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Rally questions actions of commission, lawmakers

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Monday’s rally on the steps of the Augusta-Richmond County Judicial Center and John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse was “not a protest,” Augusta Commission member Alvin Mason said to a group of about 100 gathered.

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Commissioner Alvin Mason leads a rally in front of the judicial center and John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse on Monday. Though he stressed the event was not a protest, he said "there is plenty we could protest about."  JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
Commissioner Alvin Mason leads a rally in front of the judicial center and John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse on Monday. Though he stressed the event was not a protest, he said "there is plenty we could protest about."

Still, “there is plenty that we could protest about,” Mason added.

The rally was advertised by former Mason campaign manager Tanya Barnhill as a way to “send a strong message that the community will not accept the many changes that have occurred as a result of commission votes and action by the state delegation.”

Mason, the event’s main speaker, objected to “irresponsible journalism used to try and thwart this rally” by labeling it a protest.

He and Commissioner Bill Lockett, who have voted against several of the items Mason cited as worthy of protest, were the only
commission members to attend.

Issues that were part of Monday’s “call to action” included Augusta’s construction of the Trade, Exhibit and Event Center and its parking deck, “built on land we don’t own, which by the way has a $7 million lien on it,” Mason said.

The commission voted in December to hire an external forensic auditor to examine the parking deck project, which originally was to go on land donated to the city.

Jim Plunkett, special counsel for the city on the project, has said the donation of air rights, or space, instead of land was a creative means of preserving the tax-exempt status of bonds issued for it, while the landowner later offered to donate the land to the Augusta Land Bank Authority.

Also worthy of protest was last year’s commission vote to reorganize city government, Mason said. The reorganization “has not legitimately saved a dime,” he contended, and led to $350,000 in employee raises, including one to Recreation Director Tom Beck, whom the commission voted recently to fire.

Last, “We’re about to reduce your garbage service, and charge you more for it,” Mason said.

A vote on the city’s 2013 solid-waste collection contract, its first in eight years, will go before the commission in the coming weeks.

Mason went on to charge the crowd with getting friends registered to vote in elections in July and November. Five commission posts, including Lockett’s, and five school board seats are up this year.

Mason said more than 50,000 eligible Augustans are not registered to vote.

The Rev. Chris Waters, of Thankful Baptist Church, said after the rally that white commissioners representing a minority of Augustans were making decisions for the black majority.

“The tone that it took certainly is an expression of the frustrations of many in the community,” Waters said of Mason’s speech.

Asked whether he agreed with Mason’s message, sheriff’s Capt. Scott Peebles, who is running for sheriff, said after the rally that “voters need to be involved in the process.”

Rep. Quincy Murphy, D-Augusta, said all the issues Mason raised fell along racial lines when the commission voted on them.

The speech served to “motivate the citizens of Augusta-Richmond County to become involved in the political process,” Murphy said.

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Little Lamb
47237
Points
Little Lamb 05/14/12 - 01:30 pm
5
0
900 short

They were hoping for 1,000 — but only 100 showed up. I guess the other 900 couldn't find a parking place. They need a revenue-generating parking deck over there.

Iwannakno
1533
Points
Iwannakno 05/14/12 - 01:43 pm
0
0
Hopefully...
Unpublished

They had a permit...

Jane18
12332
Points
Jane18 05/14/12 - 02:02 pm
4
2
Al---vinnnnnnnnnn!

Rally against what changes???????????????????

CarlA
114
Points
CarlA 05/14/12 - 02:35 pm
2
3
Preaching to the choir.

Preaching to the choir.

Sweet son
10785
Points
Sweet son 05/14/12 - 02:45 pm
0
3
Second Chance!

My first comment was pulled by Sean and crew so I will just say it sounds like sour grapes!

bdouglas
5438
Points
bdouglas 05/14/12 - 02:58 pm
3
2
100 man march! The lead photo

100 man march! The lead photo with this sure says a lot without coming out and saying it...

dickworth1
954
Points
dickworth1 05/14/12 - 03:08 pm
7
0
Let's demostrate
Unpublished

Let's demostrate against woman abuse, against spending federal
housing money on whatever and expect the taxpayers to pay it back
without any criminal charges against those in question. Yes, sir, Alvin,
let's demostrate against the high taxes and the spending from the
commisssioners on whatever help them get reelected. Let's spend money on educating the voters so we can get the kind of commissioners we deserve and should demand, we need to vote on
the candidate's qualifications and not his skin color. Get real Augusta, if you voted for these commissioners then you need to blame yourself.

