Augusta politics becoming something of a snoozefest



It's a sad day when we have to look at statewide political races to see any campaign spark. The ones in Augusta have been so dull, so politically correct, so lacking in zeal as to be a big snore. So, it was actually refreshing to read about Roy Barnes and Nathan Deal accusing each other of being tax cheats and worse in front of a cheering crowd down in Perry the other day.

As for the Augusta mayoral campaign, if it weren't for Lori Davis and her campaign against crime and blight in Harrisburg and elsewhere, you wouldn't even know we were having an election. Some people call her a one-issue candidate, but at least she has an issue and is not afraid to speak out against what she thinks is wrong. She said she ran a prostitute from in front of her house the other day.

"I said, 'You get away from my house,' " Davis said. "She said, 'You can't tell me what to do.' I said, 'Oh, yes I can. You just wait and see.' "

As for Gil Gilyard III , you have to admire him too, for having the spunk to try again after getting shellacked when he ran three years ago. He's got a 25-point plan for Augusta, which is about the number of votes he'll get, I expect.

The incumbent Boy King is just one or two endorsements away from being canonized, and he's so confident of walking away with four more years, he's not even accepting campaign contributions. Mayor Deke Copenhaver is becoming a purist, decrying the evils of so much filthy lucre being spent on campaigns.

He even called a news conference at the Golden Harvest Food Bank to announce he was asking for those who wanted to contribute to his campaign to donate instead to a nonprofit charity.

I can't tell you how used we in the media felt, having to drive seven miles out Gordon Highway to Commerce Drive to hear that. He could have sent it out by fax or e-mail, but then there wouldn't have been a photo op -- not that he needs more photos holding a big pair of scissors.

Nevertheless, it would be nice if others running followed his example about campaign contributions, especially when it comes to accepting money from companies the city does business with, such as ESG Contractors, ZEL Engineers, Heery Consultants, Khafra, S.L. King Technologies, Advance Disposal Service and contractors such as R.W. Allen. What good can come from such "contributions," except to the commissioners and companies? Ah well, it's the American way.

In the District 2 commission race, you would hardly know incumbent Corey Johnson was running, except for a little more grandstanding than usual. As chairman of the engineering services committee, he consents almost every item, so there's no discussion although they're approving millions of dollars worth of projects right and left. So, you can't tell whether he's doing a good job or not. I guess we'll find that out at a later date. If you can imagine such a thing, his challenger Marion Williams has been quiet for the most part, although I did hear he's still talking about a racetrack in south Augusta. His son-in-law must have bought some more property on Highway 56.

In the District 4 race, former commissioner Bernard Harper has reappeared as a political figure. Could it be because gasoline prices are going back up? Sammie Sias is also challenging Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason .

Sias seems to be sincere and has come before the commission several times, but they just sit there and look at him.

Mason is oratorically gifted, but should guard against falling in love with the sound of his own voice.

Incumbents really do have a tremendous advantage over their opponents. I've been watching Johnson and Mason with interest this year and don't know which one plays to the crowd more, although it's probably Mason.

The District 8 race has four candidates. Doug Lively won the endorsement from the Richmond County Citizens for Good Government, but Wayne Guilfoyle has received the most in campaign donations. Current District 8 Commissioner Jimmy Smith has endorsed Lively, so Commissioners Joe Jackson and Joe Bowles are working for Guilfoyle -- for spite, I suspect.

Former Blythe Mayor Tom Cobb seems well qualified, but I don't know who's supporting him because he hasn't received a dime in campaign contributions from others, and he didn't even call a news conference.

Then there's Alan Tanner , who went on such a rant accusing the Richmond County Board of Education of bid-rigging during his three minutes at the good government meeting, you'd have thought he was running for the school board.

As far as the District 8 race goes, they say the nice guy finishes last. If that's true, Tanner will win.

Then we have three candidates in the Super District 10 race: baby faced Sean Frantom who apparently doesn't own property in Richmond County, businessman Grady Smith who does and Robert Ingham who was running for governor until it came time for qualifying, and he didn't have the money, so he opted for a seat with a less costly qualifying fee. I finally got one of the business cards he had printed saying he was running for governor with "governor" scratched out and "District 10" written in.

Everybody says Frantom is youthful and enthusiastic. He might be a baseball fan, too.

That wraps up my analysis of the local races for this week.

I'LL HAVE MINE A LA MODE: Well, nobody else will say it publicly, so I guess it's up to me: The $500,000 development plan for south Augusta is an expensive sop to the Democrat commissioners from south of Gordon Highway. They had to wad up a half a million dollars of your money and throw it away just because downtown has a plan you paid $95,000 for, called Westobou. (I don't care if that is a Native American word, it's still ugly.)

Oh, the Augusta Sustainable Development Agenda -- ASDA for short -- is a beautiful plan for a $1.1 billion development if you like pretty pictures of trees and flowering shrubs and lots of pie in the sky.

It was of more than passing interest that the ones trumpeting the wonders of the plan are politicians and developer types. Oh, I know we have to look excitedly to the future! But aren't rose-colored granny glasses out of style?

OF THESE FIVE, HOW MANY WILL BE FAVORED FELONS? Near the end of design company president John Shields ' ASDA slide-show presentation at Augusta Tech, he stressed the need to establish a "fully staffed" ASDA Implementation Office. Just think what that would cost and who would pay for it. Let's see, to be fully staffed there would have to be a Director of Implementation making between $150,000 and $175,000 a year. His job would be to oversee the Assistant Director of Implementation making $90,000 a year whose job would be to oversee the Deputy Assistant Director of Implementation whose annual pay would be $75,000. The Deputy Assistant would oversee the Implementation Grant Writer who would be paid a paltry $60,000 per annum. And then there would be the field Implementation Implementer who would make all the contacts and do most of the work. She would make $50,000.

Of course, this would be sold as being 95 percent federally funded which means of the $1.1 billion, $6 million will be stolen or siphoned off to the Director of Implementation's buddies from Macon, Birmingham, Atlanta and Miami. Isn't that the way those federally funded programs that don't cost the local taxpayers anything -- wink, wink -- go?

THE FACTS OF LIFE: UH, WASN'T THAT A TV SHOW? It's good to see that Richmond County Board of Education Superintendent Dr. Frank Roberson quelled the uproar over the possibility of non-abstinence based sex education in the Richmond County school system last week.

It would be too terrible to tell those little girls walking around in maternity smocks and stretch pants in middle and high schools the facts of life, now wouldn't it?



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