I’m pleased to report Augusta’s mayoral candidates are improving with practice on the campaign trail, but most are still speaking a lot of gobbledygook.
For example, the raven-haired Dr. Lori Myles has repeatedly called for black and white unity, but when the candidates were asked during television station Channel 6’s forum hosted by Brad Means to identify the highest leadership position they’d ever held, Myles touted her work with 100 Black Women.
Candidate and state Sen. Hardie Davis cites among his legislative success a tax increase – transportation special purpose local option sales tax – and the merger of Augusta State University and the Medical College of Georgia into the despicably named GRU, which he essentially said won’t ultimately matter because of the “enterprise” that’s been created.
At a recent forum, Davis said, Augusta ought to consider “the 1,000-pound elephant” that is “historically suppressed tax rates” that do little to attract new residents.
SAY WHAT? And Davis fell into the pit of meaningless jargon when he said, as mayor, he’d establish an intergovernmental affairs department to study services still not consolidated and “break down silos” of inefficiency.
Still, he’s got the experience, education, demeanor and government-speak to make a good mayor.
YOU HAVE CHOICES: Some folks say they don’t like Davis because he’s not black enough. Well, they can always vote for Charles Cummings who sounds like a broken record about the bus service.
He says an improved transit system could generate $3 million a month and that the city is dysfunctional because it doesn’t know where its money is, which is ridiculous.
Cummings proposes that Augusta’s hotels have kiosks with “an information center that you could go to and it would tell you if you want to go dining … Also, that kiosk would provide you the new and improved bus schedule route. You just press on that, and that bus will be coming out front in the next five minutes.”
Every time Cummings opens his mouth, he shows how little he knows about city government operations while displaying a fluency in Ebonics.
Still he’s likeable and entertaining even if he and his wife did get caught operating an unlicensed teen dance hall.
Meanwhile, with visions of being mayor dancing in his head, Candidate Alvin Mason, has metamorphosed into a fiscal conservative with plans to tear down the Savannah River levee.
He’s opposed to the rain tax, but I seem to remember when he was for it before he was against it.
He’s also trying to discredit Mayor Deke Copenhaver by saying there’s a lack of transparency in the mayor’s office and disconnect between his office and the city commission, a tactic I believe is designed to justify his absence from all six proposed penny tax meetings.
Speaking of transparency, Mason says he’ll be transparent, but he doesn’t return phone calls unless he has a message he wants to disseminate, so I’m a little skeptical about all that future transparency.
Still he’s a fine speaker, poised, self-made and self-confident.
But I think his best quality is that he honors his mother, Hazel Sturdivant, publicly and gives her credit for his success.
Why, he even organized and cooked supper for the family when he was just a child and she was working late.
When she’d call, he’d say, ‘Don’t worry about it, Mom. I’ve got everything under control.”
And what of Helen Blocker-Adams? In my opinion, she’s the most honest, sincere and likeable candidate of all.
AND THE QUEEN NEEDS A CASTLE: During the Channel 6 forum, when host Means asked the candidates whether they’d keep the mayoral car and gasoline card, Myles said, “Will I take a car and gas? Oh, quite naturally. And another thing I truly believe we need to do. We need to establish a mayoral house. … If this is what’s part of what’s already been set aside, there’s no need in us deciding humility, and say, ‘Keep all those things.’”
Later she spouted such gems as, “Princess Augusta needs a queen,” and, “We can no longer sit back and watch ourselves make our own mistakes.”
WILL THAT WAY BE VIA YOUR POCKET? The proposed sales tax package sparked a lively debate at the University Hospital board meeting Thursday.
Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson, the Augusta Commission liaison to the board, told its board members the fate of the proposed penny tax package is in doubt when it comes before voters on May 20.
“I don’t think it is going to pass,” he said.
That prompted member L ee Smith to say if it’s voted down it will be a “black eye” for Augusta .
“This community would be so embarrassed statewide,” he said.
In particular, it would be bad because the proposed penny tax package contains $8 million needed for a local match for a new cancer center at Georgia Regents University, a local match that must be in place before the university can access $45 million in state bond funding for the $62.5 million project.
Smith is the president and CEO of The Community Foundation of the Central Savannah River Area, which helped the Masters Tournament donate $4 million to the needed local contribution for the cancer center.
But Johnson said should the penny tax fail, that $8 million could still find its way to GRU to meet that obligation.
“They’ve already borrowed the money,” he said, but have not released it to the university pending the outcome of the proposed penny tax vote.
Should it be voted down, “they will figure out another way,” Johnson said.
WELL DESERVED AND LONG OVERDUE: WGAC radio talk-show host Austin Rhodes was at his awesome best when he spoke at the West Augusta Rotary Club last week before receiving the club’s 2014 Louis Harris Award.
“My Mom ought to be here,” he said, choking up.
“I’m probably the only recipient of this award whose parent read Louis Harris every day. Every day. She (Beverly Bentley Rhodes) loved it. She thought when Phil Kent took over it was a shame because he wasn’t conservative enough.
She passed away in December. She asked that on her tombstone “The Spirited Mother of Austin Rhodes and Bentley Rhodes” be listed prominently.
“Here’s how spirited she was. Back in 2005, when she heard Barry Paschal had won the award – a dear friend of mine – she said, ‘Well, Austin, you were screwed over. Excuse me if I’m a little emotional. My daughter is here.”
He went on humbly thanking the stations manager for their support, members of the WGAC family and other media folks he’s worked with the past 31 years.
His mother, Beverly, would have been proud.
The club has presented the award annually since 1979 to honor the memory of Harris, a community leader who was editor of The Augusta Chronicle and Augusta Herald in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.
City Ink thanks The Augusta Chronicle’s Science and Medicine reporter Tom Corwin for his contribution to this week’s column.