It has been said (by Orson Welles in the 1949 movie classic "The Third Man") that "In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had 500 years of brotherly love and peace and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock."
Minus the terror, murder and bloodshed, Milton's City Council politics recently has at times more resembled Italy in the 15th century than Switzerland: tumultuous and chaotic at times but also very busy and productive. The majority on the city council has been battling an entrenched old guard determined to drag Milton back into its past doldrums. In spite of this, through dogged determination, the council has been moving Milton forward and getting things done.
Our city seems to be on the verge of its own mini Renaissance. An impressive list of recent accomplishments includes new and refurbished parks like Carpenters, Gil Bass and Mary's Street parks. Master planning is near completion for further improvements to Carpenter's Park and the Riverwalk. A kid's splash pad, or possibly two, should be completed next year. A BMX track was recently approved.
Less sexy but more fundamental, more roads have been resurfaced recently than in many years. The council and mayor have obtained a promise of millions of dollars from the county commission to build a new water treatment plant, crucial not just to Milton but to our entire region.
City tax rolls are expanding. More building permits have been filed recently than in any year since 2007. New businesses, often small but vital, are popping up around town.
While accomplishing all of this the council is maintaining a balanced budget and stable emergency fund.
Excitement and enthusiasm is most palpable downtown. The gem of the historic district, the Imogene Theatre, is beginning to fulfill its potential by regularly attracting national acts. Bands on the Blackwater also brings thousands downtown on Friday nights in the spring and fall to help local restaurants and other businesses. A resurgent Main Street Milton organization is becoming a catalyst for growth by providing grants to new and existing businesses. It also enhances and coordinates local special events.
Overall it is a very sunny outlook, but a few dark clouds are on the horizon. The old guard (whose cry of "take our city back" presumably means "take our city back to sleep"), defeated in the past two elections, is expected to mount a determined re-election bid this year. One of their main goals will be to push a four lane highway through downtown Milton, stifling development and damaging the historic/riverfront district.
The position of the current mayor and council is to both alleviate traffic congestion on Highway 90 while protecting Milton's beauty and heritage and maintaining the forward momentum it has fought long and hard to achieve.
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