Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

City Ink: After 2011, it's safe to predict more political silliness ahead

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Today is the day Janus, the mythological Ro­man god with two heads facing opposite directions, would usually look back on the old year in Augusta and make his predictions for the new year.

However, it was such an eventful year in local politics we’re going to skip Janus’ predictions for this year and focus on the best, the worst and the in-betweens of 2011.

NEWSMAKER OF THE YEAR: Augusta Commissioner Alvin Mason deserves this award because his alleged attack on his wife Velma the night before Christmas Eve and his arrest four days later are the only things that gave the public some relief from TV and newspaper stories about last-minute Christmas shopping, food bank shortages and where to go for a free meal.

QUOTE OF THE YEAR: “I’m a defender and protector. That’s what I do.” – Alvin Mason, in an interview on the Fattz and Cher show on 96.3 Kiss FM radio the day after his arrest for allegedly attacking his wife.

BEST ADVICE OF THE YEAR: ‘‘Always acknowledge your wife.” – Commissioner Corey Johnson before being sworn into office in January. He said that’s what Richmond County State Court Judge David Watkins advised him to always do in a public ceremony.

“So I’m going to say first, thank you, uh, for my lovely wife being here,” he said.

UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR: “The hard part is making it happen.” – City Administrator Fred Russell, after a January presentation of his plan to reorganize city government, revise the employee policy and procedures manual and revisit the city charter.

WORST PHRASE OF THE YEAR: “The administrator shall have exclusive authority to recommend candidates for department director positions.”

WORST SNUB OF THE YEAR: Mayor Deke Copenhaver and commissioners ignoring Richmond County Legislative Delegation Chairman Wayne Howard’s letter requesting a joint meeting during the legislative break, beginning the week of Jan. 17.

The purpose of the proposed meeting was to discuss changes to the personnel manual that would give the administrator more power. (See Worst Phrase)

BIGGEST SURPRISE OF THE YEAR: That Mayor Copenhaver had the power to hire, fire and run the whole city government show. Furthermore, that he was stuck with the job unless he could get a two-thirds vote from the Augusta Commission to change the charter.

The opinion from the Office of Legislative Counsel, released by members of the local legislative delegation in February, turned out to be wrong, though, so the Boy King was stripped of the power he didn’t even know he’d had for six years.

FIRST WORST OMISSION OF THE YEAR: Omitting Jr. from the late Georgia Appeals Court Judge John H. Ruffin Jr.’s name in the inscription on a granite sign at the new judicial center.

SECOND WORST OMISSION OF THE YEAR: Omitting Ruffin’s name from the judicial center building itself, an omission remedied after Judge Watkins refused to move into the new building until Ruffin’s name was on it and before U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas came to dedicate the John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse.

WORST PITCH OF THE YEAR: The one Commissioner Matt Aitken made for the city to study how much a new downtown baseball stadium would cost.

MOST OVERUSED PHRASE OF THE YEAR: “Extending the olive branch.” The mayor used it after breaking a tie to remove the word “exclusive” from the section of the personnel manual pertaining to the administrator’s authority to recommend the hiring and firing of department heads.

Mason used the phrase in a recent commission meeting after Commissioners Jerry Brigham and Grady Smith, who had voted for the proposed redistricting lines in the final ad hoc redistricting committee meeting, then voted against them in the commission meeting.

Mason noted that the majority black ad hoc committee could have voted for any plan without input from the white members, but instead had extended the olive branch and sought their input. And Brigham and Smith had, in return, slapped them in the face with it.

Smith later said it wasn’t an olive branch the committee extended but a cactus plant.

WORST DECISION OF THE YEAR: Russell granting raises to 44 city employees during a budget crisis.

WORST PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR: Goes to Mason for publicly berating and interrogating city officials, and especially for his shameful inquisition of deputy administrators and department heads while Russell was out of town.

Having invested himself with the powers of judge, jury and chief executioner, Mason put Russell on trial in absentia and convicted him of illegally promoting some employees and giving them and others raises, and in so doing, of violating provisions in the city’s policies and procedures manual.

