If you’re reading this, the world didn’t end Friday, as the ancient Mayans predicted. The poles didn’t shift and fling us all into space and to hell and back. I never thought it would. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, “If the Mayans were so smart, why have they all but disappeared from the face of the Earth?”
Now if we can just avoid that “fiscal cliff.” On the other hand, that might be the only way to stop the spending in Washington. The downside is it will stop it everywhere else, too.
“What this country needs is another Depression,” Daddy always said after observing the way the country was headed; i.e., the profligacy and ingratitude of people for what they had, especially we children. He’d launch into a description of the 1930s that always began with people wandering the country “starving to death and begging for food” and ended with what he got for Christmas as a boy, which was always “a toy tractor, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and a bag of raisins.”
He’s been dead for 24 years, and I wonder what he’d think about the world now with the police having to pepper-spray crowds rioting over $180 Air Jordan shoes.
POP QUIZ: What do the
apocalypse, the fiscal cliff
and the Augusta Commission have in common?
A. We dread them.
B. We fear that sooner or later they’ll take everything we’ve got.
C. We keep waiting for them to do something but are glad when they don’t.
D. They could make a big mess.
E. All of the above
Answer: Coming next week if the Mayan calendar wasn’t off a day or two.
MUSICAL COMMISSION CHAIRS: OK, enough silliness. But wait, there’s more.
District 9 Augusta Commissioner-elect Marion Williams says Mayor Deke Copenhaver told Commissioner J.R. Hatney that he didn’t want to sit beside Williams at meetings.
Copenhaver said it wasn’t exactly like that. He said he jokingly told Hatney that years ago he developed a constant ringing in his left ear and thought sitting next to Williams might exacerbate it. And he has been considering changing the seating for a couple of years.
“However I do it, it will be completely fair and unbiased,” he said. “When we have a 22 percent poverty rate and are top in the state with child obesity and teen pregnancy, we’ve got a lot of bigger issues to concern ourselves with as opposed to worrying about seating arrangements.”
Williams is not taking this sitting down. He says the District 9 commissioner has traditionally sat to the mayor’s left.
“If you have a reason, I don’t have a problem with that,” he said. “But you don’t have a reason. I have a problem with that. I’ll extend the olive branch, but I’m elected by the people and know the rules. He has no authority to change the seating arrangements.”
HONORS ALL AROUND: The pastor who was supposed to give the invocation at last week’s commission meeting didn’t show up, so Williams, a Baptist minister, volunteered and prayed for God to continue to put love in our hearts to share.
Then several folks were honored, including outgoing Sheriff Ronnie Strength, who received a check to buy bulletproof vests for deputies and a handmade trophy from the Retired Military Police Association.
The outgoing commissioners were honored with plaques. The Augusta Christian football team was recognized for winning the state championship, and Lantz Lamback was recognized for his good showing in the 2012 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic games.
AND I THOUGHT I WAS BAD AT MATH: After that, and after a lot of talk, pro and con, about continuing the downtown Business Improvement District tax and Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative, there weren’t enough votes to renew it or keep it going for 60 days.
Commissioner Hatney voiced concern over laying initiative employees off right before Christmas.
“If you let folks go the day before Christmas, they don’t have no job,” he said. “That ain’t right.”
Commissioner Jerry Brigham objected to ending the program because 52 percent of the property owners had reportedly signed on to extend the tax.
“I did not know 49 percent would become a majority,” he said. “We are here to represent the majority of the citizens. … I think we don’t have much of a decision. We can either verify the signatures, or not. Otherwise, we’re going to take this whole system and just say, ‘You can come down here and be loud and protest, wear shirts, stand up, holler. And we’re going to do whatever the person who hollers the loudest says. But we don’t see the majority.’”
“I’m supporting the 48 percent,” said Commissioner Bill Lockett, which led Commissioner Joe Bowles to say, “I’m just glad to see Bill Lockett, a lifelong Democrat, is supporting Mitt Romney.”
‘BERCKMANS ROAD IS NOT BROKEN’: Doug Frohman, a Berckmans Road business owner, presented a petition with 600 signatures of people opposing the reconfiguration of Berckmans and proposed circle in front of Willow Creek subdivision.
“Why does this project take precedence over other projects that have been on hold?” he asked. “Who does this project help? Why do it when there are other projects in other districts that are more urgent?”
He accused Brigham, who represents that district, of throwing his constituents under the bus, a comment that didn’t sit well with Brigham and prompted the mayor to tell Frohman not to make personal attacks.
Westwick subdivision resident Marion Mosely said she’d spoken with people at various churches in Augusta and didn’t know “a single, solitary soul that was in favor of this project.”
Then the commission really got down to business and:
• Did not approve the Augusta Regional Airport Rescue Fire Fighting employment agreement. Lockett objected to some of the wording.
• Did not approve spending $991,561 to get the pedestrian bridge across Reynolds Street started. Mason said if it was necessary it should have been in the original contract.
• Did not approve a lease agreement with Virginia Beach Golf Management to operate the municipal golf course, known as The Patch. Mason said the city could have gotten a better deal if it had spent available sales tax revenue to upgrade the course first.
• Approved naming the new sheriff’s administration building in honor of Strength, with Lockett voting no and Bowles abstaining.
FOOTLOOSE: Other big news last week was the swearing in of Sheriff Richard Roundtree.
“I pray we will savor this day because this day belongs to us,” he said to a crowd outside the John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse. What’s with this “us” stuff, Richard?
Roundtree will have an inaugural ball Jan. 4 at the Legends Club. He will have one fewer inaugural ball than the president of the United States. President Obama is only going to have two this year.
NIMBY: In the category of earth-shaking news were announcements in North Augusta of Project Jackson, a sports and entertainment center for the GreenJackets, and Cal Ripken Jr. selling the team.
North Augusta might get something else it hasn’t had before: controversy. Many attending Thursday’s public hearing, which lasted to around 11 p.m., were not happy campers.
BUT OCCIFER …: Last week, I called on my Facebook friends to contribute suggestions for Christmas presents for public officials. This week, I asked officials what they’d give people.
Commissioner Grady Smith: “I’d give this advice. The colors of Christmas are red and green, but be aware of the blue lights in the rear-view mirror. That will ruin a Christmas in a minute.”