Augusta's 5 mayoral candidates participate in forum

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In a first public forum together Tuesday, the five can­didates seeking to be Augusta’s next mayor sparred gently over job crea­tion, pushed a transit agenda and touted the skills and experience they’d bring to the mayor’s seat.

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Shadows fall across a row of seats as Augusta mayor candidates speak during a forum at Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Shadows fall across a row of seats as Augusta mayor candidates speak during a forum at Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church.

Less compelling than the fact that the next consolidated Augusta-Richmond County mayor will be black, candidate Helen Blocker-Adams said in opening remarks, is the detail that the next mayor will “get right to work with your current mayor, your current commissioners” and enjoy seven months of on-the-job training before taking office. The election is May 20.

Throughout the forum, retired restaurateur Charles Cum­mings stayed true to his platform of upgrading Augusta Public Transit, calling it an issue critical to the city’s disabled, elderly and less fortunate.

Sen. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta, attending his first forum with the other candidates, said he would be “a mayor that you can be proud of,” one who uses all available legislation to replace lost manufacturing jobs, accelerate licensing and permitting for incoming business, develop housing in south Augusta and expanding a southside industrial park to create Georgia’s second inland port.

Augusta Commission member Alvin Mason touted job growth that has taken place during his two terms on the commission, adding that he “absolutely” knows “what I can do, and what I can’t do” as mayor, a position defined in the city charter.

“We can’t wait,” recited language arts instructor Lori Myles. “None of the accolades mean a thing, if you can’t walk the walk and talk the talk,” she said.

In a nod to her opponents, “to run on your past experience may not be the best thing to do,” she said.

On the topic of job creation, Mason noted the incoming U.S. Army Cyber Command’s promise of about 3,500 jobs, but added “we’ve got to start in the school system” to prepare students.

Myles’ key jobs phrase was “trade and industrial magnification,” while Blocker-Adams’ was “entertainment,” including film and theater, to encourage the “Tyler Perrys of the world that are making a killing” in Atlanta.

Cummings said the workforce “has got to be able to get to work.”

Davis questioned Mason’s role in job creation, adding that current Mayor Deke Copenhaver “has done some significant things,” in spite of the current commission.

He said the cyber jobs actually include many transfers, but a new initiative at a former National Science Center property would enable workforce development.

On the issue of dilapidated properties, Blocker-Adams said she would “do the right thing, no matter who owns the property,” while Davis speculated “what if” T-Mobile had located in the Laney-Walker or Bethlehem communities using the Legislature-created development tool of a Tax Allocation District.

Mason, responding to Davis’ comment about cyber command, said its jobs were “nothing to scoff at,” but that as mayor, “the job is to enforce the laws and ordinances on the books,” including Augusta’s newly revised mothballed properties ordinance, to address blight.
Myles said Augusta presently was not implementing existing legislation or ordinances.

“We are sitting back,” she said, having “decided we have so many other things to bicker over.” She added that a “hierarchy of needs” was needed.

Concerning downtown, Myles said “money is being turned into the downtown area in many different ways” including sales tax allocations, while Mason said enforcement of ordinances, again, was the issue.

“Alvin Mason’s going to make that happen,” he said.

Mason also repeated one of his campaign promises, to lower the downtown levee that blocks visual access to the Savannah River. The massive demolition project would enable development where right now, “looking out the back door, there’s a wall,” he said.

Davis said the mayor must listen to downtown businesses to set priorities, including “the parking problem” that discourages development.

Tearing down the levee, he said, would send flood insurance rates “skyrocketing” while the key to development is the vacant former Golf Hall of Fame property, now owned by Georgia Regents University, he said.

Cummings said of Augusta’s thousands of hotel and motel rooms, many weren’t downtown.

“Transportation has got to be a part” of the downtown solution, he said.

Blocker-Adams said the city has not been “good stewards of what we already have” downtown, neglecting maintenance of what already exists.

Many people who attended the forum, held by Summerville Neighborhood Association at Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church, came in support of a particular candidate, while others said afterward they hadn’t made up their minds.

“It’s still kind of an introduction,” said resident Ken Kitchen. The mayor is “kind of a mediator,” he said. “That requires talents not everyone has.”

Michael Anderson said the forum was “really interesting,” though he hadn’t made up his mind, either. “I think I was able to learn a lot about the candidates. I was impressed at how articulate all the candidates were.”

