Good Government panel high on incumbents

The winners were laughing and telling jokes, and the losers were saying, "Deal the cards."

But at least for now, there was no loser in the race for mayor as the votes were tallied for the Richmond County Committee for Good Government's endorsements at the Julian Smith barbecue pit. Mayoral candidate Lori Davis said she was happy to receive only four fewer votes than incumbent Mayor Deke Copenhaver.

The mayor said he was happy to receive the endorsement. No mention that many of the members are current or former Harrisburg residents and that Harrisburg is Davis' stronghold. I guess he learned his lesson after he pooh-pooed the results of the local Democratic Party's straw poll questions in the July primary about whether they thought public money should be used to build a baseball stadium downtown. More than 77 percent voted no, and he said the vote was not representative of Augusta's registered voters, which is probably true, but it rubbed some folks the wrong way.

Every incumbent on the ballot received the Good Government committee's endorsement. Most of the candidates who didn't get endorsements said that the members weren't from their districts anyway and that they always favor the establishment candidates.

Former Mayor Bob Young said the losers shouldn't feel bad because the committee didn't endorse him either time he ran for mayor.

TAYLOR WHO? During a phone conversation with District 6 school board candidate Taylor Bryant, who did not get the good government committee's endorsement, Bryant mentioned that state Agriculture Commissioner candidate J.B. Powell and Jimmy Smith's son, Darren Smith, had asked him to drop out of the school board race and run against District 6 incumbent Commissioner Joe Jackson before qualifying closed.

"It became apparent Smith and Powell had a problem with Joe," Bryant said.

Bryant said he didn't know Darren Smith was Jimmy Smith's son until then but that he had talked to Powell "several times."

"I don't play that game," he said, adding he didn't trust them as far as he could throw them. "Honestly, I think Joe is doing the best he can. I don't think Joe is beatable this year anyway."

Asked whether he had asked Bryant to run against Jackson, Powell said: "Who is Taylor Bryant? No, I don't know him. I don't remember him. I've heard the name. You're telling me something I don't know."

Powell said if he'd done half the things he's been accused of, he'd be "a rascal."

Darren Smith said he did not ask Bryant to drop out of the school board race and run against Jackson.

"My question to him was, 'Why would you run against Jack Padgett?'" Smith said. "I just thought it was a bad move to run against Jack Padgett, who has been there so many years and has done such a good job."

Jimmy Smith just laughed when he was called and said: "I don't want to get involved."

As for Jackson, he said he thinks "amnesia is setting in" with Powell and Smith, and he doesn't know what he's done that's made "the Old Guard" mad at him.

"I'm assuming it has to do with Don (Grantham) and Jimmy (Smith) not being on the engineering services committee.

"I don't think I've done anything wrong," he said. "I've done the best I could. I can put my head on the pillow at night and sleep."

Jackson said Bryant's phone records could show whether he's telling the truth.

The south Augusta pols think that they helped get Jackson elected and that he turned against them on several issues, such as a downtown baseball stadium.

IT'S GOOD FOR THE GREENS: At last week's Augusta Commission meeting, Commissioner Bill Lockett made a motion to postpone action on the Municipal Golf Course, better known as the Patch, for 60 days to allow Augusta State University, Paine College, Patch Loyalists, First Tee and the Richmond County Board of Education to meet and come up with a way to keep the course operating "at no cost to this government."

"B.S.," said a commissioner under his breath. (Actually, it was the word itself, not the abbreviation).

The three suspects were Commissioners Jerry Brigham, Joe Bowles and Jackson at the far left end of the dais. They want to privatize the course and don't want to delay putting out requests for qualifications from firms interested in managing it.

Questioned afterward, Brigham said he didn't think he said it.

Bowles said he didn't say it.

"I'm not going to say who said it," Bowles said. "That's not my place. But I guarantee you I thought it. The whole notion they're going to bring a proposal back that's not going to cost taxpayers anything is bull."

Jackson said: "I can neither confirm nor deny, but we were all thinking it."

Bowles said the city had already given ASU valuable property on Damascus Road.

I WAS FOR BEFORE I WAS AGAINST IT: Commissioner Jimmy Smith made a motion to deny a request for a special exception to operate a personal care home on Fairwood Drive. The vote was 5-5 to deny, and the mayor broke the tie by voting to deny. The clerk read the votes aloud and said Smith had voted no.

"Mr. Smith voted no on his own motion?" the mayor said, laughing.

Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason said Smith's conscience got him and caused him to change his mind and vote no.

"My conscience ain't got me," Smith said.

"He wants to change his vote," said Commissioner Don Grantham.

"Ya'll didn't let me change my vote," Commissioner Johnny Hatney reminded them.

At a June meeting on the golf course, Hatney voted for a motion he later said he hadn't understood. He railed on for five minutes, repeating over and over, "I want to change my vote" before giving up and saying he guessed he'd "acted crazy long enough."

Smith wasn't allowed to change his, either.

HOW NOT TO WIN VOTES AND INFLUENCE COMMISSIONERS: Sanford Loyd , the chairman of the Downtown Development Authority's parking committee, got a little testy when commissioners started talking about postponing action on the authority's proposal to become the city's parking police last week. Commissioners said they want answers about costs and revenues from the DDA before approving the proposal.

Loyd said he didn't see why they wanted to delay things because the proposal had been before commissioners four times and nothing in it had changed. He said he didn't know what questions they wanted answered because they'd been talking about it for some time.

When City Administrator Fred Russell encouraged Loyd to consider his recommendation to meet with commissioners to go over the verbiage, Loyd said, "I don't have any choice."

Lockett said part of the reason the commission couldn't come to an agreement was that everything keeps changing. Commissioners were told it would cost about $145,000 to operate the program the first year with a $44,000 profit, but at the last meeting they were told it would cost more than $300,000. He said if DDA members were using their own money, they wouldn't do it.

Mason said the ordinance stated that any profits from the parking operation would go to "Augusta," but when he'd questioned whether that meant all of Augusta or just downtown, they said it was just downtown. He said if he came downtown and got a parking ticket he thought some of the revenue should go to his district.

Finally, Mason said commissioners could do one of two things -- vote on the motion to refer the matter back to the DDA for 30 days for them to prepare a pro forma and meet with commissioners, or he could make a substitute motion to deny the plan.

"That's your choice, commissioner. That's your choice," Loyd said.

"Mr. Chairman, I'd like to make a substitute motion," Lockett said, but the mayor cut him off, saying the question had already been called for.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Felicity Abbigale Roberts-Dixon , who is 10 years old today.

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