Dispatches from government reporter Johnny Edwards

What troubles Augusta?

Like any human endeavor, the City of Augusta is fraught with problems.

But which one is the direst of all?

I thought I’d ask that question of the 10 people vying in contested elections to sit on the Augusta Commission. It’s not the toughest of questions, but it’s a hard one to duck, dodge or hedge on, and their answers give an interesting peek inside their heads.

As I’ve interviewed them over the past few weeks, I asked each candidate, “What is the most pressing issue facing Augusta right now?”

Their answers:

Distict 1

Matt Aitken: “Lack of progress as a city. I think we see other communities around that are growing, and we’re not.”

Bill Fennoy: “I would think that the most pressing issue facing Augusta is lack of economic development. I think that Augusta has lost some jobs that we have not been able to replace. We must do something to bring jobs to Augusta. We must do something to train our citizens to be able to step into those jobs.”

JoRae Jenkins: “The diversity on the commission. Just dealing with race all the time. I believe we just need to pull it together and stop voting on race and start voting on issues.”

Anthony Jones: “Jobs. There are a lot less of them, and I see a lot of people that need assistance day to day. I guess unemployment would be the biggest issue.”

Butch Palmer: “Vitalization. There’s been a whole bunch of emphasis placed on Broad Street, but the surrounding neighborhoods near Broad Street don’t have the disposable incomes to enjoy the goods and services of downtown. We need people who own and occupy their homes. It would be a safer, cleaner, nicer city. We need to do a government incentive to attract homebuyers back to the urban core. There’s a wealth of white and black people that will move to downtown once you get rid of the trash. And by no means am I talking about displacement. Displacement happens gradually. It’s a natural process.”

District 3

Joe Bowles: “Public perception. When you look at the events that have happened in the press involving commissioners – whether it’s their fault or not – and open records, I think there are a lot of people who think that the government’s trying to operate under a veil of secrecy.”

Joy B. Mitchell-Booker: “Unemployment. We’ve got a lot of people that have lost jobs because of the economic situation, and that’s hurting us real bad. We’ve got people losing their houses left and right, simply because they’ve lost their jobs or gone out of business.”

Cleveland O’Steen: “I just think they (commissioners) need to work together. That’s the biggest thing. Work together and be up front with the citizens. It’s accountability.”

District 5

Bobby Hankerson: “We’re gonna’ have to get past the negativity, the bribery and scheming. When those things happen, it’s impossible for us to move forward. The biggest issue is to get past that. It’s just creating an atmosphere where we cannot progress, while these things are happening. We need things to stimulate growth in Augusta.”

Bill Lockett: “Jobs. When I say jobs, I mean good-paying jobs. Augusta’s not as bad as some places, but we still have a relatively high unemployment rate.”

Another problem we face: apathy.

According to Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director, turnout on Nov. 3 is expected to be around 20 percent. While that would be much better than the 8.71 percent who turned out for the June sales tax referendum, it’s still pathetic. That’s 20 percent of registered voters, mind you, not the population at large.

For those of you interested in local government, the Augusta-Richmond County Committee for Good Government will hold a candidate forum tonight at 7 p.m. at the Julian Smith BBQ Pit on Milledge Road.

Each candidate who shows up will get three minutes to speak, and the committee will endorse candidates for commission seats and the vacant District 5 seat on the Richmond County School Board.

    • Syndicate content
Comments (43) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
jackragg
0
Points
jackragg 10/06/09 - 03:36 pm
0
0
I say fire them all and

I say fire them all and start over. The biggest problem is I don't think any of them care about nobody but themselves. Augusta is the bad punchline to every political joke you can think of.

PositiveThinker
0
Points
PositiveThinker 10/06/09 - 03:50 pm
0
0
JoRae, I am sure you are a

JoRae, I am sure you are a very bright and intelligent woman... but do you REALLY think that the most pressing issue in Augusta is that there is a lack of diversity on the commission??

What about our public school?  Or lack of new growth?  Or the fact that GeorgiaTrend just ranked the 40 under 40 business leaders http://www.georgiatrend.com/cover-story/10_09_40under40.shtml and not a SINGLE one came from the CSRA.  I think a major problem here is recruiting young, talented and educated people to either move or move back to Augusta.  We've got a lot of "mom and pop" businesses or small family owned businesses that hire family or near-family.  It's tough for outsiders to "break into" this closed community and quite frankly... I think that mentality has really hurt this economy.

