Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Debate over charter stays heated

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Dr. Mallory K. Millender had almost finished his speech, a historical overview of consolidation, when I arrived at the Augusta Baptist Ministers Conference's town hall meeting at Antioch Baptist Church last week. Millender is one of the plaintiffs suing the city, the mayor, City Administrator Fred Russell and six white Augusta commissioners who voted to approve the city's revised policies and procedures manual. The plaintiffs contend it's an illegal attempt to change the city charter.

I sidled along the wall, searching for someone to move over until a man directed me to an empty front pew, when Millender said, "My friend Sylvia Cooper has arrived," as if that was necessary because I was still standing in the front pew. He said he'd asked earlier whether I was there because he talked about an error I'd made in City Ink two weeks ago, which he then repeated for my benefit.

I'd written that the ministers had failed when they tried to stop consolidation 20 years ago, which was not true. They prevailed in their lawsuit in 1989 when the U.S. Department of Justice overturned a consolidation plan approved by voters in 1988. That happened before I moved to Augusta and started writing about a proposed new consolidation plan, the one voters approved in 1995. During that time, the Rev. K.B. Martin and the ministers conference were part of the ongoing debate.

After Tuesday's meeting, I spoke to Millender and Martin about the matter, and Millender said they had approved the 1995 plan. Martin, however, just smiled and said some of the local politicians had sold them out.

Anyway, I was wrong. I did not do my homework and sincerely apologize to the good reverends, who I'm sure will forgive me because, after all, they are in the forgiveness business.

A SIGN OF DISRESPECT: Now, I can go on to what else was said at the meeting and what the folks being sued had to say about it. I'll have to hit the high spots, though, because it lasted more than two hours with the speeches, questions and comments, singing, praying and collection to help with legal expenses.

The overall message I heard was, "Wake up, or the white people will screw you over."

The Rev. Melvin Ivey said the government never intended to put Georgia Supreme Court Justice John Ruffin Jr. 's name on the new judicial building. He said he found it "somewhat offensive" and "somewhat disrespectful" that -- considering all that Ruffin has done for the community -- the four white commissioners present during the voting had voted no on naming the building in his honor.

"So I'm not going to believe you're going to put Judge Ruffin's name up on that building until I see it with my own eyes," he said.

The contributions Augusta's black citizens have made to the city have not been respected, he said.

He also asked whether anybody was at the table when it was decided that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas would dedicate the building. Ivey said he respected Thomas' position but was sure Ruffin would disapprove of his philosophy and ideology.

THE FIGHT GOES ON. AND IF IT DIDN'T, WHAT WOULD ITS LEADERS DO? Dr. James E. Carter , who worked at the Medical College of Georgia for 28 years, spoke on closing Laney-Walker Boulevard, a move proposed by President Ricardo Azziz .

"The new president up there says, 'We want to beautify the campus, and we want to recruit because an attractive campus brings in more students.' One of the greatest lies ever told. What attracts students is, number one, the programs you offer. Number two, the accreditation of your school. Number three, the aid you can give me for coming. I used to recruit. I know. I had good students who wanted to come, but they wouldn't give them anything. So they went somewhere else.

"A promenade down the middle of the street so that folks can sit and contemplate, and they can look at the birds and the trees. They can listen to the trickle of water in the fountain. They can meditate. First of all, if you're a medical student, you ain't got time to sit down in a park. If you're a researcher or faculty member, you're in that lab, or you're home reading and researching. If you're an administrator, you're out west side and out in Columbia County.

''You can't (leave) fast enough to get in your Cadillac to go home. So who's going to be sitting out there?

"Not us, because if you walk up there now, if you're black, you're automatically suspect. They're going to make you show an ID and identify your reason for being on that campus. ... Just remember, 'Don't go to sleep. The fight goes on.' "

LOOK WHAT THEY'RE COMING AFTER NEXT: Carter also said that before he retired from the medical college there was a plan to expand across the railroad track on R.A. Dent Boulevard.

"Now if you're looking down on it -- if you look at Dent Boulevard, Augusta Avenue and Wrightsboro Road -- that's a perfect triangle. Perfect triangle. That's next. So when you hear about it, don't be surprised. ... But if we stand up for it, do what we need to do, then perhaps we can save the integrity of this neighborhood. But, if you don't stop it, they'll get it. ... You sit back and relax. God have mercy. They'll take your soul."

WE'LL KEEP ON KEEPING ON: Barbara Gordon , the publisher of The Metro Courier and the plaintiff in the lawsuit, said if the Augusta court rules against them, they'll appeal it, and if that fails, they'll go all the way to the Supreme Court. She also called on black people to pack Augusta Commission chambers in coming meetings and said they'll mobilize for next year's election to defeat elected officials who have insulted them.

