Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Will commission clashes be moved to new venue?

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Things have gone from bad to worse on the Augusta Commission. The racial divide is so wide, commissioners aren't even trying to bridge it anymore.

The latest wave of mistrust started when city officials updated the employee manual and included language authorizing the city administrator to hire and fire city employees, including department heads. The part about department heads was later deleted. The revised manual gives the administrator "exclusive" authority to recommend the hiring and firing of department directors, with commissioners having the final say.

The board's four black commissioners, most of the Richmond County legislative delegation and the black community see the changes, including Administrator Fred Russell 's proposed reorganization plan, as a sly attempt to change the structure of the government without the required eight commission votes or legislation in the General Assembly. Russell and the white commissioners see it as a way to save money to avoid a property-tax increase and a raid on reserve funds. As a result, we have dueling legal opinions, a lawsuit against the mayor and the six white commissioners who approved the manual, and lots of hard feelings.

Russell's reorganization plan was projected to save $1.5 million if implemented in February, but because it is bogged down in controversy, hopes of potential savings are waning by the day.

DON'T BOTHER, They're Here: If all that weren't bad enough, as the date approaches for dedicating the Augusta Judicial Center and John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse, city Attorney Andrew MacKenzie asked commissioners to vote to change the commission meeting place from "at the courthouse" to the "Municipal Building," a change never incorporated into the city's charter.

Another wave of paranoia struck.

Commissioner Bill Lockett proceeded to read sections of the city code adopted since consolidation, stating that the commission meetings would be held in the Municipal Building.

"Exhibit B, Section 1, dash 2 dash 36: Duties of the Administrator..."

Commissioner Alvin Mason mistakenly thought commissioners were being asked to meet at the judicial center and scolded Russell for not bringing it up earlier.

"The only thing against this is there's an appropriate way to operate, and this is what causes some of these issues that you have up here on this commission," he said. "You can help heal the divide that's here by operating appropriately. That's all I'm asking you to do."

(I think Mason owes Russell two apologies. One for upbraiding him in public when he didn't know what he was talking about, and again for blaming Russell for commissioners' bad behavior.)

Mayor Deke Copenhaver then asked MacKenzie to explain why the change was needed, and the attorney said he was glad Lockett brought up code amendments that purported to change the location of commission meetings.

"For whatever reason, the local act was never amended when those changes were made," he said. "This is an attempt just to clean up some of the minor language to strike that out because up until this point there was never a time in which the commission location meetings and courthouse meeting was different.

"And so, this is just to reflect the removal of the words 'at the courthouse' so the commission does not have to move over to the new judicial center, which will become the new courthouse."

Unmoved by the explanation, Lockett continued to match wits with the attorney, but lost.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham then asked whether they would be required to meet at the judicial center if they didn't make the change.

"Well, if you don't change location in the local act, it still will reflect that the commission shall meet at the courthouse," MacKenzie said. "It would be my recommendation that you continue to meet at the courthouse to be in compliance with that statute. I think it would be a better move to just amend that language to strike out the words 'at the courthouse.' "

The motion to approve MacKenzie's recommendation failed 6-3, with Mason, Lockett and Corey Johnson voting no.

The next regular commission meeting is May 3, and unless something changes it will be at the John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse, the thought of which inspired ...

NIGHTMARE ON NINTH STREET: The lobby of the new courthouse, where commissioners and the mayor are seated on scaffolds left over from the construction. City officials and spectators sit in rows of folding chairs beneath.

Act I

(Boy King Copenhaver calls the meeting to order.)

Mayor: The Rev. K. Bee will lead us in prayer.

The Rev. Bee: Our heavenly father, we gather here today not in the usual meeting place because some wolves in sheep's clothing are trying to pull the wool over our eyes and trick us into changing our time-honored Magna Charter. Oh Lord, we see the handwriting on the wall. ...

(A large woman enters the lobby)

Woman: Is this where you pay your water bill?

Mayor: No, ma'am. That's over at the Municipal Building on Greene Street.

Woman: I done been over there. The door was locked, so I thought they'd moved over here.

Mayor: Yes, ma'am. It's after 5 o'clock. They close at 5.

Woman: Well, why didn't somebody say so? (Exits)

Mayor: Rev. Bee, please continue your prayer.

