Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Commissioners get much-needed professional help

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Augusta commissioners needed some professional help and got it. So they kissed and made up and promised not to give each other the cold shoulder or fling insults ever again.

Under the expert tutelage of not just one, but two facilitators from Carl Vinson Institute of Government at a retreat last week, they reached consensus on balancing the 2012 budget, which was good. But the devil’s in the details, which are not so good. After months of talking about streamlining the government with drastic cuts and layoffs, City Administrator Fred Russell led them down the primrose path of postponing the inevitable.

Instead of cutting $1 million through layoffs, $2.26 million from departments and using $2.1 million from rainy-day funds, they jumped at Russell’s latest proposal to cut 1 per­cent from departments, except for engineering, forget about layoffs; take $3.6 million from rainy day funds (also known as fund balance appropriation); and hope they get $1 million more from property taxes, which could be called counting your chickens before they hatch.

Both plans also include using $1 million of capital (money for vehicles and equipment) and $250,000 of contingency funds. There also will be a 0.594 mil increase in fire millage which will cost the owner of a $100,000 house in suburban areas $20.79 more a year.

INTO THIN, THIN AIR: Nobody was talking about cuts or layoffs. In fact, the budget includes new employees – about eight at last count. And they talked about adding more – a public information officer to keep the evil media at bay and an efficiency expert to study government operations. Someone also said they need a professional contract administrator.

The discussions ranged from improving their public image and communications, the smoking ordinance, the shape of the conference table in the soon-to-be renovated commission chambers, the city charter and “future opportunities for revenue.” They were encouraged to look at new revenue sources outside of property taxes. One suggestion was “Look at how to gain access to the 80 percent and not just the 20 percent (property-tax payers).”

Commissioner Alvin Mason suggested taxing people who come into Augusta to work but live in other counties. There was mention of implementing a storm water utility fee, commonly known as a rain tax. And then there was mention of the Transportation Investment Act whereby voters will be asked to vote themselves another penny tax in November.

Don’t you just love it when governments start talking about investments? A stink bug by any other name still stinks.

AN IQ TEST: Complete this sentence: A good example of revenue enhancement would be …

A. Winning the lottery.

B. Winning a $10 million lawsuit.

C. Finding a diamond ring in the bottom of a Cracker Jacks box.

D. A visit from the Prize Patrol.

What is the real meaning of (rainy day) “fund balance appropriation”?

A. Robbing Peter to pay Paul

B. Kicking the can down the road

C. Gambling it won’t rain 40 days and 40 nights

What happens when capital funds are transferred to balance the budget?

A. Dump trucks are stranded by the side of the road.

B. Police cars overheat in high-speed chases.

C. The city has to buy goats to trim the grass on the courthouse lawn.

Answers: If you circled all of the above, you are above average in intelligence.

LOOK AT THAT HORRIBLE IMAGE IN THE MIRROR: It was clear early on that Mayor Deke Copenhaver, et al, think the media are to blame for their poor public image, which just goes to show that Archie was right once again. Archie MacKay, the late editor of The Valdosta Daily Times, warned us when a big news situation arose that no matter what happened or who did what, in the end the newspaper would be blamed.

And he was right. A perfect example is what has transpired in city government for the past 15 months. Commissioners have been racially divided and at war over the personnel manual, Russell’s power, the government reorganization, whether it took six votes or eight votes to reorganize or change anything, and where they would meet when the new judicial center opened. But when they get into a retreat, they complain about the media’s negativity, which is funny because some of them have instigated negative stories by leaking information to reporters. Now they’d love to gag us.

The Boy King said he’d like to see one centralized source of information. Doesn’t he know that commissioners love to see themselves on TV?

“Our government leaks like a sieve,” he complained.

Boo! Hoo! What a pity.

That was the long version of the retreat.

HERE’S THE SHORT VERSION: Wah! Wah! Wah! We’ve been bad boys calling each other names and fighting, but it’s not our fault. It’s the media’s. They’re so negative. They never report the good things we do. When we graduate from GMA training, you won’t see a thing about it in the newspaper or on TV. But just let us put up our dukes in a meeting, and they’re all over it.

