Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Latest ideas to draw visitors to Augusta: Fines, towing and wheel locks

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The Downtown Development Authority don't need no stinkin' badges to be your parking police. The DDA's latest proposal for managing downtown parking is to enforce parking laws and use the fine money to pay expenses and revitalize downtown.

This new-sheriff-in-town proposal has been in the works since the DDA's lead balloon to install parking meters failed to soar. With what sounded a little like trolley bells ringing in the background, this latest sniper shot at the people still coming downtown was approved by the city's administrative services committee last week with almost no discussion.

Are we surprised? This even though it's something that would have such a drastic impact on the public and the DDA, which doesn't know what it's getting into, according to one top cop.

Drivers who parked more than two hours in one spot would come back to find a $25 ticket on their windshields or those who parked in a loading zone, at a yellow curb or blocked a driveway or alley would find a $50 ticket, and so on. The current fine for all illegally parked vehicles is $20.

Under the new ordinance, any illegally parked vehicle could be towed. And if there were three or more unpaid tickets or tickets not paid for 90 days, the vehicle would be immobilized with wheel locks that wouldn't be removed until all overdue fines and an immobilization fee were paid.

There would be a $400 charge for damaged or stolen boots. Drivers also wouldn't be allowed to buy or renew vehicle tags until they could prove to the tax commissioner they'd paid their fines.

This ought to be a really big draw for downtown.

The proposal is supposed to go before the full Augusta Commission next week, but Commissioner Don Grantham wants to put a boot on it. He said it needs more study and has asked that it first come before the finance committee he chairs, which could mean that it dies with its boots on. Or, the real sheriff could step into the street at high noon and say there's not room enough in this town for both of us.

MIGHTY BIG WORDS FOR A ONE-TERM BIG MAN: When gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes spoke to some of Augusta's VIPs during a luncheon at the Pinnacle Club a few weeks ago, he told a story about President Obama calling him the day after his primary win in July. Barnes said he was dog tired when his cell phone rang, and the person on the other end said, "This is the White House. President Obama wants to speak to you."

"Well, put him on," Barnes said, whereupon the president congratulated him on his win and said, "Do you want me to come down to Georgia and cuss you out?"

Barnes said he said, "No, Mr. President, I want you to leave me alone."

Barnes also said he said, "If I were you, I'd go down the hall at the White House and fire every one of your economic advisers," and Obama said, "You're not the first person who's said that."

According to two VIPs present at the luncheon, Barnes also said he told the president, "If you think the recession is over, come down to Georgia and ride around with me."

THE LUNCH BUNCH: A couple of years ago, developer and all-around bon vivant Rodger Giles invited a few other folks to an off-the-record lunch at the Augusta Country Club. It was such a success, he arranged another one the next year and named it the "Lunch Bunch." This year, he expanded the guest list to include Georgia Health Sciences University President Dr. Ricardo Azziz , plastic surgeon Dr. Randy Smith , Superior Court Judge Danny Craig , banker Robert Osborne , state Sen. Hardie Davis , attorney Sam Nicholson , Sheriff Ronnie Strength , Ann Boardman , developer Clay Boardman , Johannsen Sporting Goods owner Pat Johannsen , Augusta Blueprint owner James Kendrick , Georgia Department of Education board member Bill Kuhlke and me. It was such an illustrious group, I was scared and grabbed the sheriff's hand and asked him to sit by me for protection.

We met Tuesday, and our genial and generous host (he could be an event planner if he weren't a rich developer) called on everyone to say a few words, which elicited some tall tales and lots of laughter. It was all off the record, except for some comments I got permission to tell you, one of which came from Judge Craig, who is assigned to the Domestic Relations Division of Superior Court, after having served as district attorney of the Augusta Judicial Circuit for 15 years.

"Having mainly prosecuted killers, including four serial killers, for over 15 years, I encountered probably 10 or 15 true sociopaths," Craig said. "Well, I encountered that many in my first two weeks in divorce court."

Sheriff Strength said, "Danny Craig is responsible for putting more people on death row than anyone else in Georgia, but that was when he was a defense lawyer, not when he was a prosecutor."

A good while after lunch, Dr. Smith stood up and said he had to leave. "I've got to operate on a patient," he said.

About two minutes later, Kuhlke stood up and said, "I've got to leave, too. I'm his patient."

Dr. Azziz told a funny story, too, but I didn't have the nerve to call him to ask if I could repeat it. He also made some serious remarks, and I can tell you without a doubt he is jam up and jelly tight.

JOE BIDEN? The big news leak in Augusta last week was that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had agreed to be the keynote speaker at the dedication of the Augusta Judicial Center and Judge John H. Ruffin Courthouse in the spring.

