Big news in the Augusta area last week. Bass Pro Shops is coming to Columbia County; Cabela’s is coming to Richmond County. That’s great for everybody – hunters, fisherman, campers and the tax men.
Two interesting stories, albeit insignificant in the grand scheme of things, concerned the frog that got into the rain gauge at Augusta Regional Airport and the Aiken County man with a foot fetish who said during a TV interview: “I want to stop, but not completely stop, because that’s what I like. I mean, that’s all I have is feet.”
THE MORE FORCE USED TO BREAK UP GANGS, THE EASIER THE TASK WILL BE: Other big news in Augusta was police saying suspects in three recent shootings, one of which resulted in the death of a 19-year-old, were gang members. Sheriff Richard Roundtree is forming a gang task force. Mayor Deke Copenhaver and commissioners say they support the sheriff, and some have ideas for doing more.
Commissioner Bill Fennoy thinks it would help if the city could spend more on recreation and parks to engage young people.
“I don’t know why youths are attracted to gangs, but we need to find out what it is and try to fill that void,” he said. “I know all commissioners are involved and try to be role models, not only for the youth but all residents in the community.
“The sheriff has a task force, and I’m willing to do whatever I can do to support the sheriff.”
At the last commission meeting, Fennoy placed a large box of Skittles on the dais to show support for Trayvon Martin’s family.
“And I honestly believe Trayvon did not do anything wrong,” he said.
REALISTICALLY SPEAKING: Commissioner Donnie Smith, who has a 28-year law enforcement background, said government can’t solve societal problems.
“Parents have to know where their kids are, what they’re doing and who they’re hanging out with,” he said. “Law enforcement can only do so much.
“When they break the law, arrest them and put them in jail. Law enforcement can’t raise the children.”
BILLETS AND BILLBOARDS: Commissioner Corey Johnson said, “We need to set an example ourselves, but we need to make an example out of those who continuously create these gangs to show that this type of behavior is very aggressive and serious and people are dying as a result.
“They need to make them go into the military. If they want to be part of a group, they should force them into the military to show them what a real organization is all about and show them how to make a positive difference, not only for themselves but the country. An organization that has a true meaning. A gang with a purpose.”
As far as actions commissioners could take, Johnson said that was “tough” because of tasks they already have before them.
“But if we can post signs and billboards and show how critical and devastating it can be if you decide to make that choice, it might help,” he said. “We need to put in preventative measures to make them think about it when they’re young. There’s not much you can do about it when they’re already into it.”
DISCIPLINE DOWN AND PANTS ON THE GROUND: The problem is the parents, Commissioner Marion Williams said.
“Babies are raising babies,” he said. “When a baby has a baby, and she wasn’t trained herself, she can’t train that baby. The gang problem is going to get worse until we as adults take responsibility to help this community. We’re letting children make these decisions. These children with pants hanging down. They say it’s the style. It’s not the style. It’s a disgrace. The sheriff’s got an uphill battle the way children are raising children with no discipline.”
EVERYBODY SHOULD PITCH IN: There needs to be a collective effort among the community, religious organizations and parents, Commissioner Bill Lockett said.
“I think without that, we’re going to continue down this road,” he said. “I think as elected officials we should, as often as possible, go out into the community and converse with young people. These kids are not dumb. They’re smart, and we need to channel that. I think we as adults can win this battle.”
NOT IN OUR JOB DESCRIPTION: Commissioner Grady Smith said, “I think stuff like that should be left to the professional, namely the sheriff and the legal system here in the county. If a lot of these boys would spend their time studying and trying to get a job, they’d be better off.”
COMMUNICATION AND COOPERATION: The mayor stated in an e-mail that he’s in contact with Roundtree regularly and that they’ve developed a very strong working relationship.
“I am fully supportive of providing the sheriff with whatever means necessary to reduce gang activity in our community, and I fully support law enforcement in their efforts to proactively deal with the situation,” Copenhaver wrote.
WHAT I LEARNED ON MY SUMMER TRIP: Fennoy, one of five commissioners to attend the National Association of Counties’ annual conference in Fort Worth, Texas, last weekend, said he learned about a couple of projects other counties have initiated, and he plans to follow up on them.
“One of the moderators operates a veterans court,” he said. “Since we have Fort Gordon and two veterans hospitals, and a large portion of the homeless population are veterans, I’m going to try to get a program started here.”
Johnson and Williams said they saw firsthand in Fort Worth that an ordinary crosswalk works just fine for pedestrians crossing the street from a hotel and convention center. Johnson said he took photos to prove to the rest of the board that the city doesn’t need to build a million-dollar elevated crosswalk over Reynolds Street from the Augusta Convention Center to a parking deck.
CREATING T-SPLOST ENVY: Gov. Nathan Deal, Department of Transportation board member Don Grantham, local elected officials and others gathered in Augusta two weeks ago to talk about the present and future of the area’s transportation sales tax program.
Deal said the area had set an example for the rest of the state, and that those who didn’t buy into the program will regret it.
“You are our example, and we want you to succeed because if you succeed it does show the merit of local citizens and local communities to buy into the idea of helping themselves, and being a part of a bigger plan,” Deal said. “So I have instructed all my folks and agencies to make sure they do everything they can to make sure you are successful. And I think you will find we are going to be very cooperative in what you want to do.”
He means it, too, because he repeated it later on.
“We want you to succeed because if you don’t succeed our message is diluted significantly,” he said.
Exactly what is that message, governor?