Commission vote on redistricting map fails

Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011 10:33 AM
Last updated 9:04 PM
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The redistricting plan that could change the racial makeup of the Augusta Commission and the Richmond County school board again failed to win a majority of support from the commission Tuesday.

Commissioner Alvin Mason speaks about the redistricting plan.  CHRIS THELEN/STAFF
CHRIS THELEN/STAFF
Commissioner Alvin Mason speaks about the redistricting plan.

The vote failed 5-3-2, with Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles and commissioners Joe Jackson and Wayne Guilfoyle opposed. The only white commissioner to support the plan was Matt Aitken, whose District 1 is a majority-black district.

Commissioners Jerry Brigham and Grady Smith abstained from voting, preventing a potential tiebreaking vote by Mayor Deke Copen­haver, who missed a Dec. 6 commission meeting in which a vote on the map failed after it ended in a 5-5 tie. The tactic of abstaining to prevent a tie was frequently used by black commissioners in the mid-2000s to prevent Augusta’s mayor from swinging a 5-5 white-black split in the mayor’s favor.

The map, approved Nov. 29 by an ad hoc committee 12-0, revises existing commission and school board district lines to four majority-white and six majority-black districts. The Board of Education approved the map last week in a 7-3 vote.

Jack­son’s District 6 changes the most in the plan, going from 53 per­cent to 60.6 percent black. The school board member representing the district, Jack Padgett, is also white; Jackson is term-limited.

Brigham served on the committee that approved the map Nov. 29, then voted against it when the commission took it up Dec. 6. After Tuesday’s meeting, he said he wanted to go in a different direction.

“We have an opportunity to bring some peace to this community by looking at a different plan than what’s been presented,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to go forward in a way similar if not like the way we’ve done it in the past,” referring to the redistricting process a decade ago that resulted in five majority-white and five majority-black districts.

The vote isn’t binding on Au­gusta’s legislative delegation, which is expected to present legislation in support of the map when the General Assembly convenes in January. The lack of support could weigh on delegation members and with the U.S. Department of Justice, which also must approve the map.

Qualifying for five commission and five school board posts starts in May.

In other business, the commission voted 7-2-1 to suspend for 90 days the business license of Club 5150, where Ashley Brown was gunned down Sept. 15 by a minor who law enforcement said had been in the club drinking. Lockett wanted the suspension to start in February, but his motion received no second.

The commission also supported part of Lockett’s motion to call for a forensic audit of city affairs. He had called for a sweeping audit of multiple city business deals, sales-tax projects and other matters, but Mason offered a substitute motion to begin with only the city’s involvement in a land swap with Sen. Bill Jackson for
a small corner lot now under the TEE Center parking deck.

Augusta owns the corner parcel of real estate under the deck, and only air rights elsewhere, a move Mason, Lockett and other commissioners have said they were not apprised of until after the changes were made. Au­gus­ta Riverfront, the firm managing the deck, has ties to management of Morris Com­munica­tions, the owner of The Augusta Chronicle.

The commission voted 6-4 to have Russell seek bids from external auditors on the deck deal, with Aitken, Bowles, Jackson and Brigham opposed.

Copenhaver used his tiebreaking power to pass a new 5 percent surcharge for city employees who use tobacco products. Johnson, Mason, Lockett, Hatney and Smith opposed the move.

Lastly, the board heard Russell’s presentation on ways to cut the 2012 budget, which he based on recommendations from a few department heads. The cuts presented by Russell that were recommended by Recreation Director Tom Beck include eliminating nonsenior programs at Sand Hills, Blythe, Brigham and Carrie J. Mays community centers; closing Fleming, Jones and Dyess pools and Diamond Lakes Tennis Center; and eliminating 11 full-time and 26 part-time associated staffers, plus one recreation administrator, one downtown landscaping worker and one maintenance worker at the Municipal Building.

Russell, seeking alternatives if the commission objected to the cuts, said he did not think the recreation cuts would be implemented before the commission returns in early 2012.

Comments (20) Add comment
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Riverman1
93524
Points
Riverman1 12/21/11 - 10:42 am
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I thought a judge had

I thought a judge had previously ruled it was illegal to use abstention to prevent ties and the mayor voting? Short memories we have.

Little Lamb
48971
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Little Lamb 12/21/11 - 10:53 am
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Nope, RM, the judge (Carlisle

Nope, RM, the judge (Carlisle Overstreet) ruled that the mayor had the power to count abstentions any way he wanted to count them. Of course, that ruling was totally boneheaded and contrary to the city charter, so it was overturned on appeal.

The abstention is merely a parliamentary tool to prevent a tyranny of the majority.

Little Lamb
48971
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Little Lamb 12/21/11 - 11:01 am
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Okay, they've taken two votes

Okay, they've taken two votes on the identical re-districting map and the measure failed both times. Surely that's enough time wasted on that issue.