The leak came from some members of the black community, opposed to Thomas because of his stance on affirmative action. One of them is Paine College professor Mallory Millender , who said if Thomas speaks he would not attend and would encourage others to do likewise, although he would respect their decision if they did.

Well, we did our best to cover all the bases in writing the article that came out in The Chronicle on Thursday, but not everybody was pleased. Dr. Charles Smith , the president of the NAACP, Augusta branch, wanted to make a statement but couldn't get it cleared by the national offices in Baltimore and Washington in time for deadline. That, however, didn't lessen his unhappiness at not being quoted, so I told him I would put something in this column. Here's some of it:

"It is the position of the NAACP, that in this honorable instance, a more streamlined choice of a person who values our convictions and principles of democracy, render the dedication of the John H. Ruffin, Jr. Courthouse/Judicial Center. There are many other prominent leaders who should have been considered. Some national leaders who fit the mode could have been Vice-President Joe Biden (Delaware), Congressman John Conyers (Michigan) of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee (Texas) of the Senate Judiciary Committee, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (South Carolina), or Senator Patrick Leahy (Vermont)."

GETTING THERE IS ONLY FUN IF YOU GET THERE: Augusta Commission District 8 candidate Doug Lively 's fish fry was the place to be Thursday, so they say. Almost 200 people came to the fundraiser in McBean, including Sheriff Strength, former sheriff Charles Webster , former Augusta Commissioner Ullmer Bridges , Commissioner Jimmy Smith , District 10 candidate Grady Smith and former school board president Jeff Padgett .

Mayoral candidate Lori Davis also had a fundraiser, at Casa Blanca on Broad Street, and said it was a big success. They raffled off a dinner for two at Casa Blanca and a bottle of wine for $5 a ticket; Butch Palmer won.

Davis keeps saying she's not a politician and won't play political games. "People tell me I need to go see this one or that one for help, but I think the people they tell me to go see are all part of the problem," she said.

Comments (54) Add comment
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Taylor B
5
Points
Taylor B 09/18/10 - 11:29 pm
0
0
I'm calling shenanigans on

I'm calling shenanigans on the constitutionality of the DDA parking fine scheme. Research in progress... Something don't seem kosher...

Brad Owens
4906
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Brad Owens 09/19/10 - 06:12 am
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0
The Dirty Deals Authority

The Dirty Deals Authority needs to be defunded by the commission.

Anyone who thinks this is a good idea needs drug, IQ, and rorschach testing.

In these trying times of econimic struggle, we need LESS taxes and burdens on the business owners and patrons, not punishment.

I sure wish we DID have a parking problem that required so much attention but the fact is, this has NOTHING to do with parking or helping business and everything to do with creating REVENUES for another useless giverment agency.

This is the wrong direction to be taking, and I hope it is stopped.

I wonder where Joe Bowles stands on this issue of so much power to do damage being given to an un-elected group of people who have proven that they cannot handle the power they do have now.

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.”...Abraham Lincoin

The DDA has, and always have, failed that test.

Give them nothing,

Brad

corgimom
38266
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corgimom 09/19/10 - 06:29 am
0
0
I highly recommend that the

I highly recommend that the first person who gets an illegal parking ticket promptly turn around and sue the DDA. Nobody elected them, they don't have the authority to enforce traffic laws. That darn ol' pesky Constitution again!

DowntownJaguar
123
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DowntownJaguar 09/19/10 - 07:04 am
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I still don't see the big

I still don't see the big deal about this. It will not be a problem if people just don't park illegally. I used to see the same cop marking peoples tires for years--I don't see him any more. I am not saying the DDA is right or wrong but I am glad someone is stepping up to the plate...

seenitB4
97008
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seenitB4 09/19/10 - 07:11 am
0
0
Wheel locks didn't work in

Wheel locks didn't work in Atlanta....only caused legal problems...let's just say the car belongs to a Doctor & he is needed asap.....a mother with a sick child...a policeman & etc.....put fines on the parkers & forget about the locks.

star
650
Points
star 09/19/10 - 07:40 am
0
0
Thank you Sylvia, for telling

Thank you Sylvia, for telling it like it is. When people stop going downtown DDA will not have a clue as to what the problem is.

catfish20
294
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catfish20 09/19/10 - 07:49 am
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0
DDA ...adding additional

DDA ...adding additional lighting downtown is a great idea but forget the parking issues.

dani
13
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dani 09/19/10 - 07:54 am
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0
morning.

morning.

Fawkes
79
Points
Fawkes 09/19/10 - 08:01 am
0
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Once they run more people and

Once they run more people and businesses out of downtown they will just look for the next way to spend money claiming it will help.

