City Ink: Surprises keep politics interesting

The thing about politics is just when it starts to get boring, something unexpected always happens.

For example, when the redistricting plan that the ad hoc committee of Augusta commissioners and Richmond County School Board members unanimously approved Nov. 29, came before the full city commission last week, Commissioners Grady Smith and Jerry Brigham who previously voted for it voted against it.

After the ad hoc committee vote, Brigham said Plan 3 Revised was the best he and the other four white committee members could do under the circumstances of being in the minority.

Tuesday, he said he had reservations about it because “it didn’t continue the path of governance” for the county, meaning it did not ensure the almost-certain election of five white and five black commissioners.

“I think it also changes the way things have been done for the last 15-plus years in the sharing of this government,” he said.

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle agreed, saying he wasn’t for it whatsoever. “Fifteen-16 years ago when we consolidated, it was a majority white county, and it was fair to make sure that everybody had equal representation,” he said. “Now here it is 16 years later, the tables have turned, and it’s no longer equal and fair.”

Commissioner Alvin Mason, the chairman of the ad hoc committee, said he was extremely disappointed with commission hypocrisy.

“There were a minimum of three public hearings,” he said. “I was chosen as chairman of this particular committee, and I have not heard from one single commissioner who’s talking today in terms of any issues, prior to the vote or after.”

Mason rightly added that the vote was a courtesy vote only because the state Legislature, governor and U.S. Justice Department will have the final say on redistricting maps. He also said that the black committee members were in the majority and could have pushed through any plan they wanted.

“But we extended them an olive branch,” he said.

Indeed, Smith had called the ad hoc committee vote “a positive” because it showed the community that black and white elected officials could work together. And he said, “The only color Grady Smith cares about is green.”

Well, when his white friends and supporters heard the details of Plan 3 Revised, they must have turned green because what Smith called a positive the week before got his negative vote. And the vote tied 5-5, splitting, as usual, along racial lines except for white Commissioner Matt Aitken who crossed it and voted for the plan.

So the motion failed because it didn’t have six votes. Mayor Deke Copenhaver was not there to break the tie. He was on vacation, for which Mason took him and Aitken to task afterward, contending it was all planned in advance.

“We already knew going in what was going to happen as soon as we knew he (the mayor) wasn’t here,” he said. “We said, ‘Watch Matt.’ That’s all we said, ‘Watch Matt.’ He put on a good little show.”

 

EQUAL TIME: City Ink e-mailed the mayor asking whether he wanted to respond to Mason’s comments which he did, also by e-mail: “As the vacation was planned months in advance, which we have to do, due to my having a very hectic schedule, I would say that any accusations like this are totally out of left field and have no basis in fact whatsoever. It makes for a good conspiracy theory, but it is not at all true.”

Also, Smith said he’d been told the black population in District 6 in Plan 3 Revised was 58 percent and later found out it was 60 percent.

“I can change my vote if I want to,” he said. “I represent four districts, and a bunch of people called me that wasn’t very happy. We’ve got to live with this (map) 10 more years. I want to make sure it’s right.”

 

SO MUCH FOR OLIVE BRANCHES:

Commissioner Grady voted for the Plan 3 map

Until some of his best friends called him a sap.

Then he did a 180-degree about face

On his previous claim he doesn’t care about race

And that the only color he cares about is green

Until his friends and supporters said, “What do you mean?

“Color in Augusta is a top priority

Essential for being the reigning majority.”

So Grady flip-flopped on a second vote

As did Commissioner Jerry we should note

And with “no” votes by the commission’s two Joes

Along with Wayne’s, it tied 5-5 as the record shows

Because Commissioner Matt voted “yes.” What a surprise.

Then the vote flashed overhead before our eyes

And Mayor Deke was not there to take a stand.

He was on vacation with his toes in the sand.

To which Commissioner Alvin, chair of the Committee Ad Hoc,

Said, “What a crock!

“It was a missed opportunity to rise above race.

“They took our olive branch and slapped us in the face.”

 

A HOST OF OTHERS: Twelfth Congressional District candidate Rick Allen wasn’t the only Republican vying for the office that had a fundraiser last week. Supporters of candidate Lee Anderson also hosted one for him at the Foundation Club on Tuesday. Hosts included Department of Transportation Board member Don Grantham; former DOT Chairman Bill Kuhlke; state Rep. Barbara Sims; Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength; former Richmond County Extension Agent Clyde Lester; Commissioner Smith; businessman Duncan Johnson; state Sens. Jesse Stone and Bill Jackson; Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and Georgia House Speaker David Ralston.

It seems the Republican candidates are claiming the same supporters. Allen’s campaign manager, Scott Paradise, reported that at least seven people Anderson listed as hosts on his fundraiser invitations hadn’t given him permission to do so.

 

THAT’S A MIGHTY TALL ORDER FROM A MIGHTY TALL COMMISSIONER: Just when we thought controversy over whether the city’s personnel policy and procedures manual violates provisions in the consolidation law was a dead horse, Commissioner Bill Lockett wants to exhume it.

Lockett has placed an item on Monday’s Administrative Services Committee agenda to task City Attorney Andrew MacKenzie to seek an opinion from the Georgia attorney general about the meaning of “ordinary business” as used in the charter. Lockett also states that the “opinion must include examples of business that can be approved with six Commission-Council votes and what business requires two-thirds of the Commission-Council for approval.”

He also states that an opinion is needed as to the legality of the personnel manual “since its passage was treated as ordinary business when much of the content deals with restructuring the government.”

In addition, “All restructuring/reorganization contemplated will be placed on hold pending an AG opinion.”

Lockett has also renewed his call for an outside forensic auditing firm to audit everything from soup to nuts.

Some commissioners will no doubt object to such an invasion of their privacy.

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