Rev. Bee: I was about to wind it up, except to say we've been like Daniel in the lion's den, Jonah in the belly of a whale, the man who came to dinner, not to mention Lazarus. But we're awake now. Praise the Lord.

Mayor: Thank you, Rev. Bee, I have a framed certificate to give you, but I'd have to get down off this 40-foot scaffold.

(Loud clanging sounds disrupt the meeting as deputies lead a dozen jail inmates in orange jumpsuits toward holding cells.)

Mayor: Is all that noise necessary, deputy?

(An inmate steps forward and begins to sing.)

On a long lonesome journey I'm going

Oh darling, and please don't you cry

Though in shackles and chains they will take me

In prison to stay, till I die.

Act II

MAYOR: Now to our regular agenda and item 32: An ordinance of the Board of Commissioners of Augusta, Georgia, to Amend an Act entitled 'An act to create a Board of Commissioners for Roads and Revenues for the County of Richmond.'

(Mayor recognizes Commissioner Lockett.)

Lockett: Augusta-Richmond County Code, Section 1, dash 2, dash 40 re-adopted July 10, 2007, Chapter 2 Administrator, Article 1, Commission ...

(Two men with last wills and testaments in their hands rush in demanding to know where the Probate Court is. Marshals direct them upstairs.)

Lockett: Section 1, dash 2, says the meeting time and place for committees, all commission regular meetings shall be held on the first and third ...

(Halfway up the stairs the two men attack each other; then stop and have a dueling duet)

First Man: I'm not a man to be thwarted

By what I have heard here today,

Believe me, I haven't yet started

And where there's a will, there's a way.

Second Man: And I am a man with an iron will

And that is all I have to say,

I will certainly have my will

For where there's a will, there's a way.

First Man: The old's brains are constantly teeming

With plots of perpetual care,

Of wills, codicil they are scheming

To punish an ungrateful heir.

Together: But many a will has been broken

Because some discontent heir

Whose portion has been but a token

Sued, saying the will was unfair.

Lockett: ...Tuesday of each month at the Municipal Building, Lee Beard Commission chambers, and it was amended April 2010 ...

Mayor: This is not working. And didn't the lawyer in Atlanta say I am the boss and CEO? I hereby adjourn this meeting.

As the crowd disperses, he sings:

I'm Boy King the First, I am

Boy King the First. I am, I am

I crowned myself to run the show

When a lawyer in the Capitol

Made me the boss and CEO

He wouldn't have a Fred

Or a board to balk and waver

So I'm the first Boy King, I'm Deke Copenhaver!

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

Comments (26) Add comment
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pointstoponder
161
Points
pointstoponder 04/23/11 - 11:39 pm
0
0
Those Deputy Marshalls are

Those Deputy Marshalls are such tricksters. Probate is on the first floor.

mary.dits
0
Points
mary.dits 04/24/11 - 12:04 am
0
0
sylvia, are you writing some

sylvia, are you writing some shorts for le chat noir? if so how did i miss that and if no you need to get on it. they're doing local shorties once in a while i think.

Will
75
Points
Will 04/24/11 - 12:09 am
0
0
That's hilarious! Did it
Unpublished

That's hilarious! Did it really happen that way or are you embellishing, Sylvia? Regardless ... funny stuff.

seenitB4
84424
Points
seenitB4 04/24/11 - 07:48 am
0
0
Funny lady..

Funny lady..

seenitB4
84424
Points
seenitB4 04/24/11 - 07:49 am
0
0
Now....shall we all gather at

Now....shall we all gather at the river??

travisp73
53
Points
travisp73 04/24/11 - 08:11 am
0
0
Im so embarassed to live

Im so embarassed to live here. Our commission is a joke at best and a travesty at its worst.

justthefacts
21115
Points
justthefacts 04/24/11 - 08:18 am
0
0
"match wits". Talk about

"match wits". Talk about bringing a knife to a gun fight. Face it, this is mostly about a lack of intelligence.

Brad Owens
4186
Points
Brad Owens 04/24/11 - 09:26 am
0
0
Where is Deke "Ironman"

Where is Deke "Ironman" Copenhaver, The Mandate Mayor in all this?

