By Valerie Baldowski
A 2010 gubernatorial candidate visited Henry County on Wednesday, to discuss three topics on the minds of some members of the local community.
David Poythress was the speaker for the Henry Council for Quality Growth's monthly meeting, held at Eagle's Landing Country Club in Stockbridge.
Poythress, who is running against other prominent Democrats, former Gov. Roy Barnes, Attorney General Thurbert Baker and state Rep. DuBose Porter (D-Dublin), among others, for the party's nomination, discussed the need to address the issues of water use, transportation and education as part of planning for the state's future.
Poythress also gave his views on economic development throughout Georgia, as well as in Henry.
"The key to economic development everywhere is education, and our ability to field a globally competitive workforce year after year," said Poythress.
Rail transportation is another important component in area development, he said.
"Certainly transportation is a key issue in Henry County's continued development," Poythress said. "Strategically, it's important that Henry be linked to the balance of metro Atlanta by light rail."
The state, he added, needs to depend more on light-rail transportation. Poythress advocated a long-term plan to guide light rail and freight rail, as well as high-speed, inter-city rail transportation systems.
In light of the recent news delivered to some members of the Henry County Chamber of Commerce Transportation Committee on the financial crisis facing the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority's Xpress commuter bus service in Henry, Poythress voiced support for the idea of bus service as an alternative transportation method.
"I don't know that I've got a silver-bullet solution, but clearly buses are a suitable interim solution to some of our transportation needs," he said.
Efforts should be made, said Poythress, to find other funding methods to continue the GRTA service in Henry County.
Poythress also outlined his strategies, to those in attendance, for dealing with Georgia's dispute with Alabama and Florida over rights to the water in Lake Lanier. He said strong negotiating skills are needed to resolve the conflict.
Poythress also voiced support for expanding the use of computer technology in schools to help lower the high-school dropout rate, help dropouts earn their GEDs, and raise test scores for students still in school.
The reactions to Poythress' remarks were varied.
Marshall Chambers, administrator for Eagle's Landing Christian Academy, wondered if Poythress' plan to incorporate a higher level of educational technology into the classroom is feasible.
"This is an area which, in Georgia, we have a lot of concern about, because we're always faced with that," said Chambers.
Speaking from the point of view of a private educator, he said the efforts to lower the student dropout rate and raise test scores should begin in an arena other than the classroom. He said he agreed with Poythress' assessment of the need for more technology, but said relying solely on that initiative will not improve education.
"The problem lies in the home, and until there is a program to involve parents in the education of their children, we are not going to see [test scores] improve," said Chambers.
He said other candidates for public office are also struggling to find an answer.
"No one has seemed to come up with that, and our candidate here did not either," added Chambers. "That's a real concern."
Based on the issues Poythress discussed, Dan Garrett, executive director of the Henry Medical Center Foundation, was wary of committing to any one candidate this early in the race.
"All of the candidates are really going to be talking about those top-three issues," said Garrett. "This far out, it's hard to hear the specifics. It's more the general [approach], 'we need to fix transportation, we need to fix education.'"
Garrett said, however, that he was glad Poythress addressed the statewide issue of water use. The recent drought, he continued, and the tri-state lawsuits, are forcing the community to deal with the issue.
"That's why countries fight wars - over water," Garrett said. "If we don't deal with that, we're really going to have a crisis."