BEST REACTION TO THE WORST PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR: “The only thing they didn’t do was serve popcorn,” Smith said afterward. “I was disappointed in the downgrading and talking to people like that. He thinks he’s talking to a bunch of grunts down at Fort Benning, Ga.”

BEST QUIP OF THE YEAR: Came from Commissioner Bill Lockett after Augusta Professional Firefighters Union spokesman Charles Masters had called for the resignations of Chief Howard Willis and deputy chiefs Mike Rogers and Carl Scott. Commission chambers had been filled with firefighters and EMTs, and as they were leaving Mason and Smith started arguing and were about to come to blows.

“Better get the firemen back,” Lockett said. “We’re going to need some emergency medical attention here.”

BEST ACTOR OF THE YEAR: The surprise Smith, a longtime Forest Hills Golf Course board member, showed after hearing that the course has paid only $143 a month for city water since time immemorial was almost believable.

WORST MEMORY LAPSE OF THE YEAR: Russell said he couldn’t specifically remember whether he did tell commissioners the land for the $12 million TEE Center parking deck had not been donated after previously telling them it had been donated, and couldn’t specifically remember whether he didn’t tell them.

Commissioners couldn’t remember either, though.

WORST SCHOOL SYSTEM IN THE STATE: Richmond County.

WORST IDEA OF THE YEAR: Russell’s proposal to sell the landfill.

BEST JUDICIAL DECISION OF THE YEAR: Augusta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge David Roper’s ruling in favor of Augusta-Richmond County in a lawsuit filed by a black ministers’ group, finding that the Augusta Commission did not act beyond its authority in delegating increased powers to the city administrator.

WORST AREA HOUSING DEVELOPMENT: Magnolia Trace in Columbia County.

DIREST PREDICTION OF THE YEAR: “This is the worst budget I’ve ever given you. … We’ve been able to skimp. We’ve been able to tighten our belts, but in this case, we might be eating the leather those belts are made of.” – Russell, after presenting the 2012 city budget proposal

MOST PROMISING STATEMENT OF THE YEAR: “We’re gonna have to come up with a new mechanism to raise additional revenue, because at the point we’re going at now, we’re not going to have a government.” – Loc­kett, after hearing Rus­sell’s 2012 city budget proposal

Comments (19) Add comment
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Dipshot
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Dipshot 12/31/11 - 07:46 pm
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Lockett and Smith sound like

Lockett and Smith sound like the more sensible and down to earth commissioners.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 12/31/11 - 08:21 pm
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I'm sorry, Dipshot, but I

I'm sorry, Dipshot, but I think the more apt adjectives would be "senile" and "dumb-as-dirt" commissioners.

Dipshot
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Dipshot 12/31/11 - 09:15 pm
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Dumb as dirt? senile? Have

Dumb as dirt? senile? Have you met either of them? I have and I can say for a fact that Lockett aint dumb.. in fact he is the most educated and the one with the most on the ball and it seems like he is the only one who actually reads agenda items thoroughly before voting on them. Grady senile? I don't think so. He is more on the ball than he lets on. He also comes off as a genuinely nice guy and someone who'd be fun to hang out with.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/31/11 - 09:41 pm
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Speaking of olive branches,

Speaking of olive branches, Georgia's 40 dollar bill in 1778 had a dove, olive and a hand holding a dagger, with a motto saying "Either war or peace, prepared for both."

I know this is kind of like the Walmart shopper with the million dollar bill, but it's too bad we don't have 40 dollar bills with the peace part to pass out to the Commissioners...especially Alvin Mason.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 12/31/11 - 09:50 pm
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Dipshot wrote: He [Grady

Dipshot wrote:

He [Grady Smith] also comes off as a genuinely nice guy and someone who'd be fun to hang out with.

There are plenty of guys who are genuinely nice and who would be fun to hang out with who are also wrong, wrong, wrong to be commissioner of Augusta!