As far as the constitutionality, they will probably just drop the tickets when firmly challenged giving you the choice of paying the ticket or spending more then the fine amount to have it dropped.

thewiz0oz
9
Points
thewiz0oz 09/19/10 - 08:03 am
0
0
It seems that the ones who

It seems that the ones who opposed parking meters downtown and insisted that only existing laws be enforced got what they wanted---and hates it. hummmm--no parking meters & no enforcement of parking laws -- turn Broad Street into one giant parking deck & destroy economic development & the effort to get additional businesses to move into the 30% to 40% of empty buildings -- brilliant thinking.

bettyboop
7
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bettyboop 09/19/10 - 09:18 am
0
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Most cities have parking

Most cities have parking laws...and they enforce them...what is it about Augusta that they can't enforce the laws on the books?? Why is that they can't fire those who steal fron the taxpayers...why can't they find out what happened to the 25 thousand STOLEN from the taxpayers??Why are convicted drug dealers allowed to work for the City???? What in hades is wrong with Augusta??

Brad Owens
4906
Points
Brad Owens 09/19/10 - 09:22 am
0
0
Wiz, Is there a parking

Wiz,

Is there a parking problem downtown?

Except on event days when is there ever NOT a place to park?

This is an attempt by the DDA to create a revenue source for themslevs. It is a brilliant attempt I must say and it looks like some folks are buying that we have a parking problem.

No one seems to challenge the fact that we don't and NO study ever done shows there IS one.

Typical DDA activity, create a solution to a non-existant problem that makes money for you while ignoring downtown business owners and patrons. Yep, par for the course.

Brad

getalife
4
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getalife 09/19/10 - 09:50 am
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Bettyboop, no one wants to

Bettyboop, no one wants to answer the question about the $25,000 stolen from the tax office, maybe they found out who it was and they agreed to pay back the money? Current parking laws should be followed. I think the DDA is a waste of time, space and money. Abolish the group.

Riverman1
93311
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Riverman1 09/19/10 - 11:18 am
0
0
If anyone believes Roy Barnes

If anyone believes Roy Barnes actually talked that way to Obama, you've been drinking the river water where the sewage is being dumped.

Riverman1
93311
Points
Riverman1 09/19/10 - 11:43 am
0
0
Wiz better worry about paying

Wiz better worry about paying his own fines.

thewiz0oz
9
Points
thewiz0oz 09/19/10 - 11:56 am
0
0
Brad--Ask Clay Boardman why

Brad--Ask Clay Boardman why he has decided to ‘moth-ball’ his new purchase close to the Lamar Building? -- Why are there so many other buildings empty? Downtown parking has been a major hinderance to downtown development for decades. For many years spaces nobody wanted -- now retail shopping spaces used for all day parking limiting transit turnover. You ever drive down Broad St & see few parking spaces open but few people walking down the street? Where are the people? Not in shops -- Means few people shopping. What retailer is interested in opening downtown if prime spaces are used for all day parking. Apparently the honor system is not working. A comprehensive plan implemented by the DDA or some authority is needed if downtown is not choked to death. More parking decks, timely turnover of available spaces & safe convenient parking for downtown workers & residents. Does downtown have a parking problem? Only if downtown economic development is successful.

thewiz0oz
9
Points
thewiz0oz 09/19/10 - 12:08 pm
0
0
Riverman -- I love being able

Riverman -- I love being able to personally park downtown when & where I want without the fear of fines or towing. However, if we all support rules & regulations that are good for only us and don’t worry about the good of the community we face significant penalties from the marketplace. Rules must be established and enforced that are good for the total and not just the few. Currently, short-sighted thinking protects those already established in downtown but overlooks the potential for the future. If Charleston, Savannah & other cities followed our example we would not be experiencing the competition they & other progressive cities give Augusta for events, destinations and revenue from development of vacant properties.

techadvocate
7
Points
techadvocate 09/19/10 - 12:46 pm
0
0
Hmmm... Mallory Millender or

Hmmm... Mallory Millender or a sitting Justice of the United States Supreme Court. That's an easy one. Hello, Justice Thomas! (good riddance, MM.)

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 09/19/10 - 01:38 pm
0
0
who elected this DDA notsy?

who elected this DDA notsy? Downtown Augusta's new motto, "Come if you dare, leave if you can"

Little Lamb
48880
Points
Little Lamb 09/19/10 - 01:51 pm
0
0
I'm glad that Judges Carlisle

I'm glad that Judges Carlisle Overstreet and Harold Jones did not let the NAACP select the dedication speaker of the new Judicial Center. Look at Charles Smith's list above. They are all senators or congressmen. It is a Judicial Center! It makes sense to have a justice deliver the speech.

Little Lamb
48880
Points
Little Lamb 09/19/10 - 01:54 pm
0
0
Well, if Mallory "I'm Taking

Well, if Mallory "I'm Taking My Marbles And Going Home" Millender skips the speech by Supreme Court Justice Thomas, it will leave a space for a person who values history and decorum. I'm sure the place will be packed.