Taylor B
5
Points
Taylor B 10/06/09 - 04:32 pm
0
0
The commission does not have

The commission does not have one thing to do with education. That's board of education, hence the name. I do agree that the commission isn't diverse enough. We should have ten people voting, not two races. There aren't any free market ides between any commissioner, with the rare exception of Bowles from time to time. To encourage economic growth, Augusta needs to do one simple thing. Stay out of its way. Stop putting restrictions on growth. Its so easy to say "I support economic growth." The HOW is what I want to know. The government cannot create jobs, wealth, or business. It can let it happen.

disssman
6
Points
disssman 10/06/09 - 08:15 pm
0
0
Maybe they need to relook

Maybe they need to relook the polling places.  I drive by three stations to get to mine.   I really believe that if they wanted people to vote they would make it available on the internet or by phone.  Lets face it I can do anything in life (banking, stock market, draw unemployment, etc, etc. ) on the phone but I can't vote that way.  Another thing I don't understand is, we are supposed to be a Consolidated City, but everything is targeted to a few blocks downtown that are already so congested it is impossible to move sometimes.  Why not expand to the outer areas and have a real big city?  And finally we need laws that we are willing to enforce.  That means making some people unhappy that can't fit in with society.  The problems are in the areas of noise polution and failure of people to maintain their property.  Right now these problems are closely related and if not corrected soon, will simply destroy the city.   

eachoneteachone
0
Points
eachoneteachone 10/07/09 - 01:39 am
0
0
Richmond County

Richmond County commissioners have wasted our money and they have given us less for our tax dollars!!! Preacher Hatney should have to pay taxpayers back the money that  he has voted to pay out to keep the  X-Mart doors closed. Hatney is the reason that defense lawyers have a job. Do you think that he may be getting a kick back?

eachoneteachone
0
Points
eachoneteachone 10/07/09 - 01:29 am
0
0
Mr. Palmer has the solution.

Mr. Palmer has the solution. If Richmond county is ever to be better we must have a chronic nuisance property ordinance. People are not choosing to move here because  Richmond County is a "crime scene". Criminals are in control in Augusta  because they have not been stopped. Crack houses are difficult  to shut down but a chronic nuisance property ordinance can be used to shut them down. It isn't that illegal drugs that cause the crack house to be shut down. It is the nuisance that the drug dealers and their customers create that the ordinance addresses, like loitering, littering, booming music/noise, fighting, or anything that causes a public disturbance.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 10/07/09 - 02:35 am
0
0
doublepost

doublepost

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 10/07/09 - 02:32 am
0
0
I am curious where all of

I am curious where all of the candidates stand on this TEE center? I cannot understand how anyone could still be for this thing, atleast the current one they are talking about. I mean now Fort Discovery is closing.. just about every big taxpayer funded boondoggle down there has failed. And I think we still don't know everything about this bribery scandal. How about let the voters have a second look at this TEE center or atleast just build it for what we approved in the first place not this outlandish amount they now want. Where do they stand on this issue? And by the way, isn't everyone for more economic development and jobs? The thing I want to know is how to get there, what will you do specifically? I just don't think sinking tens of millions of dollars in another failed boondoggle is going to revitalize Augusta.

augustanewcomer
0
Points
augustanewcomer 10/07/09 - 01:36 pm
0
0
Palmer and Fennoy have hit

Palmer and Fennoy have hit it on the head.....Augusta has to attract business and is doing so miserably.  As a recent arrival to Augusta I believe that the city has so much potential, but it must open its doors to major corporations that bring with it significant number of jobs that run the gamut from entry level to management.  North and South Carolina in many ways have provided significant incentives to major corporations in order to convince them to relocate to cities, who just like Augusta, have to reinvent themselves or stagnate.  This city has lived on the Master's event for so long, it doesn't know how to do anything else.  Revitalization of the city won't/can't happen without a sustainable economic base, which this city doesn't have.  You put the cart before the horse when you look to spend money on improvements (TEE and others), but have no customers.  Bring in large numbers of middle class with relatively moderate disposable income, and then natural selection will take place (homeowners/revitalization). 

