Athens can do better


Some of the most dangerous things that anyone can do are to disseminate rumors that have not been confirmed and to state things that are not based in fact. Respectable journalists who likely went to school to learn about why these are so dangerous know that they have a responsibility to do due diligence before disseminating information.

Athens is in a great state of division right now that is tragic and a great deal of it is based on rumor or statements that are not based in fact.

Today Sheriff John Q Williams has issued a statement to clear up rumors that there is a COVID-19 outbreak at the Clarke County Jail. John Cole Vodika recently wrote another “Bearing Witness” piece and reported on the rumored outbreak. By not researching before spreading that rumor, not only was he reckless, but it appears that he fails to take into account that any incoming inmates are quarantined for 14 days before being placed with the general population in the jail. He mentions many prisoners are “COVID-quarantined” which might likely be that they are in that mandatory quarantine that each prisoner coming into the jail must do. We cannot get anywhere to find ways to work together to seek solutions to policies we are concerned about if we read pieces such as what Vodicka has been putting out and take it as well researched.

We also can’t get anywhere with Facebook Groups popping up that are polarizing citizens and those of us who are left in the middle, simply wanting to seek solutions and ways to work together. Some excerpts from a recently formed Facebook Group, Athens Classic, Inc. describes the group in the “About” section as:

  • Athens Classic, Inc. is an independent, nonprofit, non-partisan community organization forming in Athens/Clarke County focused primarily on three areas of public policy - Public Safety, Public Education and Public Health.

  • For these efforts to be successful, we will need you to spread the word, perhaps to recruit your friends and neighbors and to in effect help us rebuild a common-sense middle ground which betters serves our entire community, not public policy or government services which skew decidedly left or right on the political spectrum.

  • The Classic City deserves a broad-based, multi-racial, multi-generational community meeting place and town hall.

This group is being run by CSI Crane, LLC, a Media/News Company according to their Facebook Page. The Principal of CSI Crane, LLC, Media Relations/Strategy Member, Bill Crane, who is the only Administrator of the Athens Classic, Inc. Facebook Group lives in the suburbs of Atlanta. Bill Crane has posted a great deal of information about crime rates in Atlanta and he and other members of the group claim that the approximately 70 mile proximity to Athens means we are in great danger. Athens needs to focus on Athens and we do not need a LLC with the Principal inserting personal beliefs about what he thinks could happen in Athens.

Additionally, the group is anything but bipartisan. When a recent article about the new District Attorney in Athens (not Atlanta) was featured in THEAPPEAL.ORG was posted in this group, comments included things such as calling for her to be impeached, blame for her election is being placed on “Athens liberals”, questions are even being raised if the election could have been rigged and statements such as one quoting Stalin with, “It does not matter who votes. It is who counts the votes”. This group is clearly not non-partisan and only serves to polarize Athens more. Nobody is going to love all of the policies of any incoming elected official. But as we saw on January 6, 2021, creating a narrative of elections being falsified or stolen can cause great harm to our city, state and nation.

Words of vitriol and hate versus working towards not looking at people as a member of a political party and instead as individuals are going to be the detriment of Athens, The Classic City.

May we come up with ideas to help boost just what a great city we live in. Let’s say no to organizations out of Atlanta facilitating a Facebook Group that is not offering solutions only continuing division. Let’s say no to podcasts that make The Classic City appear to have a police department and investigators that don’t care about solving crimes. Let’s demand that emphasis be put on the troubling crime rate in Athens right now and the victims who may not come from a perfect background and how we can honor them.

I admit I was very concerned by the campaign and policies that Deborah Gonzalez has put into place, but so far I have not heard of a case in which a criminal has simply been allowed to walk free with no attempt to find the proper solution of punishment. I have had to open my mind about what her policies will actually look like over time. I think that others should try to do the same, as we can’t predict the future.

Of course, I believe that most everyone, regardless of their political beliefs, believe that if you break the law there should be punishment. However, complaining about policies doesn’t get us anywhere. Let’s work to find ways to help the youth in Athens to choose better pathways so that there will be success for everyone. Let’s work to get rid of the stigma associated with mental illness that prevents many from getting help when it is needed. Let’s demand that groups on both sides of this divide stop with the further division through means such as Facebook Groups. Let’s work to find ways to work with the new policies to ensure that the underserved population in Athens receives equitable treatment. If we don’t try, we already know what that outcome will be. Athens can do better.

Erin Lahey

Native Athenian and current Athens Resident


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