DO NOT WANT Fayette to follow in their footsteps.

Unless you know what it used to be like, you have no idea just how far Clayton County has fallen in the last 25 years.

Crime is the culture in that county, and it's fairly obvious the electorate wants it that way.

DM, Bless your Heart...

S. Lindsey
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Well they did elect a Criminal (alleged) for Sheriff...

...Sheriff ELECT Victor Hill's Lawyer said: Clayton County deserves to get the Sheriff they elected... Well yes they do.

Davids mom
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Spy

Thanks for your 'blessing'. I would leave Fayette County in a nano minute if my neighbors were drug dealers, prostitutes, drunks, etc. Even if they were 'white'! There are such 'white' areas here in Georgia and throughout our country. We are all blessed if we don't have to remain in such an area. My development has remained integrated for the past eight years. My neighbors have not changed during this time. Unfortunately there were some families who did leave, of various races, due to job relocation or job loss or health issues .

rmoc
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DM: I agree

DM - I agree with you on the quality of the neighbors is the most important but how do we stop the trend of "trash" moving into the county? I lived in a mixed community in Illinois with no problems and when I moved to Clayton in the 90s is was mixed too..We had to move because the new residents that flooded Clayton were trash with crime rising and the reverse racism in the school board and county leadership. I wish we could do background checks on folks before they move to our community.

Davids mom
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Rmoc

Good points. My understanding is that the flight from Clayton was mainly a 'middle class' flight. It was reported that some homes were available to Section 8 and some of the displaced residents from Atlanta (Olympics) were sent to Clayton. There are friends of ours who live in parts of Clayton that are very nice - but they are concerned about home break ins and are considering moving now that home prices have dropped. Our realtor wouldn't even show us homes in Clayton in 2003. We checked communities before we purchased our home in Fayetteville. (Fewer Section 8 housing in Fayetteville than in Peachtree City - and the church of our faith was in Fayetteville. ). I am not aware of what is happening in the rest of the county, but have not noticed any 'trash' moving in my development. I think it is important to work with the local city governments in maintaining standards. I strongly feel that section 8 renters should receive training in home maintenance skills. One does not have to be 'rich ' to maintain a clean home. Fayette County does not have a reputation of being welcoming to minorities. (My son was very concerned when we told him we were thinking of moving here.). Our family and friends wanted us to move to the Cascade area or Buckhead. I feel we are in our right place. If middle class families leave, but take advantage of government section 8 renters to insure their monthly income, Fayette County may experience the same downgrade that you fear. I have noticed that almost all of the developments that we visited were integrated and have remained so. I drove by a Section 8 area in Fayetteville - and it was integrated. (Some homes/yards were maintained - some were not.) With the concern about minority representation in government, I noticed that Fayetteville quietly elected a 'minority' councilman.

Where is this (trash) trend occurring? Is there anything that can be done to be proactive in maintaing the standards in our communities? I'm like you . Skin color is not the concern. Kindred tastes and attitudes that include pride in community is important to me. I don't think we are alone.

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