Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Bill that shifts election date leads to political squabbling

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State Rep. Barbara Sims was persona non grata with members of the local delegation Friday when her bill that shifts the election date for consolidated cities and counties from November to July passed in the House, 95-58.

She and other Republicans who voted for the bill are being accused of changing the date to dilute the black vote because minorities don’t turn out that much for primary elections. Some call the move a desperate attempt by the white power structure to maintain political control.

“It hurts that people think that,” Sims said. “It was not pleasant ... At one point, I stopped listening. It was just hurtful. It really was. I hate it because I don’t want Augusta to come off looking like such a fractured community.”

Democrat Rep. Quincy Murphy said the bill “sets the community back 20 years” and that he plans to ask the House to reconsider the vote next week. He also said someone will propose a resolution at Monday’s Augusta Commission committee meetings to leave the election in November.

“It will be interesting to see who supports it, and who does not,” he said. “You want to make it convenient for people to go to the polls in November in even-numbered years. The question would be why do you want to change it? The answer is you don’t want a lot of citizens in your community to participate. You feel your chances are better if they don’t. That’s why Republicans like nonpartisan elections.”

DOESN’T EARLY VOTING HAVE US VOTING YEAR-ROUND ANYWAY? Sims, however, said the bill might energize the voting all the way around.

“In the long run, we’re going to have more people going to the polls and voting,” she said. “I don’t understand the idea that people can only vote in November. Don’t we want to vote every time? Or do we want to vote once in every four years? I know if you can get people to the polls in November, you can get them to go in July. It fascinates me that people think they can’t vote in July.

“Somebody said, ‘It could be so hot in July.’ I said, ‘Well, it could be so cold in November.’

“And somebody said, ‘You might be on vacation in July.’ And I said, ‘There is absentee voting. Are you going to be on vacation a month?’ ”

Sims said she’s going to the polls every time they’re open.

“All I tried to do was clarify the law passed last year that said nonpartisan races in consolidated governments would take place during primaries in July,” she said. “Columbus, Ga., has always had nonpartisan elections in July. The intent of the bill last year was to get all nonpartisan elections done at the same time. So I took it to the lawyer that wrote the original, and he helped me clarify it so that it applied to all consolidated governments.”

THE BACK STORY: When approved in 1995 Augusta’s consolidation law stated that commission elections would be held in November in odd-numbered years.

“About eight years ago, the local delegation received a resolution from the county commission that the elections be changed from odd-numbered years to even years when you would have president or governor on the ballot,” Murphy said. “Plus, we wanted a majority of our citizens to participate and save the county money. And we knew November was the best way to accomplish that. It was unanimous. All members of the county commission voted to support that.”

Local delegation members told their colleagues Sims’ bill was not supported by members of the delegation or the community, Murphy said.

“In all major pieces of legislation that have affected the county commission we have been supported by a resolution from the commission with the exception of House Bill 776 which changes the election from November to July,” he said.

Murphy said last year’s bill was meant for consolidated governments, but Augusta’s government is different from others because it is a municipal form with a mayor and commission.

THE LAST PLACE TO FIND JUSTICE THESE DAYS: A bill to make county commission races partisan was introduced this year, but the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is not letting the bill come forward, Murphy said.

And last week, Democrat Sen. Hardie Davis accused the Republicans of trying to dilute minority voting strength and 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.

LINES IN THE SAND: The Senate has stalled consideration of the district boundaries for the Augusta Commission and Richmond County Board of Education. The House had already passed the maps as local legislation. In the Senate, where the local delegation is evenly split, with one Republican and one Democrat, action halted. The bills sit in the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee, which considers statewide bills rather than the committee that normally rubber-stamps local legislation.

UP IN SMOKE: Smoke and smoking were hot topics at last week’s commission meeting. First, commissioners rejected a tougher local smoking ordinance on a 3-6-1 vote. Those voting no said they were opposed to more government intrusion. During a commission retreat, Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said if smoking was illegal, he could vote for it. Commissioner Joe Jackson told Commissioner Corey Johnson, a proponent of the stricter ordinance, they would be “peeing up a rope” by passing it because there was no way to enforce it.

The second issue involving smoke was a $399,083 change order for a stronger smoke evacuation system for the TEE Center to meet Marriott Corporation International’s safety standards that exceed the state’s standards.

Oh Lord, how they do grandstand over anything related to what has become the biggest political football in recent history!

Commissioners’ questions to Administrator Fred Russell were reminiscent of the Watergate hearings. “What did you know and when did you know it?” they kept asking Russell who kept answering they’d discovered the discrepancy in October and had been negotiating with Marriott to resolve it since then. Then they wanted to know why he hadn’t told them about it sooner.