Seems that he, The "Ironman”, with all that good will in the African-American community he claims he has, could just hold a prayer meeting and sort all this out for everyone. That IS where he says his power lies right?

I just don't understand why the "Black" commissioners can't see what they need to do here. I wish I were still there I would give them some advice on how to stem the tide of white minority rule in Richmond County from modern African history.

Anyone remember the UDI in Rhodesia in 1965? Richmond County (AKA Richdesia) needs to follow that example. Maybe the mayor and the white commissioners can issue a Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Georgia and hence do away with this whole "State law" ruling them non-sense.

Richdesia County...the Ministers and Black Commissioners need to start a Liberation movement in a neighboring county and begin cross border raids into County Club Hills and the Hill/Summerville to try to bring about pressure on the White-Minority government to hold free and fair elections.

"One man, one vote, one time!"

Who will be our Robert Gabriel Mugabe now that Sen. Charles Walker is in prison? Maybe Marion Williams?

FREE Richdesia! Majority rule in Richdesia now! Can we get Andy Young down here to fight this cause?

On a sad, but serious note, I will be willing to bet that we spend at least $1.5mil on the legal defense of all the commissioners and mayor.

This is just really bad politics.

Brad

gcap
290
Points
gcap 04/24/11 - 10:22 am
0
0
Brad, you're right. It IS

Brad, you're right. It IS really bad politics by a bunch of would-be power brokers. The only thing broker is the county. I left in '05 because of this type of incompetence. Apparently a lot of others felt the same. According to the census of 2010 RC grew by a whopping 750 or so in ten years. Columbia County by 23,500. Look at the history. A black state senator and a white legislator wrote the consolidation plan behind closed doors. BOTH of those guys are still behind closed doors -- at the penitentiary. And this commission won't re-write the plan?

The CC police patrol my peaceful neighborhood often. (Usually, the CC crime is perpetrated by RC thugs.) We get utility work done promptly. Our schools exceed all requirements and our kids go to college. We pay our taxes and, for the most part, enjoy decent benefits.

Will RC ever recover and progress?

Riverman1
81517
Points
Riverman1 04/24/11 - 11:44 am
0
0
Let me try my post again

Let me try my post again because my humorus comment about our fantastically, strong, SuperMan like comic book character, forceful, vigorous, physically imposing, outspoken leader and vociferous mayor was not allowed.

The demands to meet at the Ruffhouse are the tip of the iceberg in this deep racial division of Augusta government. The blacks don't want ANYTHING done without 8 votes. Meeting at the new courthouse named for a distinguished black jurist is their way of emphasizing the conflict. If you don't play the way they want, they will stop EVERYTHING. Who was that in the media who said Augusta government is much better these days?

To top off these great divides, we have the strongest mayor in the nation providing absolutely fantastic leadership. He is not only all powerful under the consolidation charter, but he is fantastically, strong, SuperMan like comic book character, forceful, vigorous, physically imposing, outspoken leader and a vociferous mayor.

The truth of the matter is things won't be rosy until the painful transition to black controlled government is over.

Riverman1
81517
Points
Riverman1 04/24/11 - 11:45 am
0
0
Another repost due to whining

Another repost due to whining about my comments about our fantastically, strong, SuperMan like comic book character, forceful, vigorous, physically imposing, outspoken leader and vociferous mayor.

If there is not actually a room at the Ruff House they can use, have them meet outside using lawn chairs under a tent borrowed from Poteet's. (That's so we don't have to rent one from Fred Russell and his business that he runs on the side that rents things such as tents to local governments.)

The public can come and bring their own chairs, coolers allowed.

The Augusta government wheel has just about come to a stop. It's about to fall off the cart. I mean things are so bad there should be TWO commission meetings. Let our fantastically, strong, SuperMan like comic book character, forceful, vigorous, physically imposing, outspoken leader, the vociferous mayor and the white commissioners continue to meet at the Municipal Bldg. and let the blacks use the Ruff House. We will need two attorneys, however. Rehire Chiquita and let the black commissioners deal with HER.

seenitB4
84424
Points
seenitB4 04/24/11 - 11:46 am
0
0
I just have 1 question

I just have 1 question River....

How many newcomers can Columbia county take in?

