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Editorial: A wish list for 2018
Raising a toast to less-congested, safer roads, social media civility and politics with a purpose
Andy Marlette, Creators

While making resolutions to improve ourselves in the new year, here’s a wish list of items to benefit us all when the calendar flips to 2018.

We don’t mean the stuff we asked Santa to cram into our stockings or under our tree a week ago. Most of us got enough socks, books and beeping gadgets to hold us for awhile. This list involves smoothing out some of society’s rough edges that rubbed us raw in 2017. 

When the stork drops the swaddled 2018 baby in our laps, let’s see if the little tyke can deliver a few items to make the fresh year live up to our greatest hopes:

Getting around: Navigating North Georgia highways has never been harder. In addition to the simple equation of too many vehicles and not enough road, often the long-term fixes make commutes more intolerable in the short term.

Several main Hall County arteries recently were designated through a grading system to have traffic volume past their capacity. Those earning low grades include Spout Springs Road (F), Dawsonville Highway (D) and Interstate 985 in South Hall.

Relief is on the way in some places, such as widening of Spout Springs, but that just means negotiating work crews and more stoppages until it’s all done. Now work has begun for the new Exit 14 on I-985 in Flowery Branch, a two-year project many residents of the area opposed, its benefits seemingly aimed at a few businesses. For a $34 million price tag, commuters have to wonder if it’s worth the trouble and expense.

Paying for it all is another challenge. Lawmakers may once again consider supplementing transportation budgets with supplemental sales taxes, a plan that failed to earn statewide support when it was proposed in 2012.

Our wish for 2018 is a workable solution to pay for transportation needs, including mass transit options where feasible, and two years or more worth of patience to get through the work already underway.

Driving while engaged: While on the subject of traffic, traversing congested roads would be easier if those who insist on texting or fiddling with their cellphones, music, makeup or meals would focus on the road. Highway accidents and fatalities are on the rise in Georgia in recent years, according to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety data. The causes vary, including high volume on the road and drunken driving, but distracted motorists are a major factor.

Already, state legislators are pondering legislation to require motorists to use hands-free devices and toughen penalties for those who don’t. It may be inconvenient for some but still long overdue. Drivers already trying to dodge all those orange barrels don’t need any more obstacles.

Social media manners: What is it about the impersonal semi-anonymity of Facebook and other sites that turns otherwise rational people into raving jackasses? The snide, mean-spirited exchanges seen there would be less likely face-to-face with a fellow human being rather than at a disembodied avatar on a blinking screen.

It’s bad enough our president has been known to engage in such Twitter tirades, and even his supporters hope he dials it back a bit. Let’s resolve to engage each other online the same way we should in person: with empathy for others, respect for different backgrounds and views, and converse with each other as if our mothers are watching.

Neutral corners: It may be too much to ask the warring parties in Congress to find common ground on anything, but they shouldn’t stop trying. Major reforms such as health care insurance and tax reform shouldn’t be decided purely along party lines; half the country voted for the other guys and deserve a seat at the table. 

Here’s hoping the president lives up to his promise to bring Democrats on board for some initiatives, and that they will take part with reasonable expectations in order to remain relevant to those who voted them into office.

Election year substance: Both in Washington and Atlanta, the presence of election primaries in the spring and the general election in November might preclude much cross-party cooperation. 

In the state legislature, this often takes the form of nonsensical bills aimed at pleasing a particular special interest or group of constituents, grandstand “hey look at me, I’m on your side” plays to earn votes and campaign cash. Meanwhile, out come the teeth and talons as those competing for governor and other offices claw each other to shreds.

It’s unreasonable to expect candidates to play nice with so much at stake, but their pointed debates at least should target substantive ideas to make our state better rather than descend into personal attacks aimed at tearing each other apart. Their energy and resources should focus on voters and how to make their lives better, not just on winning. 

Men behaving better: The epidemic of sexual harassment claims in show business, politics and the media has stained many reputations and perhaps made workplace interactions more uncomfortable. It’s refreshing to see long overdue cases of abuse come to light from victims now empowered to come forward. 

As the smoke clears, let’s hope turning over that rock has exposed such behavior for the scourge it is and discourages potential predators from following suit. A few days or more without another revelation of a household name outed as a grabby cretin would be welcome.

And here’s to wishing a happy, healthy and prosperous new year to all of our readers and neighbors in Northeast Georgia, a corner of the world we would trade for no other. Our blessings are great and our problems within our grasp to solve. 

Let’s toast 2018, then roll up our sleeves and get back to work on them. That little baby can’t do it alone.

Share your thoughts on this or any other topic in a letter to the editor; you can use this form or send email to The Times editorial board includes General Manager Norman Baggs, Editor Keith Albertson and Managing Editor Shannon Casas, plus community members Susan DeCrescenzo, Cathy Drerup and Brent Hoffman.