City core: Talk of fixing arena authority starts again

The silence was nerve-wracking.


During Tuesday's "Augusta Day" meetings in Atlanta, hardly a word was said about the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority. The city is crying out for reform of this bewildering body, but last year Augusta's state senators and representatives couldn't agree on how to change its enabling legislation and nothing got done.

Something is in the works again this session, Rep. Quincy Murphy , the legislative delegation's chairman, said Friday. A bill is being hammered out that would bring authority members' terms in sync with the Augusta commissioners or state legislators who appoint them, meaning there would be no more scenarios like Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason counting the days until he can remove predecessor Bernard Harper's appointment, Willie Law .

Other language being drafted would give the commission power to remove authority members with seven votes. Another proposal is to require that appointments have some relevant background, such as in entertainment, management, finance or law.

"I'm cautiously optimistic," Mr. Murphy said of getting something passed. "We agree that everyone who's appointed to the authority should be held accountable."

MAKING SENSE OF LAW: A lot of people are wondering what Mr. Law is up to in leading the authority's Long-Range Planning Committee, whose paltry quorum Friday came up with the idea of joining up with the commission on a bond issuance to guarantee a flow of tax funds.

Long range? Mr. Mason says he'll boot Mr. Law the minute it's legally possible, which will be in six weeks.

I expected a circus at the committee's first meeting Friday, but once Mr. Law got past delusions of running the trade, exhibit and event center, he made a good point: The authority has obliterated its goodwill in the community and needs to start justifying its existence if it wants to continue receiving public money.

Why does he care at this point? He says it's about his legacy.

"I've got a passion," Mr. Law said. "I just want to set us on the right path before I leave, if nothing else."

It's too bad it took this long.

I SEE AN EMPTY SEAT AND AN ALBATROSS WITH NO OWNER: Along with fixing the authority, the legislative delegation also has yet to replace former member Adrian Arnold , who resigned last fall. The seat's been empty ever since. The way things are now, maybe that's a good thing.

ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: Richard Isdell made the trip to Augusta Day, both as chairman of the coliseum authority and president of the Augusta-Richmond County Committee for Good Government. He said no one wanted to talk about changing the authority. He said he asked Sen. J.B. Powell about it, and with a hand movement he answered that the outlook is "wavy."

Commissioner Joe Bowles, a frequent authority critic, also tried to broach the subject. As a meeting between commissioners and lawmakers was breaking up, Commissioner Corey Johnson asked whether there was any way for the city to tap into money the Utilities Department takes in from water and sewer customers. Commissioner Don Grantham said those funds are off limits.

"If you're talking about people that have a lot of money and don't need it," Mr. Bowles said, "let's talk about the civic center."

But apparently no one wanted to. Maybe it'll be taken up Monday when commissioners and legislators meet a second time.

FAUX PAS AD NAUSEAM: Something else that probably could have gone better in Atlanta last week: rookie Rep. Lee Anderson's first time speaking before the House.

On Wednesday, he gave a lengthy, rambling introduction of the chaplain of the day, his brother, the Rev. Robert Anderson , of Dacula, who is the pastoral pastor to the Georgia Baptist Convention.

Legislators take turns bringing in preachers of their choice who offer prayers. Normally the introductions last less than a minute. Mr. Anderson's took more than 10.

In his earnest, slow-talking way, he recounted their mother's death, their father's penchant for television, their sisters' love and how law-abiding his brother is for refusing to perform his marriage because he'd forgotten to get a marriage certificate first.

The next day, before letting another representative introduce the chaplain, Speaker Glenn Richardson said he normally asks preachers to be brief, but from now on he'll ask the same of legislators who introduce them.

The House rang out with laughter and applause as Mr. Anderson stood and bowed in mock appreciation.

WHADDAYA' KNOW, BUTCH GOT ONE: At least one person around here is accomplishing something.

A year and a half after he started HONGKONG -- Harrisburg Organization Networking for Gentrification to Keep Our Neighborhood from becoming a Ghetto -- with a stated goal of running out trouble-making Section 8 renters, it seems James "Butch" Palmer has finally succeeded in one case.

Mr. Palmer monitors police reports generated in Harrisburg and found out two people were arrested on marijuana and crack cocaine charges at a house on Walker Street in December. He told the Augusta Housing Authority, which oversees the Section 8 program, and the property manager.

His manner of informing David Dunagan of D & D Properties had the manager firing back a stern reply to what he called a "threatening and slanderous mass e-mail."

Mr. Dunagan said he's filed eviction papers on the tenant.

"Butch did make me aware of the problem," he said, "and I'm doing something about it."

HONGKONG COUP D'ETAT: HONGKONG started in 2007 as a splinter group from the Harrisburg-West End Neighborhood Association after Mr. Palmer clashed with its president, Iain Crawford .

Railing against welfare recipients and religious groups working with the homeless, Mr. Palmer garnered a following of homeowners who felt the neighborhood association wasn't being aggressive enough.

At a Harrisburg-West End meeting Thursday night, about a dozen attendees voted Mr. Crawford out and replaced him with Denise Traina . They elected Mr. Palmer to the board of directors. Et tu, Butch?

"We need drastic measures to clean up this neighborhood," Mr. Palmer said.

GHOST OF FAT MAN'S PAST: Is it me or is that sign in front of the old site of Fat Man's Forest that says "Last chance for boiled peanuts" getting to be surreal?

I'm sad enough about Fat Man's being gone without that sign in front of the empty lot where the old building looks erased by a disintegrator ray. I think if the Medical College of Georgia, which purchased the land, is going to have that sign there, it should actually sell boiled peanuts.

The City Core thanks Morris News Service reporter Walter Jones for his contribution.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or