The firefighters, police officers, teachers and government workers who serve the residents of Newnan and Coweta County should live in the jurisdiction that employs them for several reasons.
First, they should be subject to the rules, regulations and procedures that they help administer. They need to know how it feels, and we need to hope that, as a result, they’ll be more mindful of the headaches government bureaucracy can inflict on the public. Maybe, they’ll think twice before imposing new restrictions on this or added delays for that and superfluous paperwork for the other.
Congress keeps exempting itself from the laws it makes, and we’re all suffering as a result. At least, local government workers should have to live with the red tape of their own making or decide to minimize it as much as possible.
Second, it’s helpful to the cohesion of a community if the public servants actually live, worship and play cheek by jowl with the public they are hired to serve. Who hasn’t felt the urge to yell at the unreasonableness of a faceless government agency? On the other hand, it’s easier to take when a neighbor asks you to follow the same government requirements.
That’s especially important in law enforcement. People naturally respond better to someone they know to be a neighbor who requests lawful behavior or seeks witnesses. But they’re not inclined to curb extra-legal urges for a stranger perceived to be out of touch.
All of that is common sense, but the recent soaring of real estate prices in our hot local market has made it difficult for public employees to live here. Apartments have waiting lists, and the heavy demand triggered spikes in apartment rents, forcing government workers to live out of town and commute to work.
A solution is on the table.
A Kentucky developer is to be commended for taking action to provide modern, convenient, affordable housing near downtown. LDG Development is asking the Newnan Council to rezone 20.6 acres in the 400 block of Old Jefferson Street to permit the construction of 160 garden apartments.
With monthly rents projected to range from $665 to $915, the units would be affordable to tenants annually earning between $31,600 and $42,000. That’s about what government employees and starting teachers make.
It’s understandable for the owners of upscale homes to favor zoning that encourages expensive subdivisions because that’s how they ensure their own property goes up in value and avoids the risk that modestly priced newcomers bring down neighborhood appraisals. But, it’s hard for government employees to swing those inflated costs without giving them higher pay, which would then just boost property taxes.
The council would be prudent to make allowances for LDG. We’ll all benefit in the long run.