City Ink: Independents left out of arena ballot question

If you’re an independent voter in Richmond County, nobody cares what you think.

 

When Augusta Commission members voted last week to ask voters where they want to see a new arena built, they disenfranchised the independents because they’re only going to ask Republican and Democratic voters.

After two commission votes to reject the Regency Mall site, Commissioner Marion Williams put the issue back on Tuesday’s agenda, and Mayor Hardie Davis and commissioners rehashed Regency Mall versus the downtown site for a third time before agreeing to ask the county’s Republican and Democratic executive committees to place two nonbinding questions on the May 22 primary ballots:

Should a new arena be built at Regency Mall? Yes or No.

Should the new arena be built at the current downtown site? Yes or No.

But nobody mentioned the independents. They could file a lawsuit, but the questions are nonbinding, so it doesn’t matter anyway, except for the insult.

Do You Mean Somebody’s Got To Pay For It? I’ve read a few online comments about the commission vote but wanted to know what Mr. Republican, Dave Barbee, and members of his Friday morning coffee club thought about it.

“The Friday morning club says it’s OK,” Barbee said, “But there should be three questions instead of two. The third question should be, ‘Do you want to vote for a bond referendum to pay for the damn thing? Yes or No.’

“You’ve got to pay for it. You can’t just arbitrarily put the question out there and not mention paying for it,” he said.

Actually, during Tuesday’s meeting, the mayor proposed putting a bond referendum on ballots to fund an arena up to $200 million, which prompted Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle to calculate what it would cost to pay off $200 million over 20 years.

“Mr. Mayor, $200 million over 20 years at $14 million a year would add 3 mills of tax. It would be another rain tax.”

Didn’t I tell you the rain tax, aka stormwater fee, wouldn’t be the last “fee” you’d see?

It Would Be a Ghostly Show: During Tuesday’s rehash, Commissioner Grady Smith said he grew up about a mile from Regency Mall and once had a business not far from there.

“I hated to see Regency Mall go, but the crowd that hung around down there, they made it impossible for good, honest hardworking people to do business,” he said. “They didn’t bother me because I had a little Maxxon radio, and they thought I was a policeman. I said if they ever found out, they’re going to kill me.

“Anyway, I won’t be going to any of that stuff. By the time it’s finished, I’ll be in my mid-70s. Let the millennials decide where it goes because they’re the ones who’ll be paying for it. So they’ll be the ones who’ll be going to see Prince.”

The laughter caused him to remember that Prince was dead.

“Oh. That’s right. Prince. I’m sorry,” he said.

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? The Richmond County Democratic Committee “redid” its 2016 committee elections Saturday, but whatever the outcome, it won’t satisfy the young socialists who filed the complaint with the state party over the way the old guard has been running things.

“I am planning on challenging the legitimacy of the election with the DPG,” Gerod Gay said after the voting. “The whole reason we had to conduct this election is they did not conduct them according to the bylaws in 2016 or previously. And yet, the election they’re holding today also doesn’t conform to the bylaws.

“The bylaws specify a caucus process. People can show up, register the same day, speak and voted. They also allowed early voting, so the people who voted early were not able to vote on the same slate of candidates as people who showed up and registered today. So people who registered today were effectively disenfranchised.”

Former longtime Richmond County Democratic Party Chairman Lowell Greenbaum acknowledged that the party has been like a family.

During Saturday’s caucus of District 1 committee candidates, Greenbaum said that when he took over as party chairman it was in bad shape, and his vision was to elect Democrats locally, statewide and nationally.

“The party became a very happy party and a strong party,” he said. “We helped elect John Barrow four times, and he turned to us and said, ‘Thank you. Without your help I would not have won.’

“So that is my philosophy over the years, and the reason people kept electing me for 16-17 years. And I love the party.”

Gay said that when he and his group of Bernie Sanders supporters first came to a Democratic Party committee meeting last year, there was a lot of acrimony.

“We wanted to come down and become members. We felt like we were rejected, and two camps were formed,” he said. “You denied our membership application three times. It took us three months to become members. Some of us never became members.”

“That was not a public meeting,” Greenbaum said. “That’s why we got upset.”

The bylaws state that all meetings are open meetings, Gay responded.

Afterward, he said, “Our position is to follow up with the Democratic Party of Georgia and to pursue legal options. We just want a process that conforms to the bylaws.”

Before the caucuses, Richmond County Democratic Party first vice chairman L.C. Myles said, “We want young people to energize the party and help us get Democrats elected. We’re not trying to keep anybody out.”

… It is the Courage to Continue that Counts: We would choose the coldest day of the year to go to go see Darkest Hour, the movie about Winston Churchill’s heroic efforts to keep Britain from surrendering to Hitler without a fight in 1940.

When we got to Regal Cinemas, there were about a dozen people in line to buy tickets. As each party approached the window, a conversation between them and the man at the ticket window ensued which, considering the sub-freezing temperature, seemed totally unnecessary.

“What are they doing up there?” I asked. “Why is it taking so long?

The young couple in front of us turned around and smiled, and the girl said it was because they were having to buy reserved seats.

“Do you mean you can’t go to the picture show anymore and pick your own seat once you get inside?” I asked.

She assured me that was a fact.

When we finally got to the window, the ticket taker said we’d have to sit in the second row back from the screen, and Ernie said he didn’t want to have to be looking up all afternoon, so we left.

The next week, we went to Riverwatch Cinemas to see Darkest Hour and learned they too only sold reserved seats. So we took our reserved seat tickets and went inside where there were all of 15 people waiting to see the show.

Before last week, the last time we went to the movies was in 2012 to see 2016: Obama’s America. Everybody in the theater was older than dirt. When we got out, Ernie said it was like watching a movie on a tour bus. He said he kept expecting his hair to turn blue.

On the way home last week, I said, “You know, we’ve got to start getting out more. At the rate we’re going, we won’t see another movie in a theater until 2024. And by then, it won’t do us any good because we’ll forget what it was about before we get home.”

 

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