The city’s Halloween party will be downtown this year, and everybody’s invited, which gives a whole new definition to the word “slumming.”
A parade will begin at the Haunted Pillar on Broad Street and wind its way through the central business district some city officials want to designate as a slum. An Elvis impersonator will be on one float singing In the Ghetto, and a Tupac wannabe will be on another rapping out Ghetto Gospel.
City finance officials will be on one corner juggling an $8.5 million budget gap. The recreation department will be on another conducting a virtual golf tournament, with the winner getting to play free at the Patch along with everybody else.
People will be bobbing for apples in garbage cans. City Administrator Fred Russell will be dressed as a homeless man with a shopping cart, pushing a new tax.
A House of Horrors will feature Housing and Neighborhood Development Director Chester Wheeler walking around with a blank checkbook. State Department of Transportation board member Don Grantham will be talking up a 2-cent T-SPLOST, and consultants will be stuffing commissioners’ pockets with campaign donations and Falcons tickets, so they can keep on picking taxpayers’ pockets.
Safety will be a priority. Therefore, there will be three or four police on every corner disguised as loiterers. Sheriff Richard Roundtree will be operating a shooting range to raise money for his second annual inaugural ball.
A magician will be performing in front of the Summit apartments and claiming he made the William Makepeace Thackery historical plaque disappear before anybody got there.
Very important local and state dignitaries will attend. The head of the National Security Agency at Fort Gordon will come dressed as Uncle Sam but will be so busy with wiretaps, he’ll miss the parade.
Dr. Ricardo Azziz, the president of Georgia Regents University, would come dressed as God, but since nobody knows exactly what God looks like, he’ll be wearing an Obama costume.
Donald Trump will come disguised as Gov. Nathan Deal because Deal is the only man in America who knows more about the art of the deal than Trump. Deal, meanwhile, will be dressed as Trump in an effort to shake the state Ethics Commission auditor.
A high point will be when Mayor Deke Copenhaver arrives at the old Woolworth building with consultant Matt Kwatinetz and announces plans to open the first of a chain of Boy King Restaurants there, complete with the original lunch counter. It will be the first Broad Street project financed with low-interest loans for slum revitalization in the Urban Redevelopment Area.
When the party’s over, garbage haulers will move in, but it will take them awhile to figure out where they’re supposed to go.
YOU FROM AROUND HERE? Speaking of Kwatinetz, some folks have questioned a $300,000 budget request for the mayor’s Augusta Regional Collaboration Project and whether some of the money will be used to pay him. The mayor said the commission approved the $300,000 earlier this year for development of the mills and cultural districts to help with GRU’s expansion plans.
“The money approved was not allocated this year so it is being placed in next year’s budget,” Copenhaver said via e-mail. “Matt is a consultant who is being paid through the ARC Project Fund with the Community Foundation. No city funds are used to pay him as he is paid through the major donations of Starbucks and Jim Hull among others. As I mentioned before, the initial $100,000 approved for my economic development initiative is going directly towards improvements to 600 Broad Street.”
The mayor noted that he was able to use the city’s initial $100,000 commitment to leverage more than $300,000 in private investment to help bring on Kwatinetz, who is working with the city, GRU, local businesses, arts and technology communities and other local organizations to help make Augusta “the most thriving city it can possibly be.”
“Matt helped bring Starbucks with its $172 million investment and 140 new jobs to Augusta,” Copenhaver said. “A pretty proven track record of achievement that benefits our community if you ask me.”
“NEVERMORE”: In keeping with the season, City Ink asked several commissioners what they think is the spookiest thing about the local, state and federal governments and what they’d wear to a Halloween party.
Commissioner Mary Davis: The spookiest thing in local government is that we designate all of downtown a slum. The spookiest thing in the state is that it keeps putting mandates on the local government, and we then have to find the money for them. On the federal level, that the government shuts down again.
Davis said she’d go to a Halloween party as the Fairy Godmother.
Commissioner Donnie Smith: “The spookiest thing is the feeling I have that Count Dracula is coming and sucking all the blood out of commissioners when they’re trying to balance the budget. In the state, I always worry about what legislators are going to do when they’re in session. Like giving away 6 percent tax break to industries and unfunded mandates. The most dangerous 40 days of the year are when they’re in session.
“Federally, it is our leadership in Washington. On a daily basis, you never know what those people are going to do like spending $500 million on a computer system for health care, and it doesn’t even work.”
If Smith was going to a Halloween party, he’d go as the Grim Reaper because he plans to bring bad news to some folks about changes in government.
Commissioner Marion Williams: “The spookiest thing in city government is that it won’t do anything to generate money except raise taxes.
“What’s spooky about the state are mandates, and there’s no money coming with them. In the federal government, the spookiest thing is the government shutting down.”
Williams said if he were going to a Halloween party, he’d go as Superman.
Commissioner Grady Smith: “The spookiest thing in the city is the prospect of seeing a bunch of goats feeding on the canal banks as Marion Williams suggested.”
He balked at saying anything spooky about state-level goings-on so as not to rile Deal or Grantham, but as for the U.S., he said “Obama.”
If he were going to a Halloween party, he’d go as a Hell’s Angel.
Commissioner Bill Fennoy: “The spookiest thing in city government is not being able to balance the budget and give our deserving employees a raise. The spookiest thing in state government is not being able to provide local boards of education with enough money and resources to educate our children. The spookiest thing in federal government is the inability to put party politics aside for the good of the country.”
If he were going to a Halloween party, Fennoy said he’d go as an Augusta Chronicle columnist and scare everybody to death.
Commissioner Joe Jackson: “The spookiest thing in city government is procurement/Fred. The spookiest thing in state government is our House delegation. The spookiest thing in federal government is Obamacare.”
And if he were going to a Halloween party, he said he’d go as G.I. Joe.