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/31/11 - 10:35 pm
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Forgive me, but it's New

Forgive me, but it's New Years Eve and the people in my life have basically left me to my computer and TV early. Fireworks are shooting up in the night sky by the half moon out my window on the river and as I watch the lighted trails suddenly pop into bright streams, the visions come to me just like thhhhhhhaattttt.

Saying Mayor Copenhaver-Boardman has power of any kind is like saying Sheriff (Not a social worker) Ronnie Strength hangs out with the boyz of Cherry Tree Crossing in the parking lot and passes around 40 oz'ers with them without even wiping off the nozzle.

star
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star 12/31/11 - 10:00 pm
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Sylvia, you did it

Sylvia, you did it again...you are the best.
Hope Ernie is getting better every day. Please take care of yourself - Augusta needs you!
Happy New Year.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/31/11 - 10:06 pm
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Star said, "Sylvia, you did

Star said, "Sylvia, you did it again...you are the best.
Hope Ernie is getting better every day. Please take care of yourself - Augusta needs you!"

Ditto that. I like making comments after your columns. What would I do without you?

Dipshot
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Dipshot 12/31/11 - 10:38 pm
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Hey I won't say Grady always

Hey I won't say Grady always gets it right.. but he has got it right on some big ones. He voted for the forensic audit on the cursed parking deck deals and he voted against the disaster of an overlay zoning application that would have diluted individual property rights throughout the county. The core 4 are consistent... consistently wrong

iLove
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iLove 01/01/12 - 08:53 am
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The Elected officials are a
Unpublished

The Elected officials are a reflection of the population of Augusta, Ga....

wondersnevercease
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wondersnevercease 01/01/12 - 09:37 am
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"The Elected officials are a
Unpublished

"The Elected officials are a reflection of the population of Augusta, Ga"....

Sad...but oh so true............

eb97
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eb97 01/01/12 - 10:29 am
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If we are smart voters, we

If we are smart voters, we will start over with all new people when it comes to their re-elections. We need some young professionals that are interested in making our city what it can be and that are not tied to this"Good Old Boy system" that is in place now.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 01/01/12 - 10:37 am
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EB97, that's kind of my

EB97, that's kind of my thinking, too. Those who serve too long become influenced and greedy.

eb97
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eb97 01/01/12 - 10:41 am
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Riverman1, they show how

Riverman1, they show how greedy they are when they start flip/flopping on what they say and how they vote. It is all about how it is going to help them not how to make Augusta a better place to live and work.

broad street narrow mind
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broad street narrow mind 01/01/12 - 03:06 pm
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young professionals can be
Unpublished

young professionals can be ambitious and gullible.

eb97
835
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eb97 01/01/12 - 04:18 pm
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I guess that is why you call

I guess that is why you call yourself narrow mind.

Craig Spinks
818
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Craig Spinks 01/02/12 - 02:52 am
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(E)b97, Augusta needs some

(E)b97,

Augusta needs some folks with guts.

seenitB4
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seenitB4 01/02/12 - 05:30 am
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Yep Spinks....With guts you

Yep Spinks....With guts you say.....like some posters on here..:)

Little Lamb
49038
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Little Lamb 01/02/12 - 06:55 pm
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Hey, what happened to my

Hey, what happened to my Sunday post about Bill Lockett's quote on Sylvia's column saying the city needs a new source of revenue? Did someone with a thin skin report it as offensive?

Riverman1
93679
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Riverman1 01/02/12 - 07:14 pm
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LL, I forgot what it was. Can

LL, I forgot what it was. Can you rephrase and repost? Now I'm interested in it. Heh.

Little Lamb
49038
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Little Lamb 01/02/12 - 07:25 pm
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Oooops, I posted my rant on

Oooops, I posted my rant on the wrong thread, RM (we're having a later-than-usual supper tonight and I'm on my second glass of wine before the soup course). The post about Lockett's similarity with Russell is on another thread, about nine comments down. Here is the link:

Commissioners hand out grades

Riverman1
93679
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Riverman1 01/02/12 - 07:30 pm
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LL, and I thought you were

LL, and I thought you were flawless.

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