Facilitator: Well, when they see you putting up your dukes, put a positive spin on it. Say you’re practicing for your Kung Fu lesson.

Administrator: Enough of this touchy-feely stuff. It’s time to balance the budget. Here’s one you can live with. No layoffs, no cuts, no tax increase.

So moved.

WHO NEEDS INFLUENCE? State Sen. Hardie Davis has pledged to petition the U.S. Justice Department to reject the Senate Redistricting Committee’s drawing the 24th Senate District into Richmond County. The com­mittee’s action adds Re­publican Sen. Bill Jackson to the Richmond delegation, bringing the number of senators in the local delegation to three.

“This untimely effort is nothing more than an attempt to dilute the voting strength of the citizens of Augusta by inserting another Republican legislator from Columbia County into its legislative delegation,” Davis stated in an e-mail.

Augusta Republicans, however, say Jackson’s presence on the delegation will be helpful to Richmond County because Jackson has clout, as well as Gov. Nathan Deal’s ear. Their friendship goes back to the days Deal was in the state Legislature.

Davis contends the proposed new map is the direct result of efforts by members of Augusta’s own business community, out to control every aspect of the city.

“In counties like Rich­mond, Fulton, Dekalb and Bibb – counties recognized as Democratic strongholds in Georgia and predominantly African-American – the Republican-controlled legislature has taken aggressive steps like this to weaken the African-American vote.”

But don’t the Democrats draw the lines to benefit Democrats when they’re in the legislative majority? I seem to remember they do.

JUST VISITING? Augusta Convention and Business Bureau president and CEO Barry White was reported to be in Jacksonville, Fla., this weekend. Could it be to interview for the vacant top job with Visit Jacksonville, the brand identity for the Jacksonville and the Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau?

Comments (29) Add comment
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Insider Information
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Insider Information 02/18/12 - 09:15 pm
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When politicians lash out at

When politicians lash out at the media, it's a sign that the media should dig even deeper because they are on to something.

itsanotherday1
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itsanotherday1 02/19/12 - 12:38 am
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{myfather15Saturday, Feb. 18

{myfather15Saturday, Feb. 18 11:24 PM
FROM: Commissioners get much-needed professional help
Might I remind everyone that these are the "leaders" of our society? Yes, the word LEADERS is in there. These "leaders" need an outside group to come in and tell them how to handle their business}

!0-4 myfather;if you need to hire someone to tell you how to do it, you don't know enough to do it to begin with. I am FLABBERGASTED!!

Techfan
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Techfan 02/19/12 - 12:36 am
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Should have just stopped at

Should have just stopped at the headline.

itsanotherday1
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itsanotherday1 02/19/12 - 12:51 am
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Why? Do you disagree with the

Why? Do you disagree with the editorial?

seenitB4
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seenitB4 02/19/12 - 05:42 am
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The article said... a public

The article said...

a public information officer to keep the evil media at bay

Does this mean that countyman will get a countywoman to help him on here??..:)----I sure hope so......he may just cheer up some.

seenitB4
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seenitB4 02/19/12 - 05:44 am
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It sezzz The Boy King said

It sezzz

The Boy King said he’d like to see one centralized source of information. Doesn’t he know that commissioners love to see themselves on TV?

THAT is funny & true....way to go girl!!

Riverman1
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Riverman1 02/19/12 - 08:44 am
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Alvin Mason may be onto

Alvin Mason may be onto something with his idea of charging those who work, but don't live in Richmond County.

Put up toll booths of sorts and everyone going in has to pay. But you would also have to account for those who would attempt to walk in so put up similar toll stations on sidewalks and footpaths. Still that may not be enough and you would need a 12 brick wall around the county with guards on top. That would keep the Columbia County folks out unless they paid, for sure.

It could be it's not such a bad idea, though, if it also keeps the Richmond Cty population out of Columbia County. Maybe they would even help pay for the toll booths and brick wall.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 02/19/12 - 08:48 am
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So, one of the big proponents

So, one of the big proponents of the Marriott TEE Center, Barry White, is trying to get out before the months of an empty center begin. The first casualty of the white elephant's big feet. There will be many more. By the way, does anyone know what White is paid?

