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Augusta Commission retreat begins Thursday

Postponed issues on commission agenda

Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012 5:18 PM
Last updated Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012 12:50 PM
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The Augusta Commission will try to put its differences aside during a retreat scheduled for today and Friday at a downtown hotel.


The Carl Vinson Institute of Government, which has helped with previous commission retreats, is sending two people to guide the discussion – Gordon Maner, the senior public service associate who has facilitated retreats, and Malik Watkins, the former director of survey research at Savannah State University.

According to the agenda, the retreat will begin with questions about what keeps commissioners and the mayor up at night and their vision for Augusta in 10 years. After lunch, the members will break into two sections to discuss how to balance the 2012 budget. A month ago, the commission delayed implementing approximately $2.5 million in budget cuts until the retreat.

At the time, City Administrator Fred Russell said he was “not uncomfortable” with filling the shortfall using city savings and new revenue from property additions discovered by the tax assessor’s office. Several commissioners objected to relying on anticipated tax revenue to fill the gap.

The 10-member commission has been at odds, often along racial lines, over many issues over the past year, including agreements related to the new Trade, Exhibit and Event Center project (which will be known as the Augusta Convention Center), cutting the budget and eliminating jobs, and the reorganization of government – something it agreed was a priority at a 2010 retreat.

Last week, black commissioners accused white commissioners of scheming to donate the TEE Center’s new Reynolds Street parking deck to the Augusta Land Bank and excluding them from the discussion. Commissioner Jerry Brigham, who had the idea as a fix for those opposed to the parking deck real estate’s being privately owned, said it had come together just before the meeting and he hadn’t had time to run it by all commissioners.

Not listed on the retreat agenda is the commission code of conduct that Mayor Deke Copenhaver wanted the group to reapprove last month. At the objection of Commissioners Bill Lockett and Alvin Mason, the group voted to hold off on the code until the retreat. Copenhaver said conduct will come up under a broader agenda item. He reflected on 2010, a relatively harmonious year for the group.

“Eighty percent of the people sitting on the commission now were there when it was functioning extremely well,” the mayor said. “If we’ve done it before, we can do it again.”

Lockett, a frequent dissenter on commission actions, said he was keeping an open mind.

“This retreat can be a major success if each member of the commission-council, which includes the mayor, decides that all of the body will be provided the same information at the same time,” he said, “and that all members of the body will be involved in the decision-making process, with each member realizing he may not get 100 percent of what he wants, and that compromise is still in style.”

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I'm Back Again
320
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I'm Back Again 02/15/12 - 08:21 pm
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what a
Unpublished

what a joke!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

augusta citizen
10877
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augusta citizen 02/15/12 - 09:08 pm
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Another local news source is

Another local news source is reporting a push for commissioner Matt Aitkin to be "recalled" prior to this retreat. This seems like pretty big news to me.

Craig Spinks
819
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Craig Spinks 02/16/12 - 02:28 am
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"(A)t a downtown hotel." Um?

"(A)t a downtown hotel." Um? Wanna bet that it's the Marriott. But the Ramada Plaza would be more convenient toThe Marble Palace. Bet that Bonnie would give the A-RC a deal.

Speaking of Bonnie, she's got a whole lot more sense than anybody in A-RC government. With her intellect, business savvy and pluck, Bonne Ruben would make a much better mayor than has The Deekster. At least, Bonnie's her own person.

travisp73
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travisp73 02/16/12 - 07:31 am
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Are they gonna get 2

Are they gonna get 2 rooms....one for each race? The Augusta Commission is an embarassment at best.

Craig Spinks
819
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Craig Spinks 02/16/12 - 07:41 am
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Why not use Bonnie Ruben's

Why not use Bonnie Ruben's The Ramada Plaza which is a stone's throw from The Marble Palace and is cheaper than The Marriott Riverfront?

The CABAL doesn't want to be near Bonnie who is smarter than the CABALiens, even Paul Simon- the only CABALien smart enough to appreciate the superiority of Bonnie's intellect.

Little Lamb
55564
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Little Lamb 02/16/12 - 08:55 am
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Interesting, Augusta Citizen.

Interesting, Augusta Citizen. I don't think the city charter has a provision for an actual recall of a commissioner. Of course, anyone can call for a resignation, but I don't think there is a process where one can force actual removal. Rumor has it that Aitken will announce that he will not seek re-election. If that announcement comes, you can bet that the cabal-busters will claim credit.

