Leaders, check your vision

Bickering over city reorganization misses the big, important picture

There's a tidal wave that may be coming -- and some Augusta commissioners want to bicker about whether the city administrator should have the power to dig a shallow trench around City Hall.


An increasing number of experts and politicians are warning that federal government spending could cause the dollar, and therefore the national economy, to collapse. At the very least, inflation could ramp up significantly -- and already seems to be in food and commodities.

We can't do things the way we always have. The money just isn't there. The smart thing to do -- in business, at home, in government -- is to prepare for yet leaner times.

A majority of Augusta commissioners do see the need to find the slightest efficiencies now in the city government -- after the private sector had long ago done so -- and have authorized Administrator Fred Russell to move forward with a modest reorganization that will save money and trim the workforce by a couple dozen.

And yet, some commissioners -- enter Al Mason -- want to fight it tooth and nail.

Mason, despite missing several key meetings on the topic, went on a tirade about the reorganization Monday, complaining it changes the city charter and thus needs eight votes from the commission, not just six.

The city attorney disagrees, as do six commissioners.

Leaving aside how disrespectful Mason was toward Russell Monday -- rudely interrupting him, talking about the administrator having gone on "ad nauseam" in explaining the reorganization, and more -- you have to wonder what's really behind the opposition. Some see the area's legislative delegation's fingerprints on it, as the largely Democratic group scratches for relevance -- if not in Atlanta, then in Augusta.

They seem ready to fight a battle royal over giving the administrator more power to fire ineffective or wayward employees, and more influence in recommending department heads.

For this we're going to war?

It's pathetic. And it's getting in the way of Augusta government girding itself for what may be a more difficult economic time than we saw in the fearful aftermath of the 2008 collapse.

In truth, if the worst happens, today's shortsighted squabbles, best represented by Mason's ill-advised diatribe, will be seen as the fiddling-while-Rome-burns trivialities they are. Mason, and whoever he's listening to, is fiddling while his constituents' economic futures are at greater risk of burning than at any time since the Great Depression.

True leaders are more visionary than that.

In the short run, Mason has abandoned any pretense of being a transcendent figure in Augusta politics. He is clearly representing a bygone era of divisive, nobody-gets-ahead stagecraft. It's sad. We had higher hopes for him.

In the long run, he and his cohorts are trying to stand in the way of doing what's necessary to protect the city and its citizens in the "new normal" of a more austere America.

Thankfully, the majority of the commission gets it -- and from everything we hear, so does the public.

Augusta Commissioner Bill Lockett rightfully released the city attorney's written opinion Tuesday that the reorganization is lawful -- an opinion that has been proffered to the 10 commissioners and mayor, and is therefore subject to open records laws. We don't know why the city had withheld the document and given the reorganization's opponents unwarranted call to question it.

It's a good bet harder times still are on the horizon.

Our leaders at City Hall had better learn to play well with others.



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