The fifth candidate, Sen. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta, said he couldn’t attend the forum because the legislature was in session.
Davis angered the association and many educators statewide when he voted to allow a constitutional amendment permitting the state to create charter schools.
The questions presented to candidates Thursday were submitted by audience members gathered at Richmond County Board of Education and ranged from changing the consolidated government’s charter to replacing polling places at senior citizen housing.
On each, candidates were allowed two minutes to respond.
On changing the city charter to increase the mayor’s authority:
HELEN BLOCKER-ADAMS: “There are too many other issues in Augusta to even think about doing that. The mayor actually has a lot more power than everybody thinks. … The power comes in ways to collaborate and build bridges.”
CHARLES CUMMINGS: “The city administrator has too much power, and some of that power needs to be transferred to the mayor. ... The mayor does have the power of persuasion.”
ALVIN MASON: “A charter change is not necessary, it’s the enforcement of the rules that you have. … The mayor is the chief executive officer of the city. You just have to understand how to utilize that.”
LORI MYLES: A charter change is “not on the agenda at first,” but “after that, the mayor is a lame duck authority in Augusta and it needs to be challenged.”
On how Augusta will look in three years:
CUMMINGS: “Hopefully (it) will have the transportation system functioning. … In three years we just have to work on fundamentals.”
MASON: “In three years, Augusta will be more of a destination city in more than just one week of the year.”
MYLES: “Most of all, it’s a city that looks like it knows what it’s doing.”
BLOCKER-ADAMS: “The biggest perception of Augusta, real or perceived is that we are not united and we do not get along. … Do (commissioners) fight all the time? I don’t think so, but I’m a relationship-builder.”
On attracting new business to Augusta:
MASON, a two-term Augusta commissioner, cited new arrivals since 2008. Costco, ADP, Carmax, Rockwood, Starbucks, Cabela’s, a new 14 movie theater complex, Premier Outlets, the U.S. Army Cyber Command, Wal-Mart on Wrightsboro Road, Whole Foods, Chick-Fil-A and Krispy Kreme in south Augusta.
MYLES: “Augusta needs an advisory council so we could ask the people what they want. … I consider Fort Gordon a prime target for the city of Augusta as far as inclusion.”
BLOCKER-ADAMS: “How about diversifying the economy so we make Augusta an entertainment destination again?”
CUMMINGS, a retired small business owner, mentioned his former semiprofessional football team that included Danny Kite, who once kicked a 63-yard field goal.
The candidates’ best qualities to serve as mayor:
BLOCKER-ADAMS: Running a business for 22 years through three recessions and someone who can easily “work with diverse groups of people.”
CUMMINGS: “Communicating with people and understanding their needs and their plights.”
MASON, a retired Army sergeant and now a Department of Defense employee: “Having the ability to understand governmental operations. … The business of the city is outsourcing, is contracting.”
MYLES, a 28-year educator and language arts instructor at T.W. Josey High School: “Leadership, and of course accessibility.”
On homelessness, and groups that try to help them:
MYLES: “We know some of the buses are stopping by hotels to pick up children. … I’m going to listen to you, thank you.”
CUMMINGS: “We depend on our preachers for a lot, and that’s good. … Once I’m your mayor, I can help you out a lot more.”
MASON: “I already have ministries shaking in their boots with the thought of me becoming mayor. … Enforcement of ordinances and laws is extremely important. The mayor sets the priority for the city.”
BLOCKER-ADAMS: “There’s the other side, and that side doesn’t have a voice and they will have a voice when I become mayor.”
On elderly people who can’t get to the polls May 20:
BLOCKER-ADAMS: “I’m sure all the candidates will make the same offer” to drive them.
MASON: “One of my points in my plan is ADA compliance for the disabled and the elderly.”
CUMMINGS: “When I’m mayor, I’ll put those (voting) booths back in the building for you.”
MYLES: “A lot of Augusta is going to be shocked that the date to actually vote for mayor of Augusta is May 20.”