Dennis Williams, who is running for a seat on the Augusta Commission, said the forum, the first attended by all five candidates, had allowed him to make a decision, but he wouldn’t specify who.

Williams said the replies gave the audience “an opportunity to see the leadership skills” of each.

GET TO KNOW THEM

The five candidates for Augusta mayor are businesswoman Helen Blocker-Adams, retired businessman Charles Cummings, state Sen. Hardie Davis, Augusta Commission member Alvin Mason and high school teacher Lori Myles. Three more forums are planned:

• Thursday, 7 p.m., Beulah Grove Baptist Church, 1440 Poplar St.

• April 14, 6 p.m., Carrie J. Mays Community Center, 1014 11th Ave.

• May 13, 7 p.m., Julian Smith Casino Barbecue Pit, 3 Milledge Road

Comments (15) Add comment
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dickworth1
954
Points
dickworth1 03/26/14 - 07:09 am
2
7
Helen Blocker-Adams
Unpublished

I support Helen Blocker-Adams because I believe she is color blind and want to do what is right for Augusta unlike other candidates that have proven in their votes that they vote by color. If this is your wish for Augusta then vote for the professional politician and keep watching Augusta become the next bankrupt city like Detroit. Your taxes will go up after the election by the professional politicians. Good luck and let your brain elect the mayor not your eyes.

Riverman1
84926
Points
Riverman1 03/26/14 - 07:26 am
6
3
Whites In A Position of Power This Election

Whites are actually in a position of power for this election. Whoever wins the white vote handily will win the election since the five black candidates will share the black vote. Davis and HBA appear the likely candidates to get a piece of the white vote.

Riverman1
84926
Points
Riverman1 03/26/14 - 07:42 am
5
1
Hierarchy of Needs

Myles said, "a hierarchy of needs was needed."

My Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs begins with public safety. Useless T Centers and Paine College give-aways are way down the list.

story1
802
Points
story1 03/26/14 - 08:36 am
3
1
Candidates oppose Splost

Is Mr. Mason still the only candidate that has publicly opposed the Splost package being pushed by our current Mayor?

soapy_725
43686
Points
soapy_725 03/26/14 - 09:16 am
0
0
Funny how the federal governmnet "chose" to use reverends
Unpublished

to accomplish their totalitarian ends.

soapy_725
43686
Points
soapy_725 03/26/14 - 09:16 am
0
0
You get a double whammie. Education & piety in the reverends.
Unpublished

You get a double whammie. Education & piety in the reverends.

soapy_725
43686
Points
soapy_725 03/26/14 - 09:17 am
0
0
The "new plantation" overseers. Bought & paid for, often.
Unpublished

The "new plantation" overseers. Bought & paid for, often.

soapy_725
43686
Points
soapy_725 03/26/14 - 09:18 am
1
0
Sort of like the Jewish Police forces in WWII Europe.
Unpublished

Sort of like the Jewish Police forces in WWII Europe.

deestafford
27879
Points
deestafford 03/26/14 - 09:26 am
3
1
All I know is...

All I know is that it's gonna be a long time between this election and the next one.

triscuit
3099
Points
triscuit 03/26/14 - 09:44 am
2
1
Two of them have no business

Two of them have no business in this contest at all...they are delusional to think they have a chance. I think you can guess which 2.

triscuit
3099
Points
triscuit 03/26/14 - 09:56 am
3
1
Lori Myles is the only

Lori Myles is the only candidate that is in favor of voting for SPLOST on May 20 as it is now presented. The others all agree the project list needs more public input and editing before it is voted upon. At least that is what was said last night.

Bulldog
1333
Points
Bulldog 03/26/14 - 09:59 am
4
1
Do what is right and move Augusta forward!

Are there two more tired, trite and glib comments than these? These two phrases are absolutely without meaning, yet I hear them constantly from most of the candidates! Tell me what you want to do and how you are going to pay for it. Please stop with the pabulum and the feel good baloney.

