I guess that’ll teach me. I mentioned the National Security Agency’s spying in my annual Halloween satire last week, and Sunday morning I couldn’t access the Web. A connection to my computer had malfunctioned.
It was probably just a coincidence, but remember what they say: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”
BLESS THEM, FATHER, FOR THEY HAVE SINNED: The NSA possibly even wiretapped the pope before his election and monitored the president’s phones. The agency also is reported to have illegally accessed Yahoo and Google files, allowing it to access hundreds of millions of user accounts.
AND THEN THERE ARE THE SMOKING POLICE: Eight months after failing to persuade Augusta Commission members to ban smoking in all public establishments, they were back last week to try again.
Smoking is a nasty, stinking, evil, hazardous-to-your-health addiction, no doubt about it. So why doesn’t the government outlaw it completely? Because government has an addiction, too – called “tax revenue.”
The proposed ban would include electronic cigarettes because they don’t want anybody even looking like they’re smoking.
“I think this would cause some problems with enforcement,” said Kirk Miller, the Georgia grass-roots manager of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “In just looking at them, one can’t say, ‘Is this a tobacco product or a non-tobacco product.”
Commissioners’ opinions on the subject range from those who lean toward a nanny state and those who oppose government encroachment into every aspect of their lives. Of course, it’s too late for that. (See reference to NSA above.)
In the former category are commissioners Corey Johnson, who put the proposal on the agenda; Bill Lockett, a former federal government employee, and Donnie Smith, a law enforcement officer. In the latter are commissioners Alvin Mason, a former soldier, and Wayne Guilfoyle, a business owner.
Lockett spoke about the evils of not only secondhand smoke but also thirdhand smoke.
Smith said it’s up to the government to set limits to protect people.
“We restrict freedoms to look out for those who cannot look out for themselves,” he said, referring to people exposed to secondhand smoke in the workplace.
For Mason and Guilfoyle it’s also about freedom.
“I can’t support it because it goes against everything that I’ve defended for this United States of America,” Mason said.
Guilfoyle asked, “And if they succeed on smoking, will they be back to tackle obesity? Probably next it will be our guns.”
MAYBE YOU SHOULD WORRY: Last week, a former temporary employee was arrested and charged with defrauding the city of Augusta out of $86,456 for work at the city’s wastewater treatment plant she didn’t do, according to Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier.
Terrilynn Brown is accused of using an office at the plant to fax false time sheets to her staffing agency, which billed the city and was reimbursed. This allegedly went on for eight months after her contract ran out.
And nobody noticed a former temporary employee was being paid $10,807 a month?
The same day I read about that, I read this: “If your tap water smells or tastes like dirt, don’t worry. The Augusta Utilities Department says it’s not dangerous and they’re trying to fix it.”
WHO KNOWS WHAT GOES ON BEHIND CLOSED DOORS? On the advice of city attorney Andrew MacKenzie, the Richmond County Board of Elections went behind closed doors to discuss whether next year’s mayoral and commission elections will be in July or November.
MacKenzie said the meeting was closed because of possible litigation. That’s his story and he’s sticking to it, although there are no pending lawsuits.
Nonpartisan Augusta mayoral and commission elections traditionally have been held in November, but state Senate Bill 92, which passed the Legislature and was signed into law by the governor last year, calls for all consolidated governments’ nonpartisan elections to be held on the July primary election date.
Elections board members take an oath to “support the Constitution of the United States and of this state.” So the only question that needs to be asked or answered is, “Are they going to uphold their oath of office and set the elections for July?” And that’s the question some board members don’t want to answer. That’s why they went behind closed doors.
Footnote: The U.S. Justice Department objected to the Senate bill last year, but in June the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the section of the Voting Rights Act requiring Justice Department preclearance of any voting changes that might affect minority voting strength.
GRAY PANTHERS: Elections Board Executive Director Lynn Bailey and board member Sanford Loyd met with residents of St. Johns Towers about the closing of the precinct in their building, according to resident Jean Stovall.
“Of course, you know we’re rather set in our ways,” she said. “We’ve always had the precinct here at St. Johns as far as I can remember. They want us to vote at May Park, a quarter of a mile away. And there are so many in wheelchairs and walkers. A lot of them won’t vote.”
Stovall said they were told they could vote by absentee ballot, which doesn’t exactly suit them.
“I don’t know if this is a disenfranchisement or not,” she said.
The proposed change is designed to reduce the number of Richmond County polling sites.
FUNDRAISING: Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jack Kingston will be in Augusta on Monday for a fundraiser at Fat Man’s Café in Enterprise Mill. If everybody on the host committee pays the price of admission, he should go away with a fat purse.
Supporters of Thomson resident Terry Holley, who is running for the Senate seat as an independent, will also hold a fundraiser this month.
Holley was formerly on the executive committee of the state Democratic Party. He said he became an independent because he was tired of Republicans and Democrats sounding alike.