Little Lamb
55564
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Little Lamb 02/16/12 - 09:00 am
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Commissioner Bill Lockett

Commissioner Bill Lockett said:

“This retreat can be a major success if each member of the commission-council, which includes the mayor, decides that all of the body will be provided the same information at the same time. . . .”

Sorry, Bill, that cannot happen. That is not the way politics works. There are three kinds of people in this world: those that make things happen, those that watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. Those that make things happen always have the information before the rest. Commissioner Bill Lockett is one of those in group three.

Riverman1
118032
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Riverman1 02/16/12 - 09:09 am
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Craig Spinks said, "Why not

Craig Spinks said, "Why not use Bonnie Ruben's The Ramada Plaza which is a stone's throw from The Marble Palace and is cheaper than The Marriott Riverfront?

The CABAL doesn't want to be near Bonnie who is smarter than the CABALiens, even Paul Simon- the only CABALien smart enough to appreciate the superiority of Bonnie's intellect."

Could it be because she opposed the TEE Center construction next to the Marriott? Oh, did you see how I figured out why the Marriott wants the $850 thousand upgrade to the AC at the TEE Center? They plan to keep the door ajoining the two buildings open.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/16/12 - 09:09 am
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I was reading over Bill

I was reading over Bill Lockett's statement again. Parse carefully the conditional clause:

. . . if each member . . . decides that all of the body will be provided the same information at the same time. . . .

How in the world would Lockett propose that happen? Each "member of the body" presumably has a tiny piece of information of which he is responsible. By default he knows that information before the "rest of the body." Therefore, the entire body can never receive the same information at the same time.

Riverman1
118032
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Riverman1 02/16/12 - 09:13 am
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LL, I don't buy all the

LL, I don't buy all the semantics play about Lockett. Before THE Commission meeting it was obvious Plunkett had discussed the issues in detail with the white Commisioners, but not the blacks. Land bank and all that. Plunkett and Fred work for all the people and their elected officials.

Little Lamb
55564
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Little Lamb 02/16/12 - 09:17 am
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The problem with Lockett,

The problem with Lockett, Johnson and Mason is that they have not developed relationships with the white commissioners such that they can cobble together reliable coalitions to block motions. Then they play the victim card when things don't go their way.

Little Lamb
55564
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Little Lamb 02/16/12 - 09:22 am
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Riverman1 wrote: Plunkett and

Riverman1 wrote:

Plunkett and Fred work for all the people and their elected officials.

Fred is looking out for number one only. The people and their elected officials be damned as far as Fred is concerned. Of course, that's just one person's opinion.

Riverman1
118032
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Riverman1 02/16/12 - 09:24 am
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The black Commissioners are

The black Commissioners are treated like Jeremy Lin, the Knicks player. Let him play, but keep him sleeping on the sofa in his brother's tiny apartment.

dichotomy
45597
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dichotomy 02/16/12 - 01:27 pm
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Just how much are we paying

Just how much are we paying the cabal to use the hotel that we built with taxpayer money....well, at least $7 million of taxpayer money. That ought to get us free use of the conference room for a long, long time.

Conservative Man
5657
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Conservative Man 02/16/12 - 02:13 pm
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LL, I don't agree with your

LL, I don't agree with your assessment of why Lockett, Mason and Johnson seem to be left out of the loop on certain things. But I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of Mr. Russell.

Little Lamb
55564
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Little Lamb 02/16/12 - 03:13 pm
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Perhaps I was a bit one-sided

Perhaps I was a bit one-sided in my comments about Lockett, Mason, and Johnson. I can sympathize why they feel like they got rolled at the last commission meeting. Jerry Brigham comes up with a last minute "solution" to have Wells Fargo Bank "release" the liens, 933 Broad LLC give the land to the land bank, and the commission approve the management "deal" with Riverfront LLC all in one fell swoop.

That was wrong. It should be discussed calmly and rationally; not rammed through that Tuesday. In fact, they could have discussed it at length during this retreat.

What really bothers me is why there are not two white commissioners who are courageous enough to admit that Fred Russell is derelict in his duty and deserves to be fired.

And if there were only one white commissioner who had made a friend with Lockett or Mason, that one white commissioner plus the four black commissioners could have stopped the motion to enter into the agreement with Riverfront LLC.

Riverman1
118032
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Riverman1 02/16/12 - 02:39 pm
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LL, now THAT comment I agree

LL, now THAT comment I agree with. It makes you wonder if they are not all in this thing together with the LLC's.