Butterman
3680
Points
Butterman 03/26/14 - 10:46 am
4
1
HBA
Unpublished

is just a mocha Deke warmed over. Notice how she never answers a question directly. This is done on purpose. Her answer to everything is forming more committees and conducting more studies. She is also in the backpocket of the downtown powerbrokers who want to keep their gravy train moving along. f you vote for Helen then you deserve what you get. I also find it amazing that someone who wants to be mayor has been rarely seen at commission meetings for the past 8 years. Im at the MP on a regular basis and rarely see Helen there.

triscuit
3099
Points
triscuit 03/26/14 - 10:52 am
4
1
butterman, maybe you should

butterman, maybe you should run for mayor then.

willie7
961
Points
willie7 03/26/14 - 11:08 am
1
0
Hardie Davis all the way. I
Unpublished

Hardie Davis all the way. I am supporting him.
He is a Georgia Tech graduate and has the experience of working with all people.
He has some good ideas to move Augusta forward .

Butterman
3680
Points
Butterman 03/26/14 - 11:18 am
3
1
i have no interest in the job
Unpublished

but I know if I were considering it, I would certainly make an effort to attend commission meetings regularly. HBA is all fluff and a self promoter. She is absolutely the wrong person for the job. and to answer story1's question, yes Mason is so far the only mayoral candidate to unequivocally come out against the Splost on the May 20th ballot. Davis said he would have to study the issue more. HBA said she wished it included more infrastructure but never said she was voting against the Splost. Mason so far has been the only mayoral candidate crystal clear on Splost.

Butterman
3680
Points
Butterman 03/26/14 - 11:43 am
5
2
Entertainment Capital?
Unpublished

look at this quote from HBA regarding job creation: while Blocker-Adams’ was “entertainment,” including film and theater, to encourage the “Tyler Perrys of the world that are making a killing” in Atlanta...

Really? This just shows how out of touch Helen is. Augusta needs to accept the fact that it is never going to be a tourist or entertainment city and focus on "practical" efforts to grow jobs that are suited for this area. These politicians who keep wasting money on the next big tourist attraction flop or entertainment flop are not the right people to be leading Augusta into the future.

triscuit
3099
Points
triscuit 03/26/14 - 02:03 pm
2
1
What jobs are 'suited' for

What jobs are 'suited' for this area, butterman? People here clamor for higher paying jobs, yet won't go to school to learn to do them.

dichotomy
33552
Points
dichotomy 03/26/14 - 07:03 pm
0
0
"Mason so far has been the

"Mason so far has been the only mayoral candidate crystal clear on Splost.'

Butterman.....he is also the only mayoral candidate that we know has taken the skybox tickets and campaign contributions from city contractors. Not illegal, but questionable ethics as far as I am concerned.

Also, Alvin keeps talking about tearing down the levee but he never mentions about how he will pay for that....or more importantly WHO will pay for that.

Just like Cummings keeps quacking about the transportation system but doesn't mention how he would pay for that........both of them need to consider that we are already broke. I guess they are both piling on the "let's get some revenue" train with Marion, Lockett, and Fennoy.

Quit asking them about their pie in the sky apple pie lame brained ideas. Ask them about property taxes, garbage fees, rain taxes, 1/2 $million dollar consultant contracts for every damned thing they do, spending money that has not been approved, spending all of the money downtown......just ask them about the mistakes that they and their ilk have been steadily and consistently making since consolidation......ask them what they are going to do for Southeast Richmond County. Quit letting them get by with apple pie and ice cream answers and start making them tell you how the hell they are going to pay for their crap ideas.

Butterman
3680
Points
Butterman 03/26/14 - 07:08 pm
1
0
manufacturing
Unpublished

IT, healthcare, military, skilled trades.. just to name a few. Augusta has a long tradition of being a manufacturing town. It has the physical and human resources to compete for those jobs. High schools need to get back to teaching marketable trade skills. Not everyone needs to be on a college track curriculum. But pretending that Augusta is a potential tourist or entertainment mecca and throwing more money at tourist trap boondoggles like TEE Centers, golf and gardens and arenas will not bring high paying jobs to the area. That shows a complete lack of understanding of Augustas economy.

Butterman
3680
Points
Butterman 03/26/14 - 07:16 pm
1
0
Mason has pretty much said
Unpublished

Mason has pretty much said there he is not in favor for throwing anymore money at riverfront development as long as the levee is there. He is right. How many millions have we thrown at riverfront boondoggles like TEE Centers, Fort Discovery, Golf and Gardens, etc. As long as a 30ft levee keeps Augusta from having a true riverfront, it will never be attractive to private developers. Removing the levee would open all that realestate up to private development that would generate proprrty tax revenue. Look across the river where there is no levee. Dichotomy, I hope you are aware that the downtown powerbrokers would be more than happy with either Helen or Hardie Davis. For someone who seems to be so sick and tired of being financially raped by the downtown cabal, you sure do seem to have a tendency to back their candidates. Dont cut off your nose to spite your face.