Riverman1
81517
Points
Riverman1 04/24/11 - 11:53 am
0
0
SeenitB4, we will just move

SeenitB4, we will just move the county line to take in West Augusta. Let the Hill folks barricade themselves.

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 04/24/11 - 01:26 pm
0
0
Will Columbia County please

Will Columbia County please annex everything from the Columbia county line down to Heard Ave into Columbia county. Their tax base would increase by a very large amount. The black commissioners would then have something to whine about. Alot of the high value tax base would be gone and they would really have to get serious instead of acting like a bunch of uneducated people.

countyman
19545
Points
countyman 04/24/11 - 01:59 pm
0
0
The same biased editorial

The same biased editorial from the chronicle... Didn't the commissioners vote and pass several issues at the last meeting? How can there be a big racial divide when several issues received a unanimous vote?

There's a divide when it comes to restructuring and it has nothing to do with race... Lawyers don't even know whether or not it requires six or eight vote...

I find it funny the same paper who told us we need to come together.. Continues to only print articles when the vote falls on racial lines.. They never print articles when most votes get passed or received a unanimous vote? Every time the black and white commissioners disagree, the paper automatically brings up race and never explains most of the time it's due to democrat and republican..

The majority of commissioners agree about future alochol sales on Sunday too...

countyman
19545
Points
countyman 04/24/11 - 02:23 pm
0
0
double post

double post

Brad Owens
4186
Points
Brad Owens 04/24/11 - 02:07 pm
0
0
You know, the voters there

You know, the voters there can just create their own government!

UDI Now!

The new political party will be called the "West Augusta Front" and it can be put before the voters to create a new county from the west half of the county.

Brad

Brad Owens
4186
Points
Brad Owens 04/24/11 - 02:12 pm
0
0
countryman, So you see no

countryman,

So you see no divide because a few consent agenda items passed without debate?

Brad

countyman
19545
Points
countyman 04/24/11 - 02:54 pm
0
0
Brad, You see a divide

Brad, You see a divide because two issues who'll be resolved in the future aren't yet?? Even lawyers are divided when it comes to whether or not it requires six or eight votes.. If there's this huge ''racial'' divide.. How can the majority of commissioners agree about alcohol sales? Why did the commission agree to add more spaces to the parking deck on Reynolds? Why did they all agree on the Costco and Village at Riverwatch deal? Why did they agree to let the daycare open in Summerville? I can go on and on about certain issues... There's a divide over restructuring the government but certainly not on the majority of issues...

Gcap, You're complaining about a few thugs from RC doing some burglaries or break ins in CC... Do you not realize there's thousands of people from Columbia County who are either at 401 or checking in daily at the Sentinel probation office in Richmond County? Ride past the Sentinel parking lot and notice how many tags don't display Richmond... There's plenty of people from outside of RC who use our hospitals daily too.. The census expects RC to gained the most people in the metro from April 2010 to July 2010(almost 800 new residents)... That's why you have a number of commercial developments underway or about to start... (Village at Riverwatch, Cherry Street shopping center, 25 acre shopping center on Jimmie Dyess, Four Points By Sheraton, another high end hotel, etc...

WW1949... Don't let the Chronicle editoral influence you from the real truth... The same meeting where the vote in the article failed 6-3.. The editorial failed to metioned the majority of issues on the agenda that same day were passed by the commission.. The chronicle doesn't want to focus on the squabbles in governments outside of Richmond County.. They wouldn't be able to make the disagreements about race because everybody is usually a white male..

The Chronicle mentions the ''black community''.. When has the editoral every let a person from the black community even respond? How does a white conservative paper know what the black community in Augusta feels? The community is thousands of people... The black commissiners have a very valid stance when it comes to restructing the government.. The charter isn't clear whether it requires six or eight votes...

countyman
19545
Points
countyman 04/24/11 - 02:35 pm
0
0
Sorry double post...

Sorry double post...

Riverman1
81517
Points
Riverman1 04/24/11 - 07:25 pm
0
0
" Do you not realize there's

" Do you not realize there's thousands of people from Columbia County who are either at 401 or checking in daily at the Sentinel probation office in Richmond County? Ride past the Sentinel parking lot and notice how many tags don't display Richmond... There's plenty of people from outside of RC who use our hospitals daily too.."