Little Lamb
55564
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Little Lamb 02/16/12 - 02:51 pm
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Poor Susan McCord. Her

Poor Susan McCord. Her editor is making her sit through the entire two days of the commission retreat. That is punishment. She is posting her thoughts on Twitter. Her last one was two hours ago. I guess the commissioners are taking a lo-o-o-o-ng lunch break.

Here is what her last tweet said:

Discussion turns to mission statement. Mayordeke wants to tweak it; Jackson says all depts need one; Mason wants it on letterhead.

Wow! Who knew the city even had a mission statement? Who can remember what it is and why it needs treaking?

Here would be my suggestion for a city of Augusta mission statement:

Augusta — Masters of Our Fate!

We could use the Johnny Paycheck song as the official city song:

Let's all go down to the river.
There's an ironman walking on the water.

Riverman1
118032
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Riverman1 02/16/12 - 03:00 pm
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The Commission meeting that

The Commission meeting that approved the land bank deal was about the most slimy, weaseling, scum-like solution I’ve ever seen down there with about every white commissioner involved throwing out something to show he was part of it.

We have a TEE Center built that will cost over $100 million and counting. We have no Hyatt Hotel which was one of the reasons we had to hurry up and approve this thing. We have no events scheduled to come here. We had an attorney trying to bribe commissioners. We have the land donated, but they were only kidding and come to find out there’s $7 million owed on the land. We have a management contract with the Marriott, but they keep asking the CVB to market the center for hundreds of thousands more. Now they want a better air control system at a cost of almost a million bucks. GIVE ME A BREAK. Willie Sutton was nicer.

Riverman1
118032
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Riverman1 02/16/12 - 03:01 pm
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Where is the $225 MILLION

Where is the $225 MILLION impact of the TEE? Do you think he meant we would end up paying that much?

Willow Bailey
20619
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Willow Bailey 02/16/12 - 03:03 pm
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River, please use your

River, please use your assertive self and speak your mind...:)

Little Lamb
55564
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Little Lamb 02/16/12 - 03:06 pm
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Good point, RM. When other

Good point, RM. When other cities talk about economic impact of building a project, they are talking about positive impact. In Augusta, economic impact is what it is going to COST taxpayers in negative impact.

Riverman1
118032
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Riverman1 02/16/12 - 03:10 pm
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Willow, ha, I deleted one

Willow, ha, I deleted one even stronger. There just comes a point. Now wake up everybody.

LL, exactly.

Little Lamb
55564
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Little Lamb 02/16/12 - 03:09 pm
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Well, the commissioners have

Well, the commissioners have come back from lunch. Susan reports that they have divided up into two groups (presumably interracial) to work on the budget.

Well, so much for the mission statement. I guess they tabled that tough subject.

Do you remember late last year how the commission actually passed a motion for Fred Russell to fire 34 people and abolish their positions? Now they are saying, "Just kidding," like 933 Broad LLC did.

404Law
226
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404Law 02/16/12 - 03:10 pm
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Wouldn't it be nice if we

Wouldn't it be nice if we could refer to members of the Augusta Commission as Democrat, Republican, or Independent; rather than the "blacks" said/did this/that and the "whites" said/did this/that? Seems the two constructions are a bit confounded here, and to some large degree, mirror the discourse in national politics. Of course, this would me that some of them would be forced to brand their moldy economic paradigms on local governing.

Riverman1
118032
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Riverman1 02/16/12 - 03:15 pm
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404 Law, it sounds like you

404 Law, it sounds like you have been attending a retreat or something.

Little Lamb
55564
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Little Lamb 02/16/12 - 03:15 pm
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Making the commissioners and

Making the commissioners and the mayor races non-partisan was probably the best single accomplishment of the consolidation law.

Riverman1
118032
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Riverman1 02/16/12 - 03:32 pm
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I wonder if Mayor Copenhaver

I wonder if Mayor Copenhaver got up at the meeting and denigrated those commenting online like he did in his op ed?

He wants to challenge those who disagree with him to something physical, but the problem is Deke wants to pick the challenge like an Ironman, badminton or basketweaving instead of barroom brawling. I'd bet on Alvin Mason in one of those.

Riverman1
118032
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Riverman1 02/16/12 - 03:42 pm
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I mean, just think about it.

I mean, just think about it. What could have $100 million plus have done for downtown Augusta?

showboat
422
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showboat 02/16/12 - 03:51 pm
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This is a waste of time and
Unpublished

This is a waste of time and money!!!!!!!to meet as a group , Brigham group will meet next week along some where.

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