City Ink: There’s plenty to be thankful for in Augusta

This Thanksgiving season we’re thankful for many things, especially when it comes to Augusta politics.


For example, we’re thankful there are only 365 days in a year, which means Augusta Commission members usually meet only four times a month.

We’re also thankful there are only 10 commissioners and not 20.

We’re also thankful that Hardie Davis got elected mayor because if somebody who knew what he was doing had been elected, we wouldn’t have anything to write about.

We’re also thankful that the mayor has done his “due diligence” on the Regency Mall site and only wish he’d share it with Clay Boardman and the rest of the business people who know how to do that stuff.

Another thing we’re thankful for is that commissioners Marion Williams and Sammie Sias didn’t get into a real fight at last week’s meeting, because it would probably have ended up on YouTube and Augusta would no longer be known as the “Feel Good City” and the “Golf Capital of the World” but as “The City Too Busy Fighting to Hate.”

And we’re equally thankful that when things became heated, Commissioner Sean Frantom, who sits between the two, left, because we wouldn’t want him to get a black eye right before the holidays. We’re also thankful that Commissioner Andrew Jefferson came to sit in Frantom’s seat in case they needed a referee.

Williams was all bent out of shape because Sias and Commissioner Dennis Williams went to an EMS Council meeting in Washington, Ga., where Sias announced they want control of ambulance service in Richmond County and presented a letter from Davis to that effect without telling the other commissioners they were going.

In addition, we’re thankful Marshal Ramone Lamkin has increased the scope of his real job of protecting the courthouse and issuing summonses for garbage, junked vehicles and scrap tires to breaking up fights between commissioners. When sparks began to fly, the marshal in the room came to the dais and told them to hush. They thought he had a lot of nerve telling them to hush, but I thought it was great because I’ve wanted to do it myself a time or two. Davis was not amused by it and told him to stand down and not come back unless they called him.

And we’re really, really thankful that Sias is requesting a deadline on the arena site talk because everybody is really, really tired of hearing about it.

We’re also thankful that Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle had the nerve to say the three-letter word “cut” during a budget meeting last week.

Commissioners were doing their annual bartering about how much money they should give to nonprofit agencies, taking some from one agency and giving it to another, when Guilfoyle said his idea of working on a budget was to cut as many costs as possible, not just move money around. Davis told him they would get to that later.

We’re also thankful Guilfoyle had the nerve to ask the mayor why his My Brother’s Keeper program couldn’t be a 501(c)(3) program funded by donations like those in other cities instead of by taxpayers. Davis informed Guilfoyle that in other cities it’s handled by the government.

“And I am the government,” he added.

He then launched into a sermon about My Brother’s Keeper information on the city website; the three summits he’s held since taking office; and his power lunch program, which involves volunteers reading to students at three elementary schools each week. He credited that program with causing one of the schools to get off the governor’s list of failing schools. Guilfoyle, however, reminded Davis that the power lunch folks were volunteers.

Davis also stressed the transparency of expenditures from the $38,750 for My Brother’s Keeper. However, he did not mention that $9,000 of that money has gone to pay his political consultant Govcomm LLC this year, which makes me wonder just who’s going to hold these government turkeys accountable for anything.

We’re also thankful that commissioners extended Administrator Janice Allen Jackson’s contract three years instead of five.

We’re also thankful that, according to Commissioner Dennis Williams, the city has come up with a last-minute “win-win” deal for Pendleton King Park, even though nobody will share what that is. Jackson held a news conference and said nothing except that they were working on something.

We’re also thankful that Gold Cross has enough EMTs to pick up fat patients, so that Fire Chief Chris James’ order that firefighters were not to help them except in extreme emergencies won’t cause them to be crippled for life.

We’re also thankful that commissioners don’t hold more than a handful of strategic work sessions a year because when they do, they raise taxes and fees or vote for new ones, such as the rain tax.

And for the 28 cents property-tax rollback.

Also thankful you won’t see the franchise fee increases on the utility department, landfill and rain tax fund that will help balance the 2018 budget. Well, you won’t see them immediately. They won’t be on your utility and trash bills, but you’ll pay them sooner or later. It’s a shell game that allows the commissioners and administration to grow government with money you won’t miss until they hit you with rate increases.

And we’re thankful that Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross is prescient. You remember he called for an internal investigation into former EMA Director Pam Tucker’s complaints that Administrator Scott Johnson created such a hostile work environment that she quit. But he didn’t place Johnson on administrative leave during the investigation because he said he knew from the beginning there was no possibility of a hostile work environment.

We’re also thankful that former Mayor Deke Copenhaver was named the interim executive director of the Augusta Economic Development Authority after losing his radio talk show. And we’re equally thankful that former Mayor Bob Young finished his second historical novel, The Hand of the Wicked.

We’re more than thankful that Commissioner Bill Fennoy can get up after kneeling during the Pledge of Allegiance before commission meetings, so we don’t have to look at him kneeling the whole time.

Therefore, Fennoy is the Grandstanding Turkey of the Year, fanning his feathers out and showing his tail.

Other Turkeys, Other Tales: Regency Mall owner Alan Cardinale is Turkey Buzzard of the Year, just circling around the dead mall waiting to feed on Augusta taxpayers.

Turkeys who flew the coop this year are Engineering Director Abie Ladson; HR Director Michael Loeser, who’s leaving on the golden turkey gravy train; Deputy Administrator Ted Rhinehart; and Deputy IT Director Mike Blanchard, who became top IT turkey in Columbia County.

And, of course, Marion Williams retains his title of Turkey of the Year Emeritus in Perpetuity.

And the folks who voted for Davis for mayor might have been expecting prime rib, but all they got was the Turkey of the Year who would be Turkey ala King.