Mayoral candidates continue to spar over SPLOST

Mayoral candidates state Sen. Hardie Davis and Augusta Com­mission member Alvin Mason continued their war of words over the next round of the special purpose local option sales tax at an Augusta AMBUCS forum last week while Helen Blocker-Adams reiterated her opposition to the tax package.

“SPLOST 7 is being rammed down our throats like a hard sell – like a midnight madness sale,” she said.

 

LOST IN CONFABULATION: I’m not sure what candidate Lori Myles said. It takes too much effort to try to figure it out.

 

BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND: “In this community we tend to move with the winds of political change, and we hover around the things that seem exciting,” said Davis, no doubt impressing the civic club with his ability to turn a contrived phrase, while criticizing Mason’s absence at Mayor Deke Copen­haver’s SPLOST 7 meetings and Mason’s vote for the sales-tax package in 2009.

“I would have been there making the decision instead of coming back to the people saying, ‘Oh by the way, we didn’t have enough public meetings.’ … If it was illegal today, it was illegal in 2009. That’s not what leadership is about,” Davis said.

Mason insisted on correcting what he called “false information.”

“In 2009, there were public meetings,” he said. “So it wasn’t the same process. We shouldn’t say it was the same process. But again, I’m here. I guess you spend so much time in Atlanta you don’t know the deal. The fact of the matter is I’ve been against SPLOST 7 from day one. It has nothing to do with being after the fact. And here’s what I say about true leadership. When you become knowledgeable that something is wrong, do you keep doing wrong? You stop it! You stop it! You don’t just say ’cause it’s been done this way, OK.”

 

NOT A RUN OF THE MILLS MATTER: A question about the $5.2 million allocation in the sales-tax package for Copenhaver’s Mills District project revealed that none of the candidates knows exactly what it’s for.

“First, we were going to purchase land,” Mason said. “Then it was going to be studies and then programmable things. And now it’s land between Harrisburg to be contiguous with the mills, but there’s been no commitment from GRU that they’re going to build dorms and this type of stuff. And there’s been $8 million for the Georgia Regents University cancer center.”

About $21.7 million of SPLOST money would be bonded for immediate use, but none would go toward roads, bridges, sewage, drainage or public safety.

“The sheriff came out and said public safety was critically important,” Mason continued. “There’s no money being bonded for public safety. If it’s critically important, let’s bond you some money immediately. Let’s just be real here for a moment. When we go look at some of the land that we’re talking about purchasing up as a part of the mills project, you may be surprised – or maybe not – who some of the names of the people who are going to get some of this money immediately.”

 

TURNABOUT IS FAIR PLAY: Club member Nathan Jolles said he’d asked Co­pen­haver what one question he would put to the mayoral candidates. Copenhaver said to ask them to identify their specific qualifications to manage the growth from the arrival of the Army Cyber Command at Fort Gor­don.

Well now, considering the lack of money for infrastructure expansion vital for the expected growth in the mayor’s tax package, maybe somebody should ask him the same question.

 

“GET OFF OF MY BLOCK”: After the shooting at Paine College, Augusta Chronicle photographer Jon-Michael Sullivan parked at the old Wife Saver parking lot on 15th Street, got out with his camera and was walking toward the sidewalk when someone shouted to him from a window, and a Paine College police officer approached and told him to leave because he was on private property.

The officer said, “We own this property,” according to Sullivan.

“I’m on the sidewalk,” Sulli­van said.

“We own that too,” the officer replied, which Sul­livan said was news to him.

“Man, just get out of here,” the officer said, which Sullivan did.

Question: If Paine Col­lege is so private it even owns the sidewalks, why did it receive $2 million of SPLOST 6 money for its Health Education Activities Learning Complex and is scheduled to get $6 million from SPLOST 7 if the tax referendum passes May 20?

 

49 YEARS OF SERVICE: The Richmond County Sher­iff’s Office held a bang-up retirement reception honoring Maj. Gene Johnson at the Charles Webster De­ten­tion Cen­ter last week.

Sheriff Richard Round­tree presented Johnson with a bronze eagle trophy, a traditional law-enforcement symbo. A slideshow of Johnson through the years preceded entertainment by former boss and colleagues Sheriff Ronnie Strength, Chief Deputy Sid Hatfield and partner Gene Staulcup, the owner of Staulcup & Associates.

Strength attributed Johnson’s longevity to loyalty and dedication – and one other thing.

“When it came to elections, Gene never put a yard sign in his yard until after the election, and they were always signs of the winners,” he said.

Strength said he is concerned Johnson will have sticker shock when he has to buy his own gasoline after so many years of driving a government vehicle.

In describing his friendship with Johnson, Staulcup said, “A friend will help you move. A good friend will help you move a body.”

In 2010, Johnson was honored with a surprise party after 45 years in the sheriff’s office, and there he recounted the most memorable event of his career. It was in 1983 when Charlie Harris crashed through the gate of Augusta National Golf Club while President Reagan was there.

Johnson said he and a couple more officers were in the Green Jacket Res­tau­rant parking lot when Har­ris went through the gate.

“We went through behind him,” he said. “He had some people hemmed up in the pro shop, and me and a Secret Service agent was laying on the floor trying to talk to him, and he was drunk. He said, ‘If y’all don’t get me another bottle of liquor, I’m going to shoot somebody.’ About that time, he put his hand out the door and shot the TV.

“He was drinking tequila, and he had a bottle about half-full on the front seat. He kept hollering he wanted the tequila. J.B. Dykes was sheriff then. He said, ‘Reckon we ought to give him some more?’ I said, ‘No, we want him to sober up.’

“Another time, I was duty investigator one weekend, and I had five murders. I actually had three murders and a murder-suicide. I tell you, that was the busiest weekend I ever had. In fact, I went to the autopsy that morning, and Dr. (Kailash) Sharma said, ‘What did you do last night?’ He had bodies laying everywhere to autopsy.

“One guy they killed was riding a bicycle, and a guy walked up to him and cut his throat and just kept on walking .… While I was doing that, they called me to another one on the other end of Olive Road. It was in a house. A shooting. I had a busy night that night. It was Halloween night.”

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