Conservative Man
5577
Points
Conservative Man 05/14/12 - 03:49 pm
3
1
I've met Mr. Lockett and Mr.

I've met Mr. Lockett and Mr. Mason, as well as ALL sitting Commissioners AND the Mayor. I don't have a problem with any of these men personally. And I do believe these two gentlemen have legitimate gripes with how this county is being "ran into the ground" by the good ole boys running the show. I just question the effectiveness of "rallies" and phot-ops to get the job done.
Mr. Mason and Mr. Lockett have been right to question the deals that brought us the TEE Center and the laughable debacle of the parking deck fiasco.
I would suggest that they continue to question how, and where, our tax dollars are spent and who directly benefits.These questions aren't "black nor white". They are wrong versus right. That's going to take investigation and patience. Not "rallies".

Little Lamb
47237
Points
Little Lamb 05/14/12 - 04:17 pm
5
2
After the Fact

It is easy to Monday-morning-quarterback, and it is easy to "question deals" after the deals have been made. What we need out of Lockett and Mason is to engage in the deal-making up front and show us how their deal-making would be honest and open.

FriedFacts
61
Points
FriedFacts 05/14/12 - 04:18 pm
0
0
Rainy Day to be Factual
Unpublished

It should have been noted in the article that the crowd was probably held down by the rain.

Little Lamb
47237
Points
Little Lamb 05/14/12 - 10:40 pm
8
2
Deal

The deal that has taxpayers pay Riverfront LLC to operate the parking deck to the benefit of the Marriott Hotel and its guests was a dirty deal. But dirtier than that deal was the one extorted by Rev. Hatney and Betty Beard to funnel tens of millions (if not more) of tax money into those private housing deals over in Laney-Walker & Bethlehem. The shell LLCs (including one that was formerly managed by Hatney) are effective money laundering operations to the benefit of those who know how to milk the HUD system.

howcanweknow
2306
Points
howcanweknow 05/14/12 - 04:45 pm
9
1
Business as usual

Problem: "white commissioners, who represent the minority of Augustans, were making decisions for the black majority."

So it sounds like white elected officials are not qualified to make decisions for black people?

What happened to simply voting in the best qualified person -- regardless of race -- and letting that person represent you? And moreover, doing what is best for ALL of Augusta than just what appears to be best for a single people group?

Racial baggage continues prevent this community from moving forward. There is no unity, and apparently no interest in the common good for all. Sad. Particularly coming from pastors who should know better.

FriedFacts
61
Points
FriedFacts 05/14/12 - 05:11 pm
0
0
No Community in the Nation That Doesn't...
Unpublished

There is no community in the nation that doesn't vote along racial lines. Augusta has the same racial make-up as the city of Atlanta. We are not more racially oriented than any other city.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 05/14/12 - 08:00 pm
6
0
It's all about the Benjamins

I agree with Mason that commissions are making decisions that are bad for Augusta....

But it's not about racism, it's all about money.

It wasn't racism when Betty Beard sold her vote on the TEE Center to the highest bidder, and it wasn't racism when the commission built the parking deck on someone else's land. It was all about the Benjamins.

KSL
135492
Points
KSL 05/14/12 - 08:44 pm
5
0
From what I've been reading,

From what I've been reading, there is a whole lot of questioning on both sides that needs to go on.

Conservative Man
5577
Points
Conservative Man 05/14/12 - 09:02 pm
3
0
Quid Pro Quo

II, you nailed it....Betty got the payoff in LWB in exchange for the black community to "allow" Aitken's election in District 1. Whereby the VERY FIRST vote he cast was to move forward with the whole TEE Center debacle, which enriched a select few.....The "select few" won while the District and the county as a whole, lost....
Classic Quid Pro Quo....

Little Lamb
47237
Points
Little Lamb 05/14/12 - 10:32 pm
3
0
Not Healing

From the story above:

One of several pastors to attend, the Rev. Chris Waters of Thankful Baptist Church said after the rally that white commissioners, who represent the minority of Augustans, were making decisions for the black majority.