Riverman1
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Riverman1 02/19/12 - 09:44 am
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Speaking of the TEE (ha),

Speaking of the TEE (ha), I've wondered aloud often why the U.S. Attorney hasn't gotten involved with ALL this money and deeds being shifted around, promised funding for Commisson votes, plus the outright bribe attempts by David Fry. Then it came to me that the Chronicle attorney mentored Ed Tarver for 17 years. He spruced him up for bigger things and probably still has influence with him. It pays to pay those who have connections.

philip mclain
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philip mclain 02/19/12 - 10:00 am
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???

???

Riverman1
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Riverman1 02/19/12 - 10:24 am
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!!!

!!!

seenitB4
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seenitB4 02/19/12 - 11:14 am
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^^^funny^^^

^^^funny^^^

Insider Information
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Insider Information 02/19/12 - 11:26 am
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Can someone explain to me why

Can someone explain to me why a mayor (who by his own admission has no authority or responsibility) and who has a full time secretary and a full time executive assistant now needs a full time mouthpiece?

What do all these people do currently?

Iwannakno
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Iwannakno 02/19/12 - 11:31 am
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I can tell you this...if I
Unpublished

I can tell you this...if I get taxed for working but not living in ARC I will never spend another dollar in ARC. You may win the battle but I promise you the war will be lost. Stupidity at it's best.

allhans
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allhans 02/19/12 - 12:23 pm
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Insider. A trick question?

Insider. A trick question?

Insider Information
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Insider Information 02/19/12 - 12:39 pm
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allhans, it's not a trick

allhans, it's not a trick question.

If Deke wants to adopt this Saul Alinsky mindset - dream up an enemy (i.e. the media) and focus all of the attention in that direction - then why not just charge the mayor with overseeing PR? His executive assistant currently sends out press releases. Why not continue?

I still really want to know what a secretary, exec assistant and mayor do on an average day in a city in which the mayor intentionally is nothing more than a figure head.

dichotomy
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dichotomy 02/19/12 - 02:34 pm
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"“Our government leaks like a

"“Our government leaks like a sieve,” he complained."

Which infers there is a lot of crooked stuff that goes on in our little government the mayor would prefer the public not be made aware of until all of the back room deals are signed, sealed, and delivered. Which probably explains why we are broke, spending what little savings we have, and will be getting a huge tax increase which Fred will be telling us about shortly.....after the commissioners hold their back room clandestine meetings with the mayor to figure out how they will divvy up the proceeds between downtown, the LLCs, and Laney-Walker.

eb97
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eb97 02/19/12 - 04:10 pm
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@ Insider, don't forget a pro

@ Insider, don't forget a pro ribbon cutter.

Lori Davis
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Lori Davis 02/19/12 - 04:20 pm
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Riverman, you are so right on

Riverman, you are so right on so many things, and Many of us are not going away and as a matter of fact, we are just getting started. The blind and dumb public will never know any of the real truth in Augusta if they continue to read the only citywide publication. Poor Sylvia couldn't even write about the last Commission meeting and what went on there with me calling for the dismissal of our city administrator and the city hired attorney per the parking deck debacle along with Al Gray telling the Commissioners that they were on a very rocky road. River, join forces with us and contact me at davislori@hotmail.com even though I already know that you are a force to be reckoned with! We appreciate your support.

AutumnLeaves
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AutumnLeaves 02/19/12 - 05:11 pm
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Techfan, I agree about the

Techfan, I agree about the headline. I about fell out trying not to laugh out loud. Funny!

tckr1983
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tckr1983 02/19/12 - 06:24 pm
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I think Sylvia did a pretty

I think Sylvia did a pretty good job of making the city leadership look like fools in this article... I don't know what else you could expect her to do, she got the point across that our city government is a bunch of whiny 10 year olds at a circus. You can't always fit everything into every story... Sylvia has consistently been the "Chris Thomas" at the Augusta Chronicle, bringing stories that need to be read to light.

I think it's time for recall elections... on everyone. Mayor Copenhaver (who I used to support) has lost his mind and most of his voter base... Blaming the media? Really? NOT a good move...

