When Augusta Commission member Sammie Sias calls, people listen.
Sias held his District 4 Community Breakfast at Jamestown Community Center on Saturday, and after receiving a special invitation, I decided to drop in.
It’s the place to be on a Saturday morning. I discovered a Who’s Who of government and private leaders, all there at the request of Army Sgt. Maj. Sias, retired, to inform themselves of what a great place south Augusta is and see the Sammie Sias Show.
Name Dropping: State Sen. Harold Jones, State Court Chief Judge David Watkins, State Court Solicitor Omeeka Loggins, State Court Judge Kelli McIntyre, Sheriff Richard Roundtree, Col. Robert Partain and deputies were there.
State Court Judge Robert “Bo” Hunter and challenger Monique Walker, who had a big fundraiser last week, were also present, as was Commission District 10 candidate John Clarke.
Also there were City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson, Fire Chief Chris James, firefighters, EMS personnel and city department directors. Also, Jim Atkins, the director of South Star EMS; Cal Wray, the new executive director of the Augusta Economic Development Authority; Henry Ingram, the development authority’s chairman; Augusta Coliseum Authority Chairman Cedric Johnson, and Tonya Bonitatibus, Savannah Riverkeeper.
Also there were Dr. Tom Clarke, the executive director of the CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon; Phil Wahl, senior director of Security Federal Bank; and contractors Victor Mills and Will McKnight.
There were more, but that’s enough of that.
“The Detroit Factor”: According to Sias, in 2014 some of his commission colleagues were concerned that Augusta was going to become Detroit. Sias said it might have been the “Minority Factor” (of six black and four white commissioners) but he was there to refute any such fallacies.
“We are professionals,” he said. “Our employees are professionals. We are managed by professionals.”
The government is not out to tax you into oblivion, he said.
There’s no such thing as tax and spend in Augusta; the rain tax is not a tax. It’s a fee. And there’s nothing wrong with the structure of the government, according to Sias.
“For the last three years, Augusta-Richmond County has managed total budgets of three-quarters of a billion dollars,” he said. “That’s nothing to sneeze at unless you’re a federal senator.”
Keep on Lying to the IRS: The new south Augusta development department, created to recruit businesses in underserved areas, will try to identify the right businesses for the area. And that will require identifying critical infrastructure needs and collecting accurate demographic data.
“People are not poor in south Augusta,” Sias said. “I ain’t going to ask you to raise your hand, but you know that census data … You done retired, and you got this little extra income coming in. That extra money. Did you put all that on there? No, you ain’t got to answer that part. You know you didn’t.
“You’re retired. Most of the folks out here in this area, a lot of them. So guess what? You have high disposable income. I keep looking at all these new cars. New this. New that. Doing expansions on the house. And then you say, ‘Ain’t nothing out here.’
“You’re spending money. So you need to tell the truth. Tell the truth ‘bout your money. Unless you been lying to the IRS. If you’ve been doing that you might want to keep those lies going.”
Record Flights: Augusta Regional Airport Executive Director Herbert Judon reported record emplanements in 2017, and Sias hinted of coming airport expansions.
The Alarms are Going Off: Fire trucks were parked outside the community center, and firefighters gave demonstrations after the meeting.
Sias said he asked Chief James to bring them so people could see what they’re trying to achieve (wrest control of the ambulance service from Gold Cross EMS by becoming zone providers, a designation the city lost to Gold Cross in 2012.)
Sias said that between the fire department and their “partners,” (South Star EMS?) they could put nearly 350 EMTs and 40 to 45 paramedics to work.
“We have more than enough to take care of you if you dial 911,” he said. “Right now, we’re not in it. But we’re fighting to get in it. We need to be accountable to you for your emergency services. You look to the city for water, roads, sewerage, utilities, all these kinds of things. You also look to your city for emergency rescue, and that should be all the way across the board.”
If city officials want somebody else to help them, it should be their choice, he said.
“We should not be bullied into it, overruled by some other agency that says, ‘This is how it’s going to be.’ We’re the second-largest county in the state of Georgia. You don’t treat us like we’re hillbillies from somewhere. We should be running our own business.”
Be Mine: Traditionally, we send and receive Valentine cards, so here’s one I wrote for the mayor and two term-limited commissioners:
Mayor Hardie Davis’ Valentine to Augusta:
Roses are red, violets are blue
I love myself, and so should you
And re-elect me for all I have done
To make your lives better
And mine more fun.
All’s on the upswing since I took the gavel
With my eloquent speeches and frequent travel
I went to London and saw Big Ben
And to Jerusalem and back again
To Washington more times than anyone knows
More times than you have fingers and toes.
When I’m away, the office is run by my chief of staff,
Though the fact that I have one makes some people laugh
But I can afford him. I have plenty to spend.
And I’ll spend it all before this year’s end.
Thousands of My Brother’s Keeper’s dough
Went for half-baked advice and “hashtag SOGO.”
I ran for mayor on “One Augusta,” but to my dismay
Augusta’s more divided because I had to have my way
And insist on building a new arena at Regency Mall
Which might be the straw that makes the camel fall.
The final straw that breaks the camel’s back
And I’ll be remembered as just another political hack.
A Farewell Valentine from Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle:
Roses are red, violets are blue
And after December, Wayne Guilfoyle is through
I tried to save taxpayers’ money with my financial notes
But in the end, saving money never got six votes.
So I’m going back and lay some tile
And make some money for me for awhile.
A Farewell Valentine from Commissioner Grady Smith:
Roses are red, violets are blue
And come year’s end, I’m through with you.
No more meetings, no more lunches.
If you need me then, I’m at the club, eating brunches
I’ll be in the back room of which nobody knows
Playing cards with all of my bros.