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Augusta Commission seeks federal intervention on new voting districts

Georgia lawmakers failed to approve redistricting plan

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With the May 23 start of candidate qualifying approaching, the Augusta Commission voted 9-0 on Monday to seek intervention by a federal judge on redrawing commission and Richmond County school board district lines.

The decision – which came after a session behind closed doors with lawyers and other officials, including Board of Elections Director Lynn Bailey – is, in effect, “an action to let the court decide the map,” Augusta general counsel Andrew MacKenzie said.

MacKenzie said the closed-door discussion was appropriate because of the potential for litigation if elections are held under existing district lines drawn a decade ago, although MacKenzie said he was unaware of anyone filing suit.

Jurisdictions around the state approved new voting districts reflective of the 2010 census, but Augusta legislators disagreed along party lines with several options presented, leaving Augusta in the position of holding five commission and five school board elections this year using existing districts unless the court intervenes first.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham – who served on the ad hoc committee that developed and approved a district map, then withdrew his support – said the decision Monday was preferable to waiting on a lawsuit.

“It would be cheaper if we do it than if we have a citizen sue us,” Brigham said.

Because of population shifts, the existing districts vary widely in size. District 1, for example, is about 9,000 residents smaller than District 3. Both districts’ commission posts are coming open this year.

The commission took the action Monday after a legal meeting that preceded regular commission committee meetings. Commissioner Alvin Mason, who was chairman of the local redistricting committee, was absent.

Among Monday committee actions was a 4-0 rejection of applicant Tyrone Davis’ application for a beer, wine and liquor license at Cloud Nine Bar & Grill, situated in the former Shoney’s at 3156 Wrightsboro Road.

Speaking on behalf of nine Summerchase residents at the meeting who oppose the license, Donald Murphy said he was a combat veteran who knew the sound of gunfire. Some of it, Murphy said, even came from former university housing across Wrightsboro Road.

Before the club surrendered its license in February, deputies tallied 148 incidents there, including 15 for underage consumption, according to city documents and previous reports.

Committees rejected no other actions, although items on the Administrative Services Committee agenda were tabled because no quorum was present.

The Engineering Services Committee inched toward approving a solid-waste collection contract to replace the agreement that ended in December. The committee agreed 4-0 to begin negotiations with two waste haulers, each of which have Augusta-area offices, to perform weekly pickup, a change from biweekly pickup.

The option allows the two haulers to use subcontractors, requires new trash trucks to run on compressed natural gas, allows the hauler to bring additional waste from other counties to Augusta’s landfill and leaves open the potential for curbside hazardous-waste pickup and credits for families that recycle often.

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wondersnevercease
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wondersnevercease 04/09/12 - 08:14 pm
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What a bunch of wussy
Unpublished

What a bunch of wussy jerks!!!!!

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 04/10/12 - 09:29 am
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From the article: Augusta

From the article:

Augusta general counsel Andrew MacKenzie said the closed-door discussion was appropriate because of the potential for litigation if elections are held under existing district lines drawn a decade ago, although MacKenzie said he was unaware of anyone filing suit.

Andrew MacKenzie is enabling our commissioners to operate a secret government where reporters and citizens cannot have access to deliberations that affect our lives. MacKenzie's reasoning falls on its face. He says they can have a secret commission meeting anytime there is a potential for litigation. Well, Andrew, I hate to clue you in; but there is always a potential for a lawsuit. Are we going to see the only things discussed in public being the awarding of the employee of the month and the commendation of a high school football team's winning a championship? MacKenzie's "potential for litigation" is taking city government down the wrong road.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 04/10/12 - 07:59 am
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Something is wrong here. We

Something is wrong here. We supposedly have nine commissioners vote in a secret meeting, but then cannot muster a quorum of the Administrative Services Committee. That does not sound right. Did everyone go home after the vote to request federal judges draw our commission district lines? Since the meeting was secret, how do we even know there were nine commissioners in the secret chambers?

Shedding Tiers
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Shedding Tiers 04/10/12 - 10:30 am
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Little Lamb, I agree that you

Little Lamb, I agree that you could pretty much call anything a “potential for litigation” to talk about it behind closed doors if you wanted to use that for an excuse to violate the Open Meetings Act. However, in this instance I think you and Susan McCord have missed the point on this "secret meeting" discussion. The Motion the Commission approved after the “closed door” discussion was a motion to file a lawsuit to let the judge decide the map for redistricting. Isn’t filing lawsuit litigation? Any discussion the Commission had behind closed doors to decide whether to file such litigation is clearly “potential litigation” which is an exception to the Open Meetings Act. The Commission did not need to rely on threats of litigation from others to talk about this behind closed doors. Here, they unanimously agreed to file a lawsuit after their “closed door” discussion. There could hardly be a better example of “potential litigation.” It seems the real axe for grinding is the Georgia Legislature which made the law that allows for such closed door meetings.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 04/10/12 - 10:41 am
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That's interesting

That's interesting information, Shedding Tiers. I would have thought that if you needed a federal court to help you do something, you would just write a letter requesting assistance to the clerk of that that court. Silly me. Now, if the city had to file a lawsuit, just who is suing whom? A lawsuit has to have a plaintiff and a defendant, doesn't it?

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