Mercifully, this meeting was the last meeting of 2011. Please, please, please have the mercy to spare us another round of haggling about this accursed map next year. Just ignore the maps and let the Georgia General Assembly take care of it when they begin meeting in January. They do not need your input.

Toward the end of the story we see the management style of Fred (What, me worry?) Russell in its sad appearance again. He merely put forward someone else's ideas and spoke so long that the commissioners became sleepy and then had no stomach to actually discuss and vote on the cost saving measures. The result — no cost savings for an indefinite period of time.

Little Lamb
48971
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Little Lamb 12/21/11 - 11:10 am
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0
Okay, let me get this

Okay, let me get this straight: the commission voted 6-4 to have city administrator Fred (What, me worry?) Russell to seek bids from external (i.e., costly) auditors to do a forensic audit about the city's involvement in a land swap with state senator Bill Jackson for a small corner lot now under the TEE Center parking deck. What in the world do they hope to accomplish? The land swap was done out in the open. It was voted on in open commission meeting.

By the way, why does ace reporter Susan McCord call it the TEE Center parking deck? When you drive up to get your parking stub the machine says, “Welcome to the Marriott!

Little Lamb
48971
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Little Lamb 12/21/11 - 11:13 am
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0
What if the auditor rules

What if the auditor rules that the land swap was illegal? Will the city have to cut a chunk out of the parking deck corner and replace the hot dog stand that was on the land?

Dipshot
-5
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Dipshot 12/21/11 - 11:17 am
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Great reporting by Susan

Great reporting by Susan McCord. I see nothing wrong with Mason asking for a revote considering the previous vote ended in a tie and the mayor was not there to break it. But it looks like we are back to the same old games in Augusta of using the abstentions to deny the mayor a vote. It also shows Brigham's true colors yet again as being the chief obstructionist. As for Lamb, you do realize that it's Brigham and his group that is costing tax money and wasting time. The vote yesterday was simply to endorse the map that was agreed to by the committee as to waste no more time and resources on the matter.. but its Brigham who now wants to go back to square one. Let's hope the local delegation will just take redistricting plan 3-r and approve it. For one thing, what Brigham wants would never pass DOJ scrutiny anyway.

Dipshot
-5
Points
Dipshot 12/21/11 - 11:17 am
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good point LL about the hot

good point LL about the hot dog stand.. Why did they have to sell but the LLC didn't?

Riverman1
93524
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Riverman1 12/21/11 - 11:22 am
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0
LL, yeah, I remember it was

LL, yeah, I remember it was overturned and all, but I'm just saying...I brought it up to make a point. We kind of forget how things were.

Dipshot
-5
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Dipshot 12/21/11 - 12:52 pm
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I think one thing we have

I think one thing we have learned from this is that Guilfoyle and Smith are the two wild cards on the commission. So hopefully all this talk of a "Gang of Six" will disappear. I think Guilfoyle and Smith showed a lot of courage by voting in favor of the audit yesterday and they are willing to look at an issue objectively and do the right thing. Also, it's worth noting that Mason did get Deke to agree to sign a letter endorsing the redistricting map, as soon as the legal dept reviews to make sure that doesn't conflict with anything. So if the mayor and the 5 commissioners sign an enorsement letter that's sent to the legislature and the DOJ, that would pretty much have the same effect of the vote passing yesterday. As, LL said, this should pretty much end it. The committee agreed to a map unanimously after several revisions. The school board approved the map.. and so The Augusta Commission would have too if not for the abstainers who want to drag this process out more with yet another revision. No more revisions or committees. Hand this over to the state delegation and then to the DOJ for approval. The map will pass. People like Jerry Brigham and Joe Jackson are just going to have to deal with it.

Iwannakno
1533
Points
Iwannakno 12/22/11 - 04:51 pm
0
0
This city and government is a
Unpublished

This city and government is a joke. You have a ribbon cutting PR mayor that will only speak out when their is no political fallout. He is as much of a joke as the rest of this dysfunctional group. I will be glad when we have a majority black commission so that the majority of Augusta citizens are represented. At least we will no longer have to see the whites on one side and the blacks on the other. Maybe at least it will look like someone is trying to do something to better this place instead of jockeying for clout and making a mockery of the town at the expense of the taxpayers...enough already!!

Dipshot
-5
Points
Dipshot 12/21/11 - 09:49 pm
0
0
I could care less what racial

I could care less what racial make-up the majority of the commission is.. just so long as they serve the interests of the people and stop playing the same old games. Time to get past this.

Riverman1
93524
Points
Riverman1 12/22/11 - 03:49 am
0
0
I don't know about Guilfoyle.

I don't know about Guilfoyle. He was on TV saying there was nothing wrong with the TEE Center parking deck deal and is only in favor of an outside audit to prove things are legal. He's hard to figure....but maybe that's a good thing. He certainly is an interesting Commissioner.