During the questions and comments section, a man asked whether Augusta's black leaders, commissioners and legislators are in agreement with everything that was said.

"Absolutely," Gordon said, adding that they were not present because the lawsuit has been filed, and they didn't want to do anything to jeopardize the suit.

AND WHAT DO THE DEFENDANTS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THE TOWN HALL RHETORIC? Mayor Deke Copenhaver : "They're losing it. That's just not pervasive anymore. I'm just not going to worry about it. I'm trying to focus on Augusta's future, and not its past."

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles : "All they want to do is divide this community, and I'm sick of it. I'm sick of the race baiting. Why don't they give us a solution to get out of this $9 million deficit? Why don't they come up with a solution for that? We've got a 10 percent unemployment rate, and all people want to do is raise taxes and run off any businesses looking to come here.

"K.B. Martin is the same person who said a white person can't represent District 1. They're violating their tax-exempt status and doing shakedowns. All it is is hatred for the white race by that group."

Commissioner Grady Smith : "I'm very disappointed in the black ministers of Augusta not staying in the pulpit and helping with their community and the problems we have with murder and drugs and child abuse instead of focusing on city government.

"Where is their tax status going to be? I say they don't deserve a tax-free status if they're going to do political business in the church. And if they're going to raise money, why wouldn't it be to help the people in their community where children are taking food at lunch to save, so they'll have something to eat at home?"

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle : "They're misinformed."

Commissioner Jerry Brigham : "They're trying to read something into it (personnel manual) that's not there."

Reach Sylvia Cooper at sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (23) Add comment
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Riverman1
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Riverman1 04/16/11 - 10:10 pm
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The truth is closing Laney

The truth is closing Laney Walker from going through MCG will improve campus safety in addition to improving aesthetics. The campus of MCG is rated as "dangerous" by American School Search and other organizations based on data from the US Department of Education 2010 report for various categories of violent and non-violent crimes committed on-campus over the last three years. Campus safety is a major problem as you can see for our institution that adds hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy.

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 04/16/11 - 10:57 pm
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Are the Baptist ministers the

Are the Baptist ministers the same folks who threatened to sue immediately after Matt Aitken was elected, arguing that District 1 should only be represented by a black person?

justus4
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justus4 04/17/11 - 08:16 am
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Oh, oh. It appears the
Unpublished

Oh, oh. It appears the minority community is addressing issues about injustices and making corrections about common printing operation mistakes. Historically, that means some uncomfortable times ahead for the hidden agenda, because obviously they (Baptist ministers) see whats happening there and believe the courts will rule in their favor. They are right and deserve better from their government - not unelected/selected, token-type individuals, who operate on behalf of the secret elite.

seenitB4
124696
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seenitB4 04/17/11 - 08:42 am
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Amen to that bettyboop....if

Amen to that bettyboop....if they just spent 1/2 the time on the crime/babies daddies....& the youths of their neighborhood as they do "preaching' about this.....they could clean up their neighborhood-in more ways than one.

Batman
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Batman 04/17/11 - 08:58 am
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Unfortunately it appears

Unfortunately it appears there are segments of all races but especially the blacks and whites in Augusta that will dislike and distrust each other until the end of time. The title Pastor, Reverend, Bishop, Deacon, Elder, etc. doesn't make anyone a Christian. Only a faith in the virgin birth, sinless death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ does. The Holy Bible tells us that Jesus lived a life of love and self-sacrifice. In John 3:30 (NIV), we read... "He (Jesus) must become greater; I must become less.”. Sadly, there's little evidence of a 'self-sacrificing' love in many of our political and religious leaders. Seldom do we see Jesus in our leaders. Instead we see their sinful desire to game the system for selfish purposes. When that changes, our community will benefit and we will grow closer and prosper together. Until then, it will be a 'tit-for-tat' relationship, exhausting much of the energy and enthusiasm. That's exactly the way Satan wants it. In 1 Corinthians 14:33 (NIV), we read, "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people." So, we should strive not to be Satan's servant by doing his dirty work. The simple fact is, everything in Augusta could be named after one race and that race would still be unhappy because that isn't where peace comes from. It comes from having the right relationship with Jesus. Have a happy Sunday!

PART_TIME_PUNDIT
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PART_TIME_PUNDIT 04/17/11 - 09:47 am
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At Riverman's urging, I

At Riverman's urging, I checked out his source at the link below. While MCG is "RELATIVELY dangerous," these schools made the "MOST (top 100) dangerous list and the do very well attracting smart students and top faculty without closing streets: Dartmouth, Mass General Inst of Health Professions, Princeton, Yale, U of Michigan, Mayo School of Health Sciences, Mayo Grad School, Mayo Med School, Stanford, Harvard, Ohio State, Brown, Vanderbilt, UC Davis, UCLA, Notre Dame.

