Make the Georgia Youth Conservation Corps a Reality|
by Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta)
I have offered HB 493, along with my colleagues, the House Republican and Democratic leadership, to activate the Georgia Youth Conservation Corps, created by former Rep. Helen Selman (D) Palmetto, 15 years ago, but then never funded. The Corps will have its conservation mission expanded to offer "home weatherization services" using federal stimulus funds. HB 493 also allows the DNR, which is the agency in charge of the YCC, to contract for its operation by eleemosynary institutions, like schools and colleges, to recruit, train and manage the weatherization forces to the extent funding exists.
I see this measure as a tool to accomplish several very worthwhile goals: 1) First of all, unemployed young people in urban and suburban settings, who are prey to criminal activity, will be given opportunities to learn valuable skills that can be used for future employment, while being paid to learn. 2) Residents of inner city housing, which is often older and sometimes poorly built, will see their utility bills reduced when the YCC teams improve their homes' insulation against the weather outside, with insulation, caulking and weather-stripping. 3) The national cause of energy independence will be advanced by cutting energy consumption now going to waste through leaky walls, roofs, doors and windows. 4) Greenhouse gases will be reduced as demand for energy falls. 5) Finally, and of great particular interest to me, personally, the YCC may offer a chance for Morris Brown College, among other similar institutions, a chance to find a new and vital educational mission in its community.
Morris Brown is currently in dire financial straits because of the failing national economy, and the increase in publicly-subsidized competition for student enrollees from its predominantly black working class target population. Morris Brown is an historic institution, said to have been conceived in an abandoned railway boxcar and founded in the basement of Big Bethel AME Church in 1881 after the end of the Civil War, to help the newly released Freedmen to get a start at living on their own in American society. The college has a proud heritage, and perhaps the YCC can give it a mission and funding that can renew and reinvigorate its purpose and function.
Allowing institutions with such great heritage to be lost because of a changing economy, and altered circumstances, many of those actually the positive results of Morris Brown graduates working in the Civil Rights movement, and, is a completely avoidable tragedy for urban and suburban working class communities of all backgrounds. Morris Brown and similar institutions have made Atlanta's historically successful black middle class a reality, and the preservation of the quality of life that economic achievement has afforded so many people is a vital task that cannot be put off or neglected because of hard times; hard times require exactly the hard work and achievement for which Morris Brown College has long been noted.
Allowing the current "Millennial Generation" of young working class Atlantans to miss out on the opportunities that have allowed preceding generations to thrive in good jobs, where they earned decent wages, and began to enjoy some of the benefits of middle class life would be to take a step backward. This would betray the heritage of the Civil Rights Generation, just as that cohort is now moving on to its final reward. It will also signal a reversal in the trend toward improving incomes for Metro Atlantans over the decades since the 1960s.
The Youth Conservation Corps was inspired by the Civilian Conservation Corps started during the earliest days of the New Deal in 1933. President Roosevelt said that the work of the CCC was something the whole country could be proud of. Putting our young people to work improving their neighbors' homes is that kind of activity. If the federal government wants to stimulate the economy, it is hard to think of a better place to start that stimulation than in Metro Atlanta's neighborhoods.
Hopefully, this legislation will pass and be enacted into law in 2009 so that jobs and gainful employment will become a reality in low-income economically depressed communities throughout metro Atlanta and Georgia.
For more information, Read House Bill 493 and contact Rep. Tyrone Brooks, 404-656-6372 (off) and 404-372-1894 (cell). [full bio]
Editor's note: Hello, Georgia. Big doings in Georgia transportation today. DOT Commissioner Gena Evans is fired, and the massive reorganization of the state's transportation agencies is challenged on constitutional grounds. Elsewhere at the Gold Dome, the move to fund two new nuclear power plants went forward again today. We have reports on both.
Even more serious – at least to a lot of us – the Atlanta Braves are short a leadoff hitter. Read Paul Kaplan's sports column.
And, finally, in today's Soapbox column, Rep. Tyrone Brooks has a plan to put kids to work – labor that would have many benefits for the state.
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