Post election doesn't deliver expected breath of fresh air

Whew! Thank goodness that's over. Now we can go on to important things, such as who's going to be mayor pro tem next year, with Alvin Mason's term about to expire.


On second thought, we do need to do a little postelection post-mortem as a stage-setter for Thursday's commission meeting.

Nobody was surprised voters chose the incumbent Boy King to reign for four more years, especially after he was chauffeured around all election day in a classic fire-engine red convertible by a beautiful blonde named Malisa. And he is an Iron Man.

Harrisburg activist Lori Davis made the election season more interesting and the powers-that-be uncomfortable, but she had three big negatives -- no money, no name recognition and no chance to win against Deke Copenhaver. Mayoral candidate Gil Gilyard got more votes than I expected, up from less than 4 percent in 2006, to 15 percent this go-round. At that rate, he could win without a runoff in 2022.

Nobody was surprised District 4 Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason and District 2 Commissioner Corey Johnson retained their seats by big margins. Johnson is a likely candidate for mayor pro tem, and he could certainly use the pay raise that goes along with the job, seeing as how he has two ex-wives and five children.

The only surprise was in the District 10 race where Robert Ingham got almost as many votes as Sean Frantom, although Ingham's only campaign contribution was a $1,076 loan to himself, compared with Frantom's $13,955 in donations. There's a lot of head scratching going on over that one.

I'm not going to say anything about Ingham except when he got up to speak at a breakfast forum right before the election, his pants were falling down.

TWO OUT OF THREE AIN'T BAD: The day after the election, the mayor said if people in Augusta like what he's done so far in bringing peace and progress to the commission, they're going to love what he and his new "team" are going to do now. As it turned out, a day later commissioners met, and they were as divided as they were in Marion Williams' heyday. It was like when you brag on how well your children are doing, and then company comes, and they make a liar out of you.

Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross, County Administrator Steve Szablewski and Community and Leisure Services Director Barry Smith came to Thursday's meeting to give the board an update on Savannah Rapids Park.

Cross congratulated the re-elected commissioners and commended outgoing Commissioners Jimmy Smith and Don Grantham (although he wasn't there) for their eight years of service.

"I also want to congratulate you on all of your progress Augusta is making, the great things you've got going, the TEE center being approved, the judicial center," he said. "I don't know whether Hizzoner is going to get his ballpark or not, but hell, you can't win 'em all."

After the presentation, City Administrator Fred Russell told the mayor he'd like for Cross and company to stay for the meeting.

"If you want to witness it, you're welcome to stay if you like," the mayor said.

Now, I'm guessing they were dying to leave, but thought it might not be good form to jump up and rush out. They stayed, and the show began.

SO, THEY'RE NO LONGER RACIALLY DIVIDED? The first item was for the election of a representative to serve on the Regional Transportation Roundtable with the mayor. Mason nominated Johnson, and Smith nominated Commissioner Jerry Brigham.

Commissioner Bill Lockett said he supported Johnson's nomination because the mayor represented downtown Augusta, so they needed someone who represented south Augusta.

The vote on Johnson failed 5-4 with Johnson, Mason, Lockett and J.R. Hatney voting yes. The vote on Brigham also failed 5-4 with Commissioners Matt Aitken, Joe Bowles, Joe Jackson, Brigham and Smith voting yes.

"I think we need a third-party candidate," Copenhaver said.

Russell then suggested they move the election to the end of the meeting to give commissioners a chance to caucus; whereupon Hatney, who has become the Greek chorus of the commission dramas, said, "Some things make sense," or variations thereof six times.

"You talk about a team and put everything in the same corner," he said.

Bowles said the mayor is elected citywide and Brigham represents west Augusta.

The mayor kept asking for a motion to move the election to the end of the meeting.

"Mr. Mayor, are you sure you don't want to ask Columbia County to leave?" Lockett asked.

They didn't leave then, but were gone before the finale of that little drama.

JUST TRYING TO MAKE A KILLING? The next item concerned the revocation of the business license of Teresa Cummings, doing business as Mamie Lee's Southern Cooking on Tobacco Road. It's a long story involving the killing of 18-year-old Stedmund Fryer on a dance floor at Super C's in 2007, and the subsequent revocation of Charles Cummings' business license, which he later got back. He couldn't get an alcohol license, though, for 10 years, and he wasn't making enough money. So, Teresa Cummings gets the commission to grant her a beer and wine license and says her husband won't even be around, which certainly wasn't the case when sheriff's Investigator Tony Hyatt paid a little call on the establishment early one Sunday morning in October and discovered an illegal dance hall, just like in the days of yore when Fryer was gunned down. Nobody there seemed to know who Teresa Cummings was.

So, last Monday, the commission's public services committee unanimously voted to revoke Teresa Cummings' business license. But when it got to the full commission, she had lawyer Jack Batson by her side, and he started misrepresenting the facts of what had previously gone on and suggesting there could be a lawsuit on the scale of X-Mart if they shut her down. That is, until Mason set the record straight in no uncertain terms. But commissioners got befuddled -- except for Aitken, Brigham and Smith -- because Hyatt said Sheriff Ronnie Strength's recommendation was to revoke the beer and alcohol license instead of the business license. So, they voted 6-3 to send the matter back to committee for "clarity."

Cross then stood up and said, "You have probably ended my political career because I had forgotten how nice it is to sit on the outside of these decisions." And the Columbia County contingent departed.

FORE! Commissioners then clashed over denying the bid protest from the parties who had submitted a bid to operate the Municipal Golf Course but were disqualified because they hadn't submitted a business license. Brigham wanted to waive the requirement and open the bid to see what was in it, as did Bowles and Commissioner Joe Jackson. Russell advised against it, and the majority voted to deny the protest.

A LITTLE MORE INFORMATION THAN NEEDED: And finally, when the mayor asked for a motion to reconsider the election of a commissioner to serve on the Regional Transportation Roundtable, Brigham made a motion to adjourn, but it failed, and they voted to reconsider. Hatney immediately nominated Jackson, who was elected on an 8-1 vote with Bowles voting no.

When asked afterward why he voted no, Bowles said he didn't like to see one side of the commission being pitted against the other.

Brigham was livid because he'd lobbied to be on the roundtable, and two commissioners who'd promised to vote for him didn't.

After the meeting, Jackson was walking down the hall talking on his cell phone when somebody on the other end said, "Jerry's got his panties in a wad."

"That's a mighty big pair of panties," Jackson said.

LOST THEIR CLOUT: When we wrote the day after the election that the Southside Mafia has lost its clout, I received an e-mail stating "that was quite a term to use in a news story!"

The writer didn't know the history of the term and suggested I might like to enlighten folks similarly culturally deprived. I said I would, but here I am out of space, so it will have to wait until next week. Then I'll take excerpts from a story I wrote 12 years ago about the once-powerful group of kingmakers.


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