Ad hoc committee working on redistricting reaches agreement

For about three hours Monday it looked as though the ad hoc committee working to redistrict the Augusta Commission and the Richmond County school board couldn’t and wouldn’t agree on a plan.

The white members wanted one map, and the black members wanted another, which they could have approved because they were in the majority by two members. But they soldiered on under the leadership of Chairman Alvin Mason.

It wasn’t quite like making sausage, but close. At one point, someone even made a motion to send the proposed maps back to the commission and school board and let them decide on one, but enough wiser heads prevailed to defeat that motion.

Then they recessed and huddled in twos and threes and came back and talked about meeting again, which nobody really wanted to do. So they asked consultant Linda Meggers to tweak Plan 3, the one the black members wanted, while they recessed again, and finally, with a little more input, they voted unanimously for what became Plan 3 Revised. Then they congratulated one another and went home.

The biggest change will be in District 6 where the total black population will increase from 51.17 percent to 60.64 percent.

In case anybody wants to know why the emphasis on race, that’s the whole point. Under the Voting Rights Act, political districts must be redrawn based on U.S. Census figures every 10 years to reflect changes in the racial makeup of the population. The map now must pass muster with the commission, school board, state Legislature and U.S. Justice Department.

 

THE COLOR OF MONEY: “I see it as a positive,” said Commissioner Grady Smith concerning the vote. “I hope we capitalize on it and learn to work together and move forward, so the county can be a great place to move into instead of out of. The only color Grady Smith is concerned about is green.”

 

A LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIP: During a recess of the redistricting meeting, Commissioner Bill Lockett and I exchanged pleasantries and hugged each other as we almost always do when we haven’t spoken to each other in awhile. He asked how my husband, Ernie, is getting along after open-heart surgery. I said he was doing very well, and Lockett said he’d been praying for him.

“I try to pray for you, too, but it’s hard,” he said.

I give him a hard time, but he knows I’m crazy about him.

PARTYING FOOLS: Richard Isdell, the president of the Richmond County Committee for Good Government, invited me to the committee’s Christmas party last week at Julian Smith Casino, and I went and mingled with the other old fogeys and had a good time.

I sat by Harrell Tiller who was there with Audrey Croft. Harrell won a door prize, but 10 people had to verify he had the winning number before they would give him the prize.

I also made some new friends, including Myra Jolles, Probate Court Judge Issac Jolles’ attractive, friendly wife; Irvine Lamback, who retired from The Augusta Chronicle in 1990 after 41 years in distribution; Betty Harmon; and Shirley Deal with great-granddaughter, Jessica, in tow. Tiller said Deal’s husband, Charlie, owns a store on Milledgeville Road that still has a potbellied stove.

 

AND THE RACE IS ON: Attorney Ben Jackson was standing with Republican 12th Congressional District candidate Rick W. Allen when I got there. Allen is a very successful contractor, is confident, speaks well, and most importantly, he looks like a congressman. Sort of like Mitt Romney looks like a president.

Some of Augusta’s heaviest hitters are holding a fundraiser for Allen this week at the Pickens Road home of Dr. and Mrs. Logan Nalley Jr. Hosts will donate $2,500 per couple; sponsors, $1,000 per couple; patrons $500 and guests $250.

Hosts include Mr. and Mrs. Charles Allen; Dr. and Mrs. Andy Allgood; Mr. and Mrs. Doug Barnard Jr.; Mr. and Mrs. Paul Simon; Mr. and Mrs. E.G. Meybohm; Mr. and Mrs. H.M. Osteen Jr.

 

REDISTRIBUTING POVERTY: Yet another “affordable” housing development near an established neighborhood of more expensive homes has those homeowners up in arms.

Whoops! This one is in Columbia County.

Some 50 homes will be built on 15 acres in a development, known as Magnolia Trace, on Old Ferry Road in Martinez. The homeowners object to most everything about the development, especially that some properties will be subsidized (can you say “Section 8?”) and they don’t want the riff-raff living next door.

And, by the way, yet another contractor hired by the county has fallen behind schedule, prompting commissioners to take action.

Mercy! This one’s in Columbia County, too.

 

A DEAD MAN’S HAND?: This time Augusta City Administrator Fred Russell got kicked out before the interviews. Actually, he withdrew his name because he didn’t want the publicity.

Russell supposedly has worked out a new plan to deal with the TEE Center parking deck. Based on the cards he was dealt the last time it came up in commission chambers, let’s hope he’s playing with a full deck and not Aces and 8s.

 

T-R-O-U-B-L-E: Two years ago, Richmond County Deputy Bryan Johnson was charged with aggravated battery and fired after a fight on the dance floor of the Country Club on Washington Road in which he used Christopher Sean Kersey’s head as a battering ram.

Now we know the cost of Kersey’s two black eyes, a broken and dislocated jaw and shattered right elbow: $150,000. That’s the proposed settlement Augusta commissioners will vote on at Tuesday’s meeting.

 

STUFFING STUFF: Ernie’s clogged arteries came to light right before we were to get our floors refinished and house painted inside. We’d already packed everything up, stored the furniture and moved onto the screened-in porch when he had to have stents put into the arteries of both legs. By the time he failed a stress test and had open-heart surgery a month or so later, we had the furniture back in the house but no boxes unpacked.

I started reclaiming our lives last week by sorting through the baskets under a coffee table. Everything nonessential was going either in the trash or put aside for that great garage sale we’ve been planning for the past 10 years.

In the first basket was an assortment of batteries, packs of reading glasses, an empty Lysol spray can and three used dryer sheets. The second basket held more batteries, envelopes, photo albums, a booklet on Ireland and other detritus. The third basket held all of our appliance installation guides, calendars, dried-up pens, and more detritus.

I soon tired of all the decision making, so I put the dryer sheets, the Lysol can, the book on Ireland and the dried-up pens in a plastic grocery bag and decided to celebrate. I went to the closet that also serves as my wine cellar and came up with a bottle of Robert Mondavi, Private Selection, Cabernet Sauvignon.

So it’s not fine wine. It’s still good. And it’s made in the USA.

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