Familiar refrains of transit, privatization and better representation marked a candidate forum Thursday.
Candidates for the District 1 Augusta Commission seat – Bill Fennoy, Denice Traina and Stanley Hawes – attended, but incumbent Matt Aitken, who said he had to work, did not.
Also present was former District 2 Commissioner Marion Williams, who is seeking the Super District 9 commission post, and District 1 school board incumbent Marion Barnes.
Fennoy, the president of the Laney-Walker Neighborhood Association, which sponsored the forum at May Park Community Center, led off with concerns about the privatization of city services such as transit and the municipal golf course known as The Patch. Aitken had voted for both.
“So far, privatization has not worked for Augusta-Richmond County,” Fennoy said. “The transit system has been described as a disaster … (it’s uncertain) whether the Cabbage Patch will get back to the level it once was.”
Traina said any savings from the city’s decision to outsource management of the bus service to the private company Mobility Transit ought to go to improving the service, including restoring a bus route to Fort Gordon.
She added that the “discretionary” funds associated with the new transportation sales tax set to begin in January ought to be invested in transportation needs.
Hawes, a former president of the Laney-Walker Neighborhood Association, said he was raised in the area and still lives there.
“I’m proud to say I’m one of the ones that did not leave District 1 when the migration took place years ago,” he said.
Only a handful of mostly decided voters attended the forum; a Democratic rally with the Rev. Joseph Lowery also was taking place. A man identifying himself only as “Brother Garcia” asked Hawes why he had yet to file campaign financial disclosures and owed some $500 in late fees. Hawes insisted he would rectify the situation soon.
Williams said it takes six votes for the commission to accomplish anything, which is unlikely to change.
“You haven’t heard anything about giving the mayor a vote or giving the administrator any more power,” Williams said of issues last raised by the commission in 2011. “The buck stops with us. We’re the ones that answer to you.”
The candidates differed on how best to know the needs of the district. Fennoy said he would hold quarterly meetings and change the location each time. Traina said she would hold meetings at gathering spots such as the Augusta Market or public library, or would plan breakfasts with the heads of neighborhood associations.