This is a disappointing statement from a minister of the Gospel of Christ. It is a statement as racist as one from Governor Bilbo of Mississippi. Augusta has made strides from the wounds of racism past, but Rev. Waters has torn the bandages away, injected bacteria, and encouraged the wounds to start festering again.

Sad, sad, sad.

my.voice
4930
Points
my.voice 05/14/12 - 10:29 pm
2
2
Masons not worthy to lead a

Masons not worthy to lead a charge on stale bread, much less anything of importance.

csraguy
2333
Points
csraguy 05/14/12 - 11:55 pm
4
0
Some good points were made

Some good points were made but it needs to go even further. Frankly, if race were left out of it, it would probably get more traction. I agree with many others that in reality it isn't about race but about $$$ and what is in it for me - happens to all regardless of race and it needs to change in Augusta if we are going to succeed.

Lori Davis
961
Points
Lori Davis 05/15/12 - 12:32 am
6
0
Parking Deck

The landowner of the Parking deck would be Wachovia/Wells Fargo, and I do not believe they will donate land that has a 6-7 million dollar lien on it. If so, I would like for them to forgive the lien on my house.

Abbynoll
282
Points
Abbynoll 05/15/12 - 12:59 am
4
0
"white commissioners, who

"white commissioners, who represent the minority of Augustans, were making decisions for the black majority."

If this statement was reversed we'd have Sharpton and Jackson descending on us like avenging angels. This is just craziness, people. I don't understand why we can't move past the color of people's skin?

blues550
380
Points
blues550 05/15/12 - 07:04 am
0
0
Commedy Centtral Augustsa.
Unpublished

Commedy Centtral Augustsa.

And nice piece of CYA by the Comical "reporter" 'spaining the boss's side.

Hugely entertaining.

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 05/15/12 - 07:35 am
1
0
It is all about re-election.

It is all about re-election. That is why so few showed up. It is hard to get anyone emotionally engaged in self serving promotion. I have always been against the TEE because it did not make sense. However, the title to that property is not the problem. It is not the cloud some would like to exploit for their campaigns. Cut the spending.

seenitB4
91139
Points
seenitB4 05/15/12 - 07:50 am
1
0
Change in politics?

It is more about changing politics in Richmond county.......why are yall surprised?
When the majority wants control...they usually get it.....now let me see....do I see a new Mayor in that pic....yep...probably..

Little Lamb
47237
Points
Little Lamb 05/15/12 - 08:12 am
1
0
Flytrap

Is his mouth open or closed, Seenit?

Little Lamb
47237
Points
Little Lamb 05/15/12 - 08:17 am
1
1
Rental

Do you think that the city government will send a bill to the Alvin Mason re-election campaign for rental on that podium, microphone, loudspeaker, and electricity? It was clearly a political rally.

gcap
290
Points
gcap 05/15/12 - 08:36 am
1
0
Return to Augusta?

What was I thinking? My property taxes are going down in CC while services improve. And we have no Alvin Mason and no Tom Beck. If any gathering should occur, it should be a prayer service at the Civic Center for A-RC. I mourn what my hometown has become.

seenitB4
91139
Points
seenitB4 05/15/12 - 08:57 am
0
0
Funny LLamb..:)

Some mouths are always OPEN....I'm thinking of Atlanta politics & how some dragged their feet hoping to change the direction.....didn't work though....
I just hope when they do gain control (they will).......that they will DO SOMETHING about the crime in the county.
They know dang well where the problems are.

double_standard
166
Points
double_standard 05/15/12 - 09:02 am
0
0
Investigate the Land Bank

Investigate the Land Bank Authority they have one of the highest budgets in A-RC and they're not recognized as a slush I mean enterprise fund. Mason was testing his campaign waters for the 2014 mayor's race which is understandable. Scott Peebles is just trying to make friends and those of you that are thinking about crossing over to vote for him be careful because Wright McLeod can beat John Barrow any day versus the skeleton Rick Allen's closet.

EyeMaeNo
20
Points
EyeMaeNo 05/15/12 - 12:14 pm
0
0
Double_Standard I don't think
Unpublished

Double_Standard I don't think I have EVER agreed with anything you've posted ... but you hit that nail dead on it's head in your post! AMEN to that.

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