Come on, now. The road is bad, but not that bad.
WE HAVE A MAP. WHAT WE NEED NOW IS DIRECTIONS: On the political front, it was a busy week in Augusta and Atlanta, where Richmond County School Board Trustee Jack Padgett and Augusta commissioners Grady Smith and Jerry Brigham met with a mapping specialist in the state redistricting office for almost three hours trying to find an alternative to the one unanimously approved by the ad hoc redistricting committee in November.
Ad hoc committee members Brigham and Smith initially voted for the map with four majority white and six majority black districts, but after getting a little feedback from their white constituents, when it came before the commission for approval they voted against it. Since then, they’ve called on Republican members of the local legislative delegation, Barbara Sims and Jesse Stone, to block the ad hoc committee’s plan and help come up with one more like the existing one.
They’re pretty tight-lipped about it all, probably because they suspect the effort is doomed to fail.
Smith said he voted for the ad hoc committee’s plan after working on it for many tiring hours and later realized the plan wasn’t what he thought it was.
“It was like looking to buy a car with a $5,000 price tag on it,” he said, “You say, ‘It’s not worth but $3,000.’ Then you buy it and the bill is $3,500, and you’ve picked up $500. When we saw the final map, it wasn’t what we agreed on.
“My main concern is to make everything in Richmond County as fair for the next 10 years as it has been for the past 10 years.”
IN SOME CIRCLES IT’S CALLED A CONFERENCE ROOM: In his state of the city address, Mayor Deke Copenhaver announced that $100,000 in next year’s budget under the heading of economic development was immediately matched by another $100,000 from the private sector, and that the money would be used to create a collaboration center.
A lot of folks don’t know what a collaboration center is, but it could be like pornography. We’ll know it when we see it.
THE MAN HAS SERVED HIS TIME: Pity Sheriff Ronnie Strength as pressure mounts for him to seek another term. A contingent of the city’s movers and shakers, power brokers and deep pockets plan a surprise ambush this week where they’ll try to convince him to run again. The sheriff is tired though, and the slaying of Deputy J.D. Paugh and attacks on his other officers have taken a toll.
GOOD LUCK WITH THAT: Mary Fair Davis said she wants to be involved where she can really make a difference, which is why she plans to run for the District 3 seat on the Augusta Commission this fall. She’ll make a formal announcement at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Enterprise Mill.
Davis, Copenhaver’s campaign chairman during the 2006 election, has worked at Augusta State University and the Medical College of Georgia in alumni relations and development, and said she understands state funding and how the political process works. She now works at St. Mary on the Hill in church and school development.
Augusta businessman Clay Boardman is her campaign chairman, and Ginger Chew is her campaign manager.
52 CARDS, AND THEY ARE ALL THE SAME: Tuesday’s city commission meeting got off to a positive start with a rousing prayer from Bishop Rosa Williams, the pastor of Ever Faithful Baptist Church, followed by a presentation of a national award to the city’s IT Department. The department ranked fifth in the nation in excellence among similar-sized government departments, up from last year’s seventh-place finish.
Then Sameera V. Thurmond, an apparent cat lover, took five minutes to say something she could have said in 30 seconds. She must be planning to go into politics.
Nancy Greer, the appraisal coordinator for the tax assessors office, received the 2011 Employee of the Year award.
And then there was former Commissioner Marion Williams asking about the status of the city’s $500,000 disparity study.
“Where are we and what are we going to do about discrimination?” he asked, adding that it’s rampant in the water department.
Commissioner Joe Bowles said the disparity study had nothing to do with city employees.
“It was an economic study on businesses and impact on workers,” he said.
WOULD YOU PLEASE STEP INTO THIS TRAP: At that point, Alvin Mason, the chairman of the ad hoc redistricting committee, asked for a point of privilege and asked the mayor about a letter he agreed to send to the legislators stating he approved of the redistricting plan. On the first commission vote which tied 5-5, the mayor was out of town, but said later he would have voted for the committee’s plan.
“I’m just sort of watching it play out,” the mayor told Mason. “I said I would consider that, but obviously, the commission does not have to approve the maps. The situation is changing on a regular basis. I would like to see the delegation get their act together.”
“You are elected by the entire city,” Mason said. “The community kind of wanted to see where you stood on this particular issue. It was our hope the letter would be drafted.”
The mayor called for the next agenda item.
LET’S JUST PRETEND EVERYTHING’S OKAY: The board tied 5-5 on Commissioner Corey Johnson’s motion to fill next year’s budget deficit with $1.5 million more from reserve funds and an anticipated $1 million increase in tax revenues. It’s supposed to be a temporary move to prevent drastic cuts and layoffs. The expectation is that aerial photography has detected enough untaxed property – buildings, garages and swimming pools – the city will be rolling in money.
That might be a slight exaggeration.
Anyway, the mayor broke the tie, voting for Johnson’s motion.
Bowles said commissioners have “kicked the can down the road” the six years he’s been on the board, and he has yet to see any cuts.
“Our citizens expect clean streets, nice streets, clean drinking water and public safety,” he said. “Everything else is a luxury item. Sooner or later we’re going to have to run the government like a business and quit gouging departments.”
Brigham said he has a “real problem” when they start spending imaginary dollars.
“If we’re going to spend dollars that we do not know we have to balance a budget we definitely do have, I have a very major problem,” he said. “I think if we’re going to do that we need to go down to WalMart and buy some Monopoly money to balance our budget. That’s the same effect as grabbing a figure out of the air and say that our revenue is going to increase that much. Our tax assessor doesn’t even know that.”
Commissioner J.R. Hatney said it always concerned him that some people get a little over-zealous in defending their positions.
“But at the end of the day, that’s all a budget is – imaginary,” he said. “It’s a proposal. I have a problem with cutting out public services, engineering, recreation.”
Commissioner Bill Lockett read excerpts from a publication on governing states and localities that warned against “knee-jerk reactions” in outsourcing departments and cutting budgets to the bone.
“Many at the summit argued it was time to push back on the no-new-taxes rhetoric of the far right,” he read.