Like MCG, GA Tech and Morehouse are RELATIVELY dangerous. Emory is VERY dangerous! Surprise, our friends in Athens are RELATIVELY SAFE. President Adams must be on patrol.

http://www.american-school-search.com/colleges/dangerous

PART_TIME_PUNDIT
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PART_TIME_PUNDIT 04/17/11 - 09:49 am
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Yes, it is very disturbing to

Yes, it is very disturbing to read the racist vitriol coming from both ends of the color spectrum.

mary.dits
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mary.dits 04/17/11 - 11:01 am
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i can't tell from the

i can't tell from the article. is sylvia white or black? same with the commenters.

mary.dits
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mary.dits 04/17/11 - 11:32 am
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dr millender is a nice guy

dr millender is a nice guy but i'm not sure he's technically in the forgiving business unless that includes teaching college french and journalism. has jerry falwell forgiven the gays who caused katrina yet? he was devastated by that hurricane wasn't he? oh wait that was new orleans. and maybe somebody should tell mayor deke that those who aren't worried about the past are doomed to repeat it. not like it would keep him up at night- not after those ironman workouts of his! p.s. What was joe bowles talking about?

dani
13
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dani 04/17/11 - 11:40 am
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Is it just me or is there

Is it just me or is there something very wrong with his statement...." I used to recruit. I know. I had good students who wanted to come, but they wouldn't give them anything. So they went somewhere else."

Wouldn't GIVE them anything?? My, my!

seenitB4
124696
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seenitB4 04/17/11 - 11:46 am
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mary... Jerry Falweell has

mary...

Jerry Falweell has left the building...(passed on)

mary.dits
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mary.dits 04/17/11 - 11:52 am
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oh no! did dr falwell manage

oh no! did dr falwell manage to forgive before going home? hey, if you guys think this meeting violated some tax exempt thing as a meeting on a monday evening, do you think preaching on political wedge issues not mentioned in the bible such as... Oh i don't know... For example abortion is a problem?

mary.dits
0
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mary.dits 04/17/11 - 12:12 pm
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oh no! did dr falwell manage

oh no! did dr falwell manage tosorry everybody i musta pushed too hard and made it come out triplets. gross.

mary.dits
0
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mary.dits 04/17/11 - 12:17 pm
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anyway, the laney walker

anyway, the laney walker neighborhood shouldn't have any more say in mcg expansion than summerville has in asu's, right, joe bowles?

justthefacts
33822
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justthefacts 04/17/11 - 12:15 pm
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mary, are you OK?

mary, are you OK?

mary.dits
0
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mary.dits 04/17/11 - 12:20 pm
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what happened? how long was

what happened? how long was i asleep?

justthefacts
33822
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justthefacts 04/17/11 - 12:25 pm
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Long time. Snooky is the

Long time. Snooky is the first female president.

mary.dits
0
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mary.dits 04/17/11 - 12:31 pm
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obama knows her now, ok?

obama knows her now, ok?

justthefacts
33822
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justthefacts 04/17/11 - 12:41 pm
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Her first official act was

Her first official act was the repealing of the "tan tax".

Brad Owens
5224
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Brad Owens 04/17/11 - 03:09 pm
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My early comment

My early comment disappeared...ho hum...

PART_TIME_PUNDIT
1
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PART_TIME_PUNDIT 04/17/11 - 05:00 pm
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Shoot, Brad Owens. I don't

Shoot, Brad Owens. I don't always agree with you, but you do have the stones to say what's what. Censorship is here.

AutumnLeaves
11800
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AutumnLeaves 04/18/11 - 05:41 pm
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Sorry I missed your comment

Sorry I missed your comment Brad.

Tom Warnock
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Tom Warnock 04/19/11 - 03:10 pm
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There is an old saying,"Don't

There is an old saying,"Don't cut off your nose to spite your face." I fail to see how closeing the busy congested end of Laney/Walker Blvd will do anything but make the remainder of the street safer for the people who live there & especially for the children & teachers who attend school & day care there. As far as MCG not careing about the black community that too is ludicrous. Stand at the entrances & exits of MCG at the beginning and/or end of the work day and see how many people from the black community get their livelihood there. Also spend some time outside the emergency room, especially on a weekend and see who are the predominant arrivals. There are thinga in Augusta that really need fixing, folks don't need to create problems that can't be fixed.

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