Willow Bailey
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Willow Bailey 02/19/12 - 09:13 pm
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River, on your 8:44,

River, on your 8:44, exactly....Where is the JD in all of this? Maybe, it's going to be like the Diaz's...late one unexpected Friday evening just before leaving for the beach...

And tckr 1983, Sylvia didn't make them look like fools, they get all the credit for that; She just reported on it.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 02/19/12 - 09:22 pm
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Lori, heck, someone from the

Lori, heck, someone from the other side has to stay here. All of y’all are going to be historic as the Butt’s Bridge before long. I throw so many jokes at THEM they may keep me around for awhile, thinking I’m harmless. I admire all the hard work y’all do. And I do realize it's work. I’m not sure I have it in me to write in more than these 90 second sound bytes.

By the way, I caught Mayor Copenhaver-Boardman on Brad Means show today. Deke got one serious question by someone who sounded like he knew what was going on. Deke didn’t answer the question, but once again, got angry and went off on those asking questions about the TEE.

Means said he hadn’t heard of secret meetings as the question had suggested, but he also said he didn’t think he should disrespect the question. That meant Deke should not get so upset about a hard question and just answer. Once again telling traits surfacing from Deke.

Riverman1
78381
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Riverman1 02/19/12 - 09:36 pm
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Willow, didn't they look at

Willow, didn't they look at the Fry bribery attempt charges and choose to stay out of it? Again, look at the relationships I mentioned in my earlier post.

Willow Bailey
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Willow Bailey 02/19/12 - 09:55 pm
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Yes, I think you are right,

Yes, I think you are right, but, still, one never knows. I would certainly hate to have any of this hanging over my head.

As to the Mayor's terse reply, as I have stated before, leadership and the resulting conflict it incurs, doesn't appear to be his area of comfort. Not to mention, he has no authority. It's got to be hard to be an ironman with no power. Trying to control everyone's questions and comments points to his frustration. This has to be stressful for him...so many to please ...so many confidences to keep. Note all the people he is now surrounding himself with in an effort to avoid confrontation of any kind. This position is becoming very costly to taxpayers.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 02/19/12 - 10:01 pm
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So true. It's hard to believe

So true. It's hard to believe all these assistants, PR people and so on he's amassing. Now they want to hire this new consultant to straighten EVERYTHING out. Maybe they're all giving up.

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 02/19/12 - 10:41 pm
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By law, Augusta's mayor has

By law, Augusta's mayor has no power, no job duties, no responsibility.

According to the Chronicle's salary* database...

Mayor - $75,844.86
Secretary - $29,162.66
Administrative Assistant - $39,221.28
Benefit to the taxpayer - Priceless

* This does not include benefits and operating costs.

irishfarmer
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irishfarmer 02/20/12 - 01:21 am
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Sylvia you are right on.

Sylvia you are right on. Democrats did try and draw crazy looking districts in the last redistricting process to keep things in their favor. I know for a fact though that here in Augusta Richmond County we might have a chance to not have to worry about Sen Davis any longer because of a true republican who plans to run against him this year. Sen. Jackson being in Richmond County now could be a help since he is a floor leader in the Senate for Gov. Deal. Yes Sen. Davis is just one of the elected officials we need to replace here in Augusta and hopefully that will happen. zwen need a leader who will be a selfless leader not a selfish leader like Sen. Davis is.

Little Lamb
43350
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Little Lamb 02/20/12 - 08:46 am
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I say that the Augusta

I say that the Augusta legislative delegation should include all the counties of the Augusta judicial circuit, i.e., Burke, Columbia, and Richmond counties. Bring in Jackson, and bring in Ben Harbin also. The more the merrier.

Riverman1
78381
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Riverman1 02/20/12 - 08:49 am
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LL, haha, you say that

LL, haha, you say that because you know the only way Richmond County can save itself is by involving the surrounding couties.

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Top headlines

3 top picks to replace Russell named

Janice Allen Jackson, Stephen Layson and Oscar Rodriguez are Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver's top picks to replace Fred Russell as city administrator.
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