Augusta's future: great view of progress on other side of river?

Friends, we offer you today an amazing, stupendous, eye-opening feat of science never before attempted by mortal man! Yes indeed, gather 'round, friends, for we're talking about stretching the bounds of science and imagination and changing forever what you think of the space-time continuum!


That's right, ladies and gentlemen. We're taking you -- back to the future!

No DeLorean needed, folks, nor any plutonium or 1.21 gigawatts of electricity. The only time machine you need is your own car or two feet.

Here it is, then -- the road map to Augusta's future:

Today's riverfront.

OK, you can relax now -- your trip to the future is over. Now, isn't that amazing? You can actually see the future simply by gazing at Augusta's riverfront.

Yes, indeed, that famously moribund view of lonely weeds, tillable land and wasted opportunity is exactly the sight you will see in five or 10 years if nothing else happens. Which is, of course, the natural state of affairs here.

Nothing to replace the erstwhile Golf and Gardens. Nothing on the plowed site of the failed Watermark condo project.

Can you believe the lack of development, particularly along the river downtown? Here we have a city with a more-than-accommodating climate, an affordable standard of living and the natural resources and manpower to be anything we want -- and yet, here sits, perfectly idle and eager, acres and acres of some of the most prime riverfront real estate east of the Mississippi.

Our descendants will wonder what, if anything, we were thinking.

But hey, it's not all gloom and doom. At least your photos of Augusta's skyline will be good for years to come! And we'll keep that unobstructed view of progress across the river in North Augusta, S.C.!

So you see, it's not all bad!

Some of us, of course, pine for more. And we ask ourselves, in a form that Dickens might: Are these the shadows of things that must be, or are they the shadows of things that might be?

We choose to see the Augusta that could be. High-end residences and the attendant businesses on the river downtown. New buildings sprouting up. Construction jobs. Job jobs. Tourists and conventions that now go elsewhere. A thriving theater and nightlife.

We see potential.

Why must these things continue to be shadows of things that only might be?

Citizen activist Woody Merry tried to show us Thursday night at his one-man town hall. Citing the city's looming budget deficit and the longtime political loggerheads on the Augusta Commission, Merry angrily and rightly summed up, "We're going nowhere, except $8 million in the hole."

Brazilians have joked that theirs is "the country of the future -- and always will be." Is that Augusta's lot?

It will be, and we'll never get back to the future that might have been, if we don't elect leaders willing to take us there.

On Tuesday, we'll be deciding three contested Augusta Commission races. The choices constitute a collective fork in the road. On one path progress awaits; on the other -- well, you've seen the sorry vacant end of that cul-de-sac.

We've taken the measure of the candidates, and we sincerely believe that candidates Matt Aitken, Joe Bowles and Bobby Hankerson -- in districts 1, 3 and 5 -- easily represent Augusta's best chance for change. We believe they can help their colleagues break the logjam at City Hall and get this community moving again.

Woody Merry has his followers and his detractors. But mostly he has his heart in the right place and the kind of passion we should all envy. Even if you question his methods, we should join him in his anger at the state of politics here and his zeal for making changes.

It starts with Tuesday's election. Get out and vote -- and change the forlorn future you see on the banks of the Savannah.

The future is precisely why we have the present.

And what a gift the present could be if we'd only use it.