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 10/07/09 - 01:50 pm
0
0
augustanewcomer: very good

augustanewcomer: very good post there. I agree. And one of the main problems Augusta has is that it loses so many residents to Columbia and Aiken Counties. I mean if the factories and companies do locate in Augusta but yet their employees live elsewhere then that doesn't help Augusta all that much because their paychecks and taxes will go to another county. We have to figure out ways to make Augusta a more desirable place  for people to LIVE in once again. I think Palmer is on the right track here. It just seems like Augusta has stagnated. The population has barely grown from the 2000 census. We can do better.

Toocpop
0
Points
Toocpop 10/07/09 - 02:21 pm
0
0
Emerydan, how many forums or

Emerydan, how many forums or commission meetings do you plan to attend instead of complaining and talking to your computer? Why are you not running for a political office? All I hear is blah... blah... blah!

Taylor B
5
Points
Taylor B 10/07/09 - 02:26 pm
0
0
Tooc, the poster has a very

Tooc, the poster has a very valid point. Why are you criticizing the poster instead of getting into the conversation?

Toocpop
0
Points
Toocpop 10/07/09 - 02:41 pm
0
0
I attended the Good

I attended the Good Government Forum last night. It was my first ever hearing about the group and I wanted to find out more information. It was a good way for me to meet all of the candidates and ask their opinions on key issues. I just think that all of the bickering and complaining is so dumb. At some point we need to come together for the sake of Augusta as a whole.

rharris3237
11
Points
rharris3237 10/07/09 - 03:03 pm
0
0
I am in complete agreement

I am in complete agreement with the above comment. We need to drop the TEE center and focus on what needs to be fixed in the entire city not just 1 area.  The noise ordinance needs to be enforced throughout the Richmond county area. Enough is enough, when you can't even sit in your own home and eat or watch tv for the booming it's crazy and something has to be done. Just look at the money the sheriff's department would collect daily from this filth. We need the commissioners to be fair and equal to all. This also goes toward the forced trash collections that the county has to foot most of the bill so the city does not have to raise their rates. Fair taxation for all, if you own 1 home or 12 houses you should still have to pay just like everyone else.

Taylor B
5
Points
Taylor B 10/07/09 - 03:16 pm
0
0
I agree the trash service

I agree the trash service should be the responsibility of the homeowner, and the government should not tack it on to tax bills. Rharris, if you think subwoofers are the worst thing in this city, you're buying into something I'm not. Its so low on the priority list I don't even think about it. This city is bleeding revenue, jobs, and productive people, and loud cars being silenced will not fix it. We, as a city, need to come up with the leadership to handle these issues.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 10/07/09 - 03:30 pm
0
0
atctalorb: I think you may

atctalorb: I think you may be missing the point. I don't think they were saying that noise ordinance violations was the THE biggest issue, but it is one of the many issues that affects quality of life in Augusta. I do not have a right to disturb the peace with my loud music. This sort of thing just isn't tolerated in Columbia County or Aiken, no wonder more people choose to live there then Augusta. If we don't focus on the things that bring down the overall quality of life in Augusta, we will continue to lose residents, and thus our economic base will continue to shrink. The sound disturbances are just one of many problems that need to be addressed.

Taylor B
5
Points
Taylor B 10/07/09 - 03:51 pm
0
0
I'd love to see the polling

I'd love to see the polling data on people that move out of Richmond County from people that have loud speakers. I work for a large business that moved 90 percent of their operation from richmond to columbia county. Maybe it was the subwoofers. Maybe it was because Augusta grew 3 percent that year, and columbia county grew 35 percent. You decide. People that blast loud music are inconsiderate. But they are not economy killing machines. What does columbia county have that we don't? My guess would be a government conducive to business and residential expansion.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 10/07/09 - 04:04 pm
0
0
Like I said it is just one

Like I said it is just one of MANY quality of life issues that make Augusta a less desirable place to live.  In Augusta you have a government that wastes money with little to show for it. They can't enforce the laws on the books. They can't even keep the city clean. But yet they can bicker about spending millions on a TEE center that frankly will just end up being another colssal waste of tax money that will go bust in a few years like everything else. When regular citizens come down to city hall to have their voices heard on what concerns them in their neighborhoods they are ignored. No wonder people are not making a mad rush to live in Augusta Richmond County.

Taylor B
5
Points
Taylor B 10/07/09 - 04:18 pm
0
0
Emery, I've read your posts

Emery, I've read your posts on this. Do you have any ideas on what it will take to fix it?

