City Ink: Much ado about GRU

Three months ago, Rich­mond County GOP bigwig Dave Barbee told me all the reasons Freddie Sanders couldn’t possibly be elected sheriff running as a Republican, chief among them being the number of registered Repub­li­cans versus Demo­crats. In fact, he’s the one who initially said, “Sanders’ chances are slim and none, and slim has left town.”


Well, I called Dave, who’s manning the local GOP headquarters, to hear his take on last week’s runoff,

“All these people so upset about the name of the university and the TEE Center, which they have no control over, sat on their butts and didn’t go to the polls and vote for a sheriff and congressman, which they do have some control over,” he blustered. “How can 667 people who voted in July sit on the couch and not vote in August? With the 667 votes, Peebles would have won by 227 votes!”

“But Dave,” I said, “they’re not necessarily one and the same people. Some who don’t like the name might have voted both times. And some who like the name might not have voted.”

He changed the subject to how he’s working to get Sanders elected in November.

“But you told me just three months ago it would be impossible,” I said. “You said his chances were slim and none, and slim had left town.”

Dave laughed and said he’d called Sheriff Ronnie Strength and asked him to issue a warrant for Slim.

“Ronnie told me he’d have Slim back in custody the first of next week, and we’re on to victory in November,” he said.

Needless to say, supporters of Democratic sheriff’s candidate Scott Peebles were stunned when he lost to Richard Roundtree in last week’s runoff. Peebles’ strategy of targeting voters by mail, playing nice, not smearing Roundtree over past indiscretions and hoping his voters would forget about the runoff didn’t work.

The last-minute endorsements by the sheriff and Mayor Deke Copenhaver didn’t help much either. But Roundtree’s efforts to get his voters to the polls did work. He received 1,987 more votes in the runoff than in the primary.


MUCH ADO ABOUT GRU: The week in Augusta began with a campus protest and ended with the resignation of an MCG Health Inc. board member over the name of Augusta’s soon-to-be merged university, Georgia Regents University.

Outrage over the name continued with obscene bumper stickers; letters to the editor from former Augusta State University employees and professors; Regent University in Vir­ginia threatening a trademark infringement lawsuit; and regent Thomas Hopkins, in town for a Georgia Health Sciences University board meeting, saying, “The decision has been made. It will not be taken up again.”

The subject was off-limits with GHSU President Ricardo Azziz, who said, “We’re moving on. We are moving on.”


TOO LITTLE TOO LATE: Augus­ta Com­mission members voted to send the Board of Re­gents a letter asking that the university “be named any name other than Geor­gia Re­gents University or GRU.” It was a feeble effort but more than any other elected body or official has done.


LET THERE BE LIGHT: “Fiat Lux,” a commenter on The Augusta Chronicle Web site, hit the bull’s-eye with this:

“It is not just infuriating but alarming that our own elected officials, who might have some influence, refuse to step up and support the people who trusted in their character and backbone sufficiently to put them in office.

“There is, as Mr. (Dan) Cook points out, a day of reckoning coming. And they brought it on themselves, whether out of self-interest or cowardice. Even speaking out in favor of the name choice because they believed it was the right decision would have been more palatable than hiding or mealy-mouth caving in. That behavior has been at least as damaging to us all as the stupid name would be.

“To have Augusta slapped down by people from outside and then not have our own leaders step up and defend our community is simply stunning, and disheartening beyond belief. I still can’t wrap my head around that.”


HELLO GOODBYE: Last, but certainly not least, Ed Turner, whose band Ed Tur­ner and Number 9 helped raise money for children’s charities with an annual concert, said he was cutting ties with the Columbia County Exchange Club because its president asked him to explain and apologize for spoofing Azziz onstage and calling out regent and Synovus Bank CEO Kessel Stelling Jr. for voting for the name.


HE’S MOVING ON, TOO: MCG Health board member Nick Evans resigned from the board over the GRU name. During a TV interview Friday, he indicated he had visited Azziz to discuss the name and got nowhere.

“We felt like school boys being scolded by the president,” he said.




(The Board of Regents in emergency session via telephone conference)

Chairman Tarbucket III: Re­gents, those people over in Au­gus­ta just won’t let it go. They’re bombarding us and the governor’s office with so many phone calls, the governor’s getting antsy. I think we’re going to have to do something.

Regent Boneman Jr.: Like what? We can’t back down now. We’d look like fools backing down now.

Regent Dink Jr.: We already look like fools to everybody but the gutless elected officials who think they might get an appointment to the Board of Regents or the university by playing ball. Who knows? They might even get a field to play ball on.

Regent Leebeam: If the governor’s getting antsy, I say we change it.

Chairman Tarbucket III: We can’t change it. Have you forgotten about the shirts and terrycloth bathrobes with the GRU emblem they’ve already ordered? Not to mention the golf umbrellas, coffee cups and glasses. Dr. ZZZZZ is going to China next week. Maybe he can meet with some Chinese manufacturers to see if they can make them cheaper. Wait, gentlemen! My secretary says the governor’s office is on the line with a very important message.

Uh huh. Uh huh. Uh huh. I see. OK. Goodbye. (Goes back to conference call) Gentle­men, a federal judge just ruled on Regent University’s lawsuit. He found us not guilty of trademark infringement but guilty of bad punctuation. He said since we named the university after ourselves we must show ownership in the name by using an apostrophe after the word “Regents” or change the name. And I quote, “You are, after all, naming an academic institution and shouldn’t have a glaring punctuation error in the name. Therefore, if you intend to use the name ‘Georgia Regents University,’ it has to be “Georgia Regents’ University.”

Regent Pottsdam Jr.: This may be a blessing in disguise. It gives us a way out without losing face. We can vote to rescind GRU and name it something else.

Regent Smelling Jr.: But what are they going to do with all those shirts and umbrellas they’ve ordered with GRU on them?

Chairman Tarbucket III: Put ’em on eBay. They’ll sell like hotcakes. I say this is a win-win for everybody. Meeting adjourned.


GET WELL, GRADY: Augusta Commissioner Grady Smith is recuperating from triple bypass surgery at University Hospital. His wife, Cathy, said he’s lucky that during treatment on his diabetic toes last week, doctors detected his heart condition. He cannot have visitors for at least a week, she said.