I'll take the last first. Patients using the hospitals in Richmond Cty are a good thing for the county. Certificate of needs limit where hospitals can be built to eliminate competition. That's good for the county.

As far as Columbia County inviduals committing the crime in Richmond Cty, you mean all we have to do to dramatically decrease crime in Augusta is concentrate on the Columbia Cty people who come into the city. Son of a gun, what a brilliant idea.

Riverman1
81517
Points
Riverman1 04/24/11 - 08:54 pm
0
0
ACT III SCENE I. Augusta. The

ACT III
SCENE I. Augusta. The Mayor sits on his scaffolding platform in the Ruff House long after the Commission meeting has ended and now wearing Speedos. Beneath the scaffolding in a fog, the Ebenezer Baptist Church Choir sings a mournful wooo, wooo, wooo.

Fred Russel, at his post. Enter to him Joe Bowles.

RUSSELL
Who's there?

BOWLES
It’s Joe Bowles, Commissioner of the Hill, Mayor Pro Tem

BOWLES (Looking up at the Mayor)
What’s wrong, Mr. Mayor?

MAYOR COPENHAVER
They won’t let me pick where we have meetings. They say I don’t hit my gavel loud enough. I don’t like being Mayor. Uncle B said I could either run a gas station or be mayor. I thought this would be an esteemed position and fun. I’m only happy when I am taking private boogie board surfing lessons on Fripp Island and my cell phone is off.

EBERNEZER BAPTIST CHURCH CHOIR
Wooooo, woooo, wooo….(louder now)

BOWLES
Mr. Mayor, maybe you could be more forceful, check on important things more and lead with your personality. (Laughter from somewhere, possibly even from the Mayor.)
Uh…come to think of it, maybe those Fripp Island boogie board lessons are not such a bad idea for the next few years. Just keep arguing with Austin Rhodes on Facebook.

EBERNEZER BAPTIST CHURCH CHOIR
Wooooo, woooo, wooo (quieter and quieter as the fog becomes greater)

madgerman
236
Points
madgerman 04/25/11 - 11:00 am
0
0
I guess my comment is "why
Unpublished

I guess my comment is "why are we doing business in a "Judicial Center"? I wonder if this was part of the deal getting the SPLOSRT approved for the center? Does anyone know what the SPLOST words were that were placed on the ballot for the voters to vote on? Help me here

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 04/25/11 - 04:35 pm
0
0
Brad, wasn't there a serious

Brad, wasn't there a serious discussion about 10 years ago from people in South Richmond County about seceding from the consolidated government and forming their own county or city and calling it South Augusta or South Richmond County? Seems I remember this

dichotomy
31719
Points
dichotomy 04/25/11 - 11:26 pm
0
0
Secession.......NOW! South

Secession.......NOW! South Augusta needs to form it's own government. We would have a truly mixed community instead of a concentration of white folks in West Augusta and a concentration of black folks in East Augusta fighting over and spending all of OUR tax money. We would have control of our own tax money. Things are so bad in Augusta what would we have to lose except the absolute worst government in the state of Georgia and maybe the worst in the nation. Other communities have formed their own governments and separated from their former municipalities for the same reasons that exist in the relationship between South Augusta and the City of Augusta. Basically that relationship is that they take all of our tax money and give us nothing for it except for the comedy show at our commission meetings. Free South Augusta and reclaim your tax dollars by forming a new government.

Brad Owens
4186
Points
Brad Owens 04/26/11 - 05:56 pm
0
0
Just do a UDI! Richdesia!

Just do a UDI! Richdesia!

Brad Owens
4186
Points
Brad Owens 04/26/11 - 05:58 pm
0
0
Emerydan, yes, and it could

Emerydan, yes, and it could still happen if the folks out there got serious.

Riverman1
81517
Points
Riverman1 04/27/11 - 06:43 pm
0
0
Brad, I don't think a portion

Brad, I don't think a portion of an incorporated city such as Augusta-Richmond County can break away and form their own city. If the county wasn't incorporated they could form their own city.

Brad Owens
4186
Points
Brad Owens 04/28/11 - 07:41 pm
0
0
No, but they could form up a

No, but they could form up a seperate county..

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