Recommendation to make downtown safer would bring more taxes

Augusta’s getting soaked. Never mind the weather. The city’s in danger of being flooded with acronyms – LOST, SPLOST, T-SPLOST, and now Sheriff Richard Roundtree, with input from City Administrator Fred Rus­sell, has floated another one: CPD.

The CPD, which stands for Continually Patrolled Dis­trict, would be a new tax for property owners in the central business district to pay for more police protection.

As you know, nature abhors a vacuum and so do elected officials, especially when it comes to taxes. Since the Bus­i­ness Improvement District met its untimely end – or timely, if you’re of that persuasion – last year, city officials are rushing to fill the void. They’ve just got to convince a majority of property owners in the district to drown themselves in more taxes.

The CPD was one of several recommendations Round­tree proposed for making downtown safer, including installing 32 security cameras on Broad Street and Riverwalk Augusta.

DON’T WORRY. THEY’LL HANDLE OUR HEALTH CARE JUST FINE: I don’t mind security cameras in public places so much, but I believe the cyber snooping by the federal government on its citizens is unconstitutional and frightening. The government is even building a massive complex out West to store it all in for perpetuity.

I was more frightened after reading that Na­tional Security Agency officials are reassuring us that our privacy is protected. They say we just don’t understand how they’re looking out for us. But how could we? We didn’t even know they were spying on us if it weren’t for Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor spilling the beans.

Here’s a post on augusta chronicle.com from commenter myfather15 that’s right on:

“Hhhhhmmmm, doesn’t sound right to begin with!! When they start working hard to ‘reassure’ us, it might be more reason for concern!! Again, someone rightly pointed out that they didn’t stop the Boston Marathon bombing AFTER Russia had warned us about the older brother!!

“Russia to America: Hey, this guy might be a radical!! He is hanging with some bad dudes!!

“America to Russia: Ok, thanks. Zzzzzzzz, Zzzzzzzzz!!!

“Oh, let’s not forget:

“Ambassador Stevens to America: Hey, we might need extra security on 9/11. We’ve got information attacks are planned!!

“America to Ambassador Stevens: OK, thanks for the warning. Zzzzzzzz, Zzzzzzzz!!!!

A LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIP: Georgia Regents University is working with the Shang­hai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine to create the Confucius Institute to focus on advancing Chinese language studies and enhancing multicultural awareness.

Confucius say, “Azziz love China, hate Augusta.”

PARTING IS SUCH A LOAD OF SPEECHES: Some folks were feeling a little uptight at the farewell reception for GRU general counsel Andrew Newton last week. Others were just taking it all in.

About 100 folks, including board members Robert Osborne, Monty Os­­teen, Debbie Layman, Cobbs Nixon and former Medical College of Georgia attorney Gerald Woods were there to hear Provost Gretchen Caughman, Dean of Medicine Peter Buckley, President Ricardo Azziz and finally Newton make flattering little goodbye speeches to each other.

Nice. But it makes a person wonder why Newton’s leaving the top legal job at GRU for a staff position at Kennesaw State University after 18 years with the college. Not really.

OSCARS FOR EVERYONE! While looking for next week’s Augusta Commission agenda on the city’s Web site, my attention was diverted by Mayor Deke Copen­haver’s weekly video, and I became the 23rd person to watch it, which probably included however many times hizzoner himself viewed it.

The video, which I shall call “The Deke and Deal Show,” took place in the Kroc Center.

I must say, it was a fascinating program! Deke praised Gov. Nathan Deal for being pro-business, which gave Deal the opportunity to take credit for I don’t know how many businesses and industries rushing to Georgia because of the tax- reform package he pushed through the Legislature. And Deke got to talk about Starbucks coming to Au­gusta for the umpteenth time.

Then Deke mentioned “the state’s investment” in Au­gusta, which prompted the governor to talk once again about making GRU one of the top medical schools in the country, and how much he thought of Augusta.

If you missed it, don’t worry. You’ll get to hear the same things a time or two before next year’s election.

TRAGEDY OR COMEDY? Speaking of Oscars, Augusta Commissioner Marion Williams deserves one for his histrionics.

Last week, he said he didn’t have enough information to approve contract negotiations with McDonald Transit to take over operation of the city’s bus service when the contract with Mobil­ity Transit expires Aug. 1. He said he wanted numbers as to money and who bid what. Procurement Director Geri Sams explained that the city code prevented her from giving that information to the public until the contract is negotiated and awarded.

Williams said commissioners weren’t the public.

“We’ve got to have the information, so we can discern whether it’s good or bad,” he said.

“Once we release the information to you, it becomes public,” Sams replied.

But he couldn’t be placated.

“Why don’t we have the information we need to have?” he asked.

ORDER OUT OF CHAOS: Com­missioner Donnie Smith tried to bring clarity.

“The bottom line is if we don’t approve the contract by the end of the month, we either take it (bus service) back in-house or go to Mobility and ask for an extension or shut down?” Smith asked.

“At what point will we know the price?” he asked, and was told it would be after the negotiations.

“If they come back with a price we don’t like, we can go to the next vendor on the list. So we will have another chance to vote on it,” Smith concluded.

Russell said the city had a plan to run the buses although it wasn’t the best thing to do, which led Commissioner Grady Smith to say, “Another lawsuit.”

LOOK IN THE MIRROR: After that, it got kind of ugly. Lockett cited all the last-minute votes they’d had to make that ended in failure, Williams blamed Russell and his staff for making bad decisions. He preached fire and brimstone about Rus­sell and company not doing their jobs and that the city is headed down the “road to destruction” with the bus contract.

Russell reminded commmissioners that they set the timeline and everything else when they vote. He also reminded them that they all have different ideas about transit.

“So betwixt and between, that is what this staff is given to work with,” he said. “We have on more than one occasion listened to several of you say we don’t do our jobs. On more than one occasion, we’ve listened to you say we’re overpaid for what we do. On more than one occasion, we’ve heard you say you’re disappointed in the way we perform. You know, that works both ways.”

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