Little Lamb
48880
Points
Little Lamb 09/19/10 - 01:59 pm
0
0
Echoing Taylor, I'm calling

Echoing Taylor, I'm calling "shenanigans" on the Wiz0oz, who wrote:

Downtown parking has been a major hinderance to downtown development for decades.

I go downtown often, and I never have trouble parking. Why just yesterday I went downtown during the height of the Arts in the Heart of Augusta and Westabou Festival and the height of the supper hour, and I found a parking space right away. We do not need meters and we do not need parking tickets. We need the DDA to quit meddling in city government matters.

Of course, since city administrator Fred (What, me worry?) Russell is frequently AWOL, one does get the impression that Augusta is a lawless place.

Little Lamb
48880
Points
Little Lamb 09/19/10 - 02:02 pm
0
0
There is no way that Carlisle

There is no way that Carlisle Overstreet would have invited South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn to speak at the Judicial Center dedication. Why not? Because the Gamecocks beat the Dawgs!

Brad Owens
4906
Points
Brad Owens 09/19/10 - 02:37 pm
0
0
wiz, If parking is the

wiz,

If parking is the problem, why not just build a parking deck and use the DDA to issue bonds to cover the costs.

But that is NOT what this is about. It is about creating a revenue source for the DDA not solving a non-existant problem.

I really have never heard an investor say, "I am not going to build donwtown because we don't have parking meters." or someone say "I am not going downtown to shop because I can never find a parking place."

Get real,

Brad

naycan
42
Points
naycan 09/19/10 - 05:21 pm
0
0
Another factoid. There is not

Another factoid. There is not a parking problem downtown, there is a parking enforcement problem. When shop owners and their employees park all day in parking space meant for customers, then that becomes a problem. The parking study presented five years old addressed this problem by suggesting the ordinances be expanded and enforced. As a test, a former chairman parked all day at his office building and was never ticketed. The wiz apparently is close enough all of the information but will not reveal him/herself. Oh, by the way, the Athens DDA handles all of the downtown parking and generates nearly 1.6 million per year. When all expenses are paid, the city gets 60 percent of the net revenue for the general fund. You all need to get your fact correct before venting your views.

corgimom
38266
Points
corgimom 09/19/10 - 06:43 pm
0
0
"Brad--Ask Clay Boardman why

"Brad--Ask Clay Boardman why he has decided to ‘moth-ball’ his new purchase close to the Lamar Building? -- Why are there so many other buildings empty? Downtown parking has been a major hinderance to downtown development for decades. "

Of course, the facts that literally thousands of people moved west, the City of Augusta has a huge poverty rate, and the drunks, mentally ill, panhandlers, prostitutes, criminals, and drug dealers roam downtown- that has nothing to do with all the buildings being empty.

The fact that the freeways were built north and west of downtown have nothing to do with it, either.

When I drove down Broad St in June- and parked on Broad St- there were plenty of open spaces.

The only hindrance I had driving down Broad St. was dodging the double-parked delivery trucks. Delivery zones are "wherever the driver feels like stopping." If the DDA wants to address something, they can address that. That's a far bigger issue.

corgimom
38266
Points
corgimom 09/19/10 - 06:45 pm
0
0
naycan, if you don't know who

naycan, if you don't know who the wiz is, then you don't know very much about Augusta.

corgimom
38266
Points
corgimom 09/19/10 - 06:46 pm
0
0
"Where are the people?" Maybe

"Where are the people?"

Maybe they are living in all the lofts and condos that Countyman keeps raving about.

corgimom
38266
Points
corgimom 09/19/10 - 06:53 pm
0
0
If nobody is shopping in the

If nobody is shopping in the shops or walking down the street, why is there a need for parking spaces?

And if Clay Boardman has put his project on hold because of lack of parking, my question is, the parking has been the same for years. Did he just wake up and see the parking situation?

Riverman1
93311
Points
Riverman1 09/19/10 - 07:43 pm
0
0
This is the most amazing

This is the most amazing idea. We can take the most rundown town and as long as we provide parking, the area will thrive and people will come from all over just to put their cars in park there. Throw in parking tickets so they will have a memento of the visit and it’s even better.

We could start our own reality parking wars type show and follow elderly people as they TRY to drive away with the boot on their wheels and failing that trying to get their cars back from the woman behind the bullet proof glass with a speaking hole at the impound lot out Deans Bridge Rd. Since we probably can't afford a TV show, we'll just have Austin do a remote report on his show and do that mean laugh of his when the old woman is pulling on the yellow metal boot on her tire.

This parking deal AND the TEE are going to transform Augusta to a 1960 like existence again. Wait and see.

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