Young Fred
17614
Points
Young Fred 03/26/14 - 08:51 pm
0
0
Oh Smack!

Butterman makes a valid (or at least a semi-valid) point!!!

I love vision!

Too bad butter is comparing the Augusta side to the SC side.

Augusta never will, they never will realize what they could.

Too bad that! What a bunch of "little" people! What a bunch of self-important nonfoward looking peeps!

Do any of them actually think about what could be? Of course not!

What a farce!

catfish20
272
Points
catfish20 03/26/14 - 10:25 pm
0
0
It is so simple

Alvin Mason-Marion Williams-Bill Lockett

or

Hardie Davis-James Kendrick-Ed Tarver

I mean really who do you want representing your city? Think about it folks.

redfish
683
Points
redfish 03/27/14 - 09:09 am
0
0
A smaller Detroit...

If Mason wins, that will single the beginning of the end of Augusta. Mason is of the Marion Williams model and if a majority of voters in Richmond county choose that group as "leaders", our fate will be sealed. Augusta will become a smaller version of Detroit or a larger version of Sparta, Ga.

Georgia1964
36
Points
Georgia1964 03/30/14 - 12:07 am
0
0
Hardie Davis

Voting for Hardie Davis because he is a minister is ludicrous. Hardie Davis has been in Atlanta for several years and has done absolutely nothing for the citizens that he represented. HD speaks out of both sides of his mouth and he is not to be trusted. I looked at his voting record and he claims to be a democrat but has consistently voted on legislation that republicans support. I don't care which party you are a member of but don't misrepresent the political party affiliation that you truly represent to garner votes. The educators of Georgia should be thoroughly upset with Hardie. HB1187 was a slap in the face to the people that voted him into office. It was a direct assault on public education. Davis received thousands of campaign donations from Charter School supporters outside the state of Georgia such as, the Koch Brother's, Charter Schools of America, WalMart heiress, and many others. He stated at Beulah Grove that he supported public schools. That was a flat out lie! Sure he graduated from Hephzibah High School, but his son attended private school until this year. Now HD is running for Mayor of Augusta, public school is good enough for him. HD stated that he didn't hear from any educators from Augusta. I find that statement hard to believe. He was promised some favors from legislators and voted for the bill. However, he didn't receive those promises. The reason he gave for vacating the Senate seat was its a lateral move. Sure, and I have some beach front property for sale in Nevada. The truth behind his departure from his senate seat is he sold out to those special interest groups and they no longer need his vote. He definitely is not the most "well respected senator" at the Capitol as he wants the citizens of Augusta to believe. He was respected by special interests groups to push their agenda and he didn't receive those promises after they secured his vote. The condition of education didn't happen over night. The deliberate cuts in funding for education was intended to bankrupt the local boards of education and to bilk millions of dollars from taxpayers to fund Charter Schools. Parents need to be more involved in their child's education and instill the importance of education in their children. HD stated at Trinity on the Hill that he didn't support Splost 7 but at Beulah Grove he supported Splost 7. As I recalled, he stated he's running on the platform of transparency. What are we really to believe? Is HD to be trusted? if he supports Splost 7, he is getting something in return. I'm sure Augusta Technical College will be awarded some of those dollars that can be utilized for anything. To the person that stated they are voting for HARDIE DAVIS because he is a minister...REALLY! Who are you Judas or Peter?

dsterling9
887
Points
dsterling9 04/10/14 - 09:28 am
0
0
CANDIDATES

I like Georgia1964 have reviewed Mr. Davis record and followed his forum and other statements. It appears he wants to spend funds Augusta/Richmond County does not have on items we do not need. I feel he wants to bring state government foolishness to the local level and I say NO. After reviewing all the comments from several sources I have made my choice for mayor on the following: 1) Who does not support SPLOST, 2) Who appears to know the job description, 3) Who appears to want a balanced budget, 4) Who appears to reflect respect for law and order and execution of community ordinances. So far there is only one!

As far as transportation...there needs to be a look at the service and make it better serve all of Augusta/Richmond County...not just a small segment. Oh, by the way, giving a free ride to out-of-town visitors has been tried and FAILED!

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