We’ve been shook up by an earthquake and blown away by hurricane news. Politically speaking, we can expect more of the same Monday when Augusta commission members shake things up and rattle the rafters at City Hall with strong gusts of hot air.
Commissioners Alvin Mason and Bill Lockett are proposing across-the-board raises for all employees who didn’t get them under City Administrator Fred Russell’s reorganization plan.
Mason also wants a status report from the city’s consultant on sales-tax projects, Heery International, while Lockett wants a status report on all SPLOST projects, I through 6, which covers the past 21 years of work.
Bring dinner and breakfast too.
Mason also wants to discuss pay raises, reorganization, re-classification and receive a report from Russell on the methodology used to determine the percentage of increases. And Lockett wants to “review and discuss the authority utilized to make retroactive pay increases to 44 Augusta-Richmond County employees and explain what action will be taken to eliminate the pay disparity created among Senior Executive Service, (SES) Group Employees; provide written documentation to support each pay increase and a written legal opinion to address the legality of making retroactive pay increases.”
Commissioner Corey Johnson, trying to make up for not voting to fire Russell last week, wants to suspend his authority to give raises. And that’s not everything they have on committee agendas to give Russell hell about. They’ll have to wait awhile for some of it though because he’s not scheduled to come back from vacation until Tuesday. Lockett said he didn’t know when he placed some of the items on the agenda.
So the forecast for Russell is for continued heat and humility, accompanied by rumbling and grumbling, designed for humbling.
A PARSON’S TALE: The Augusta Baptist Ministers Conference sponsored a town hall meeting Tuesday at Antioch Baptist Church, moderated by Barbara Gordon, the publisher of The Metro Courier and a plaintiff in the ministers’ lawsuit against the city over restructuring.
The Rev. Melvin Ivey, the pastor of Greater St. John Baptist Church, also a plaintiff, gave an “Update on Lawsuit, Depositions, Hearing Date and The Real Purpose Behind Restructuring The Government.”
“I just want to bring you up to speed as to where we stand with our lawsuit,” he said. “First of all, let me say it this way, is that the city of Augusta was surprised that we had the nerve to question them. Say it again. The city of Augusta was surprised that we had the nerve to question them.
“When we questioned their authority with moving forward with the restructuring of the city government without having eight votes, they even attacked the ministers. They told us we need to stay in our place. You know how it is. They say, ‘Boy, get back in your place.’
“Well, I stopped by tonight to tell you I not only don’t have a place, but they’re not going to tell me where to go. They even had the nerve to say, ‘Preachers need to stay in the pulpit – stay out of government.’ Well, the Bible that I read says that the government would be on his shoulders. Whose shoulders? Going to be on the shoulders of Christ.”
SILVER’S UP TO ABOUT $40 AN OUNCE: Ivey then said he expects the lawsuit to go to court next month.
“We are taking them to court because the law is on our side,” he said. “They know that they’re wrong. They even went back and tried to change some language. They even bought one of our commissioners. Ya’ll know what I’m talking about. The one that sold out. I’m talking about the one the Lord said, ‘Who’s the Judas?’ Now we know who the Judas is. Judas is named Corey Johnson.”
He then took Johnson to task for what he said was a switcheroo with Commissioner Matt Aitken.
“He and Corey did what you call a switch, so Matt Aitken could get some street cred. So he could say, ‘I voted against Fred Russell.’ ”
“Fred Russell didn’t give those raises by himself. I guarantee you those six white commissioners and the mayor knew exactly what he was doing. They weren’t surprised.”
WHITE FLIGHT EXPLAINED: The real purpose for restructuring is that Augusta is becoming predominantly black, he said.
“They’re sending everybody to Grovetown. They’re sending everybody to Martinez. They’re sending everybody to Evans. When you get ready to buy a house, first thing they tell you is, ‘Move to Martinez.’ They say, ‘They’ve got better schools in Martinez.’ They tell you they’ve got better stores in Martinez.”
JUST TRYING TO GET OUT OF A CRACK: “They tell you the crime rate is better in Martinez,” Ivey continued. “The crime rate is not better in Martinez. The crime rate in Martinez is the same as it is here in Augusta-Richmond County. People are selling dope. People are breaking into your house. People are stealing. People are breaking into your house in Columbia County the same as they are in Augusta-Richmond County. You know why? There are no jobs. That’s why they’re breaking into your homes.”
Ivey then said the reason so many people are walking in neighborhoods is that they were moved out of Gilbert Manor but not provided any transportation.
“That’s why you see people walking in your backyard, and you get mad, thinking they’re trying to break into your house,” he said. “They’re just trying to make it to the store.”
RESTRUCTURING TO SPREAD POVERTY: The reason for restructuring is to outsource city departments, Ivey said.
“How many times have you called to check on a bill and somebody you can barely understand was talking to you on the other line? That’s called outsourcing. If they give you a job, it’s a part-time job. If they give you something, there’s no benefits. There’s no sick leave with those jobs. There’s no vacation with those jobs. They give you a job with a minimum wage, which means, pastors, we would never be self-sufficient because our people don’t have any money. We talk about tithing. Our people don’t even have a decent job. Our people are struggling to rub two nickels together to make a dime.”
And restructuring was never designed to save money, he said.
“It was designed so whoever comes into power – they know the way things are going we’re going to have seven or eight black commissioners and a black mayor. And the sad truth is you’re not going to have any power. So the whole purpose behind the reorganization is not to save money. It’s so people that look like you and I will not be able to move into west Augusta. It’s so people who look like you and I will never be able to afford a $250,000 home. Why? Because we’re still making minimum wages. They feel like minimum wage is too much.
“It’s time for a recall.
“It’s time for us to take a stand and let them know when you sell your vote, make sure you’ve got somewhere to go.”
THEY’RE PLANNING TO SUCCEED! “Here’s the bottom line. Your children and my children are going to have to reap what’s been sown. And until we stand up, until we do what’s right, they’re going to continue to take advantage of us. They’re going to do everything they can. And do you know what they’re going to do? They’re going to strip Augusta-Richmond County of all the benefits, and then they’re going to go to Martinez. They’re trying to make Martinez the place to live, so they can get all those federal dollars in Martinez, not Augusta-Richmond County.”
12TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: It’s awhile before qualifying, but Republican candidates are already making their intentions known. State Rep. Lee Anderson is already in the race, and former state Rep. Barry Fleming plans to run for Anderson’s seat. Augusta contractor R.W. “Rick” Allen is also committed, so those in the know say. And former Congressman Max Burns is testing the district waters for support.
Meanwhile, Don Grantham, 10th District member of the state Department of Transportation board, is now in the 12th District.