Dipshot
-5
Points
Dipshot 12/22/11 - 09:21 am
0
0
Well then why did he vote for

Well then why did he vote for the audit? Did Joe Bowles get to him again?

Dipshot
-5
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Dipshot 12/22/11 - 09:24 am
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well his reasoning is

well his reasoning is sound... I mean you do "presume" innocence, right? But still anyone with any common sense can admit that things just don;t add up with this parking deck and they need to be looked into. But I'd say it should cover the entire TEE Center. But maybe the parking deck will show just the tip of the ice berg and this could evolve into a much a much deeper investigation.

Jilly Bean
0
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Jilly Bean 12/22/11 - 09:34 am
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I am so preplexed by some of

I am so preplexed by some of the comments.

Little Lamb
48971
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Little Lamb 12/22/11 - 09:54 am
0
0
Augusta is bad about

Augusta is bad about re-naming streets and bridges and overpasses and things. Here's a suggestion: why not change the name of Gordon Highway to

Mason-Brigham Line

:-)

irishfarmer
24
Points
irishfarmer 12/22/11 - 10:51 am
0
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LittleLamb: Funny post! Dont

LittleLamb:
Funny post! Dont see that happening any time soon. Very creative post! Guilfoyle and Smith did make the right vote on just the parking deck the rest would have been a waist of money and time. If any wrong doing is found the city needs to do the same for the rest in the list as they have done now about the parking deck. As for the maps so be it. This is what happens when a state senator tries to control what happens at the local level. I do not believe any member of the legislative delegation should have been involved with the maps at our local level. 1 reason why. No commissioner had a vote on the house or state senate seats. If Hardie Davis was paying as much attention to state issues as he is to issues under the control of the commission our area could and would be better of at the state level. Hopefully soon people in Augusta will vote him out of his state senate seat and then he can try and run for the commission.

Little Lamb
48971
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Little Lamb 12/22/11 - 11:01 am
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You know, Irish, that when

You know, Irish, that when Hardie Davis first ran and was elected State Senator, I had high hopes for him and for Augusta with him as Senator. But those hopes have been dashed (and not merely for this re-districting mess, but also for other disappointments in his "service." He seems to be serving only himself.) by his actions and inactions.

That last sentence was poorly constructed, but I hope you get the drift of it.

irishfarmer
24
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irishfarmer 12/22/11 - 11:13 am
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LittleLamb: I did get your

LittleLamb:
I did get your point and I agree completely. I hope others will understand and see just what we are talking about. Sen. Davis is completely about serving himself when it comes to politics. I really hope that a person I have named before will run against him and hope that person will win if he does. Augusta needs a leader in Atlanta who will lead for them not himslef. A leader who will handle the state issues under their scope and not the ones under the scope of the commission. We need a leader as a state senator not some one who wants to dictate how things are done for a personal agenda. Happy Holidays to all of you and may your holidays be not just joyous but safe as well.

Dipshot
-5
Points
Dipshot 12/22/11 - 12:07 pm
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0
I'm confused.. on one side of

I'm confused.. on one side of the coin you say redistricting should be left up to the state.. since ultimately it is their responsibility.. localities only have an advisory role, we can make suggestions, and endorsements of plans.. but none of that is binding and ultimately the state legislature makes the decision.. so it only makes sense that members of the state delegation would be involved in the process. But now you are chastising state involvement in the process... so which is it? We had a local committee meet.. they had an expert draw up maps; they revised them several times; they voted and all 12 of them (including Brigham, Smith and Padgett) voted to endorse plan 3-r. No one made them vote in favor.. They could have objected and voted no.. if they did that then I would have more respect for their argument atleast being consistent..but this is all about playing political games. Now all of a sudden Brigham says he wants to consider a different map all together starting at square one .. well OK Mr Brigham.. why didn't you bring that up in the committee BEFORE you voted to endorse plan 3-r? Sorry but I'm just not buying it. Brigham is term limited and at this point he has proven that he will just oppose anything out of spite and for the purposes of political posturing. If you can't see through that then you need an eye exam. And for you critics of Fred Russell; please remember that Russell keeps his job chiefly because of Brighmam. Even though Russell should be fired, Brigham keeps him out of spite because he thinks firing Russell would be viewed as a poltical victory for Mason and the black commissioners.. in the end it's always got to be about playing sides right?

Dipshot
-5
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Dipshot 12/22/11 - 12:08 pm
0
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Oh and by the way, you all

Oh and by the way, you all had a choice other than Hardie Davis.. his name was Taylor Bryant. Sure he ran as a Libertarian. But if you really wanted reform and change, you would have got it with him.. Hardie Davis is all about status quo. he was financed by the agents of the status quo in Augusta and was enthusiastically endorsed by the Chronicle.

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