Southern_Patriot
0
Points
Southern_Patriot 10/07/09 - 05:30 pm
0
0
No one with a vision and the

No one with a vision and the "RACE CARD"

eachoneteachone
0
Points
eachoneteachone 10/08/09 - 12:23 am
0
0
Mr. Palmer has many valid

Mr. Palmer has many valid ideas : wwwbutchforaugusta.org

eachoneteachone
0
Points
eachoneteachone 10/08/09 - 12:27 am
0
0
Lack of growth is not an

Lack of growth is not an issue in Augusta but lack of value for our tax dollars is a big issue. We are getting ripped off !!!

Taylor B
5
Points
Taylor B 10/08/09 - 12:35 pm
0
0
The real question is... Do

The real question is... Do these people know what a computer hard drive is?

Toocpop
0
Points
Toocpop 10/08/09 - 12:54 pm
0
0
Butch Palmer had some valid

Butch Palmer had some valid points, but he is too angry about his concern for Harrisburg. There are other issues of importance surrounding this community. The candidate chosen for District 1 should be able to present the issues to the full commission and the mayor without having a tantrum.

Computer hard drives are neither here nor there Atctaylorb. Get out of your chair and come up with some solutions instead of being a grump and complaining about the attempts of others to change Augusta.

eachoneteachone
0
Points
eachoneteachone 10/08/09 - 01:19 pm
0
0
Mr.  Palmer is able to

Mr.  Palmer is able to communicate in any arena. He is a seasoned Toastmaster.  You have only see one very small aspect of his remarkable personality. Go by and meet him. He is a very articulate, nice person. He anger was very justifiable. All the tax payers of Richmond should be angry. What is the difference in a commission member stealing from your piggy bank in your home and robbing us with property tax increases?We are getting less for more. It is not right.

Toocpop
0
Points
Toocpop 10/08/09 - 01:27 pm
0
0
Seasoned Toastmaster...

Seasoned Toastmaster... yeah, right! Not with all of those placards out of order and preaching he did at the Good Government Forum. You must be talking about a different Butch. The one I saw was a wreck and didn't make use of his time well at all! Please don't announce that to anyone else. In addition, if he is so seasoned, why was he shushed during a commission meeting? He needs to work on his decorum. There's a time and place to throw that "I'm the District 1 Candidate" around. He's gonna have to work on some things if he really wants to be the winner of the race.

Mr. Palmer is a nice person. I spoke with him prior to his speaking at the mic. I can understand his passion for the plight of residents, but he must control it in the face of the public.

You are valid also in your concern for the accountability of the commissioners. However, there is a way to handle things. Remember this if you remember nothing else... getting mad and flipping out does not change the situation. If there is a problem... it will still be there after you have had a fit and later calmed down. We have to be civil about these things and work together to come up with solutions.

Taylor B
5
Points
Taylor B 10/08/09 - 01:42 pm
0
0
Toocpop, you don't know

Toocpop, you don't know anything about me. You showing up to a couple of meetings and think you're better than people on here.

Toocpop
0
Points
Toocpop 10/08/09 - 02:22 pm
0
0
My apologies if you feel

My apologies if you feel offended. It is not my intent to make you feel that way. No, I don't know you.  And, no I don't think I am better than people "on here". I am a concerned resident of Augusta who takes pride in this community. It serves no purpose being hostile to one another and not talking about the issues. Instead of arguing, we need to come up with some solutions. Think it not strange that that is what most of the people "on here" do? Gripes and complaints don't make these situations go away. Furthermore, I will be at future events to listen to our leaders and offer suggestions for the things going on in Augusta Richmond County. Will you?

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 10/08/09 - 02:38 pm
0
0
atctaylorb has done lots of

atctaylorb has done lots of great activist work looking out for the taxpayers and shining a light on government waste.

Toocpop
0
Points
Toocpop 10/08/09 - 03:01 pm
0
0
That's a good start, but why

That's a good start, but why all of the complaints? At some point we need to agree to disagree. The goal is to better our city. The only way we can move forward is by appreciating our differences and find a way to make decisions that are best for ALL of us. We need to come together.

Back to Top

Top headlines

Augusta nears naming administrator

Augusta could be closer to having a permanent head of city government, with Mayor Deke Copenhaver calling a meeting to "discuss and approve" his recommendation.
Search Augusta jobs