City Ink: Augusta mayor cuts lots of ribbons, eats well

The Augusta Law Department complied with my Freedom of Information request for Mayor Hardie Davis’ travel and office calendars from Jan. 2, 2017, through Sept. 15, 2017, for which I thank them, although it was a computer printout, which it seems to me shouldn’t have taken five extra business days to come up with. But who am I to quibble? Especially since they didn’t send me a big bill.

 

And now that I’ve seen from Davis’ schedule of all the official duties, travel and activities he’s involved in, I understand why he needs all those well-paid assistants. It takes a lot of help to make airline and hotel reservations, screen phone calls, order takeout and witness the mayor’s conversations with visitors.

From Jan. 2 through Sept. 15, the mayor was scheduled to cut at least 11 ribbons, including one for the grand opening of the pickleball courts at Pendleton King Park, and Ed Enoch’s and Ed Tarver’s law office.

He also attended 24 breakfasts, 29 lunches or luncheons and five dinners, not counting those at the two national conferences he attended in Washington, which were the U.S. Conference of Mayors Leadership Conference in March and the African-American Mayors Association Annual Conference in April, and the weeklong U.S. Conference of Mayors in Miami in June.

In May, he attended a fish fry hosted by U.S. District Court judges J. Randal Hall and Dudley Bowen, and the U.S. Probation Office at the federal justice center.

Davis participated in at least 18 conference calls, including an Aug. 18 African-American Mayor’s Association Charlottesville Response call and two Environmental Justice Workgroup teleconferences.

He also rode in two parades: the Martin Luther King Day Parade and one honoring the Lucy C. Laney High School girls basketball team.

During the first eight months, two weeks of this year, the mayor:

Held “Office Hours in the District” in five districts,

Read 11 proclamations,

Gave greetings, speeches, welcomes and/or opening remarks on 20 occasions,

Called Bingo at the Henry Brigham Center; and

Attended one drop-in and 14 receptions, including the Masters reception, and one honoring delegates from Congo-Brazzaville at the home of Cheryl and Dr. Edouard Servy

Attended three galas and two weddings, including Ed Tarver and Carol Dale Thompson’s, and Kaitlyn Kurowski and Nicholas Darren Smith’s.

So you can see, the mayor has been working really hard for his $79,690 a year pay and needs a chief of staff, administrative assistant, receptionist and political consultant to help him keep up with everything.

And by the way, Davis answered the “Where’s Waldo?” question about his disappearance the week Hurricane Irma blew into Augusta. He was among eight American mayors who toured Israel for a week as guests of the American Jewish Committee Project Interchange.

Just Politics: The rumor you heard that District 6 Commissioner Ben Hasan is thinking about not seeking re-election next year is true. He was thinking about it.

“I have considered that, but there were a lot of people that talked to me and encouraged me to stay on. Quite a few,” he said.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed Hasan seems to enjoy being a commissioner.

Who Dunnit? Done Whut?: Former Augusta Deputy Administrator Ted Rhinehart, who resigned in May, and went back to DeKalb County and became deputy chief operating officer for infrastructure, might be in trouble for overruling an engineer and allowing developers to tie into the county’s failing sewer system despite a court order.

The EPA recently fined DeKalb County $294,000 for sewer overflows and ordered them to require developers to prove they had sewerage capacity in their plans or build a backup system. Rhinehart issued a letter to one developer, bypassing the capacity study and allowing him to tie in on five projects. Other developers want to know why.

DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond has ordered the law department to investigate all new sewer connections going back to June of last year, according to a Fox 5 Atlanta TV station investigation.

Similar questions arise about Ted in Augusta. Why did he really leave?

What did he screw up we haven’t found out about yet? Isn’t he the one who left Environmental Services Department Director Mark Johnson hanging after Raisegate?

This Office Should be on Probation: The year-old Augusta Probation Office continues to be in turmoil since Chief State Court Judge David Watkins forced Chief Probation Officer Marie Boulton out in July. A second employee resigned last week, citing harassment and hostile work environment. Sources say favoritism is rife and many employees are living under the threat of being fired for no reason except that somebody with powerful connections wants them gone.

Some were fired earlier after failing to become POST-certified after taking the course once. Currently, one employee who’s already failed twice is going back for a third time. A marshal’s office employee has been assigned to oversee the department until Watkins hires a permanent chief.

During recent city budget talks, City Administrator Janice Jackson was asked about the probation office budget and she said the office will cost taxpayers a million dollars to operate next year.

Who Lies Beneath: If we are going to take down a monument because people tied it to slavery, we should start with the one in the shadow of the mayor’s own office – the Signer’s Monument. The tall pillar in the middle of the intersection of Greene and Monument streets was erected to honor the three Georgia signers of the Declaration of Independence. The remains of George Walton and Lyman Hall are entombed beneath it. The whereabouts of Button Gwinnett’s bones are an enduring mystery. Be that as it may, to honor two of these signers is to honor men who owned slaves.

An eighth-grade class in Ohio did the research, so you don’t have to. You’ll find it here: http://bit.ly/2wqx0GV

– Contributed by former Augusta Mayor Bob Young

Wear Out or Rust Out?: All my old friends are dying or retiring. Of the two, I prefer the latter. So does WGAC Radio FM host and personality Harley Drew, who retired Friday after 58 years in broadcasting. I hope he won’t miss the microphone too much. I used to wake up in the morning when I was reporting for The Chronicle fulltime, and listen to him and Mary Liz Nolan’s wonderful show about local topics of interest. Some of the morning news sounded an awful lot like what I’d written the night before at The Chronicle, but I took it as a compliment.

And imagine my surprise when I called my dentist’s office last week and heard he’d retired a month ago. Dr. Carroll Hughes sold his practice in Thomson to a young dentist. Dr. Hughes hadn’t planned to retire, but started thinking about what would happen to his longtime employees should he not wake up one morning, according to Sherry, one of his assistants. They’d be out of a job.

Wasn’t that thoughtful?: Now I’m beginning to feel like Eugenia Lehmann. Before she died at 101 years of age, she told me how she wanted to die, partly because she’d outlived all of her friends and all of her doctors. My doctor, Dr. Paul Forney, retired last year, and now my dentist has, too.

All of this retiring makes me want to go, but just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

 

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Thu, 11/23/2017 - 17:28

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