Commissioner J.R. Hatney said he was sick and tired of Russell springing things on them at the last minute. It’s all laughable when you consider the many meetings where they rubber-stamped change orders totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars without batting an eye.

What they really need is a smoke evacuation system for commission chambers even stronger than Marriott requires.

AUGUSTA DURING THE LATE UNPLEASANTNESS: Former Augusta Mayor Bob Young will be signing copies of his book The Treasure Train from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Midtown Market on Central Avenue. The novel is set in Augusta during the close of the Civil War.

Lots of sex and violence? Read it and find out.

City Ink thanks Morris News Service writer Walter Jones for his contributions to this week’s column.

Comments (15) Add comment
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Riverman1
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Riverman1 02/26/12 - 12:05 am
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The total improvements for

The total improvements for the TEE requested THIS time were for $836,288. Yep, it was $399,083 for the ventilation system.

If Ole Archie had lamented about the people blaming the newspaper for this one we could have all had a good laugh. Same, same.

seenitB4
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seenitB4 02/26/12 - 06:58 am
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"Lots of sex &

"Lots of sex & violence".....Is she talking about the commish???
heh

Riverman1
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Riverman1 02/26/12 - 09:13 am
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About mayors writing books, I

About mayors writing books, I thought it would be interesting to suggest titles for them.

Charles DeVaney…(I’M not even going there.)

Larry Sconyers…How to be a successful mayor using a mustard base Carolina style BBQ.

Willie Mays….How to keep your car from being repossessed by prepaying your funeral.

Deke Copenhaver….How to get respect from your in-laws playing mayor.

Bob Young…(yeah, I know he already has one) A Fool’s Guide to Being a HUD Administrator When you Know Nothing.

iLove
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iLove 02/26/12 - 10:03 am
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B. Sims said: "It really
Unpublished

B. Sims said: "It really was. I hate it because I don’t want Augusta to come off looking like such a fractured community"

iLove said: TOO LATE!

iLove
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iLove 02/26/12 - 10:07 am
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When something changes,
Unpublished

When something changes, always ask yourself why?

With the current actions of the WPS, how can you trust ANYTHING coming from them?

Iwannakno
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Iwannakno 02/26/12 - 12:15 pm
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Why does the marriot even
Unpublished

Why does the marriot even have a say in the TEE center? Let them pony up some of the money for this disaster. That's what it will be too. Anything that politicians in Augusta are involved in (the Cabal) only works for the elite involved. The tax payers get the shaft everytime!

dichotomy
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dichotomy 02/26/12 - 12:39 pm
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Regardless of any possible

Regardless of any possible ulterior motives, I am kind of glad to see local elections pulled out and separated from the heat and rhetoric of the national elections. It's about time RC taxpayers focused on local representatives and what they are doing with our tax money. And this includes, no I should say ESPECIALLY, the school board which is totally ineffective and which spends half of our tax money but produces very few educated students. Hopefully the media will do their jobs and do a good job of reporting candidates records and of following the money instead of fanning the white vs. black flames. It's always about the money and who is getting it to the detriment of the taxpayers. They've all got us watching white vs. black while THEY have their eye on the green.

Iwannakno
1533
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Iwannakno 02/26/12 - 01:00 pm
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Maybe when the local politics
Unpublished

Maybe when the local politics is controlled by the racial make-up of the county, problems can be solved instead of diverting attention away from the real issues.

david jennings
601
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david jennings 02/26/12 - 02:20 pm
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I think local is just as

I think local is just as important as national also. I vote everytime the poles are open.

allhans
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allhans 02/26/12 - 02:39 pm
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Hey now! Going from WBBQ car

Hey now! Going from WBBQ car TWO all the way to mayor is a big deal.
(That doesn't mean I will buy the book.)

c6murphy
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c6murphy 02/26/12 - 04:22 pm
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Seems like the white monied

Seems like the white monied interest are losing their clout and fighting tooth and nail to keep it. Too bad they they have treated the city like a personal piggy bank for so long, half doing things, like a ballpark wedged between a cemetery, a dog pound and a housing project with no parking. Or a parking garage built on air because the land under it belongs to the monied interest that had other plans for it, but used the garage to build it for them. Or the Civic Center that, if memory serves, was built on useless land once owned by the most powerful bank in town. Or hold on to Daniel field when it is just the personal play ground of the rich, the rest of us can brave an airport smaller than most other cities this size, next to a waste water treatment plant. Face it, nothing is built in Augusta that is built with the citizens in mind, everything is built on the cheap, a court house with no parking for one, yet the price is always high. It makes you laugh out loud as anyone with any sense has moved out of the fair city. You are left with nothing but those that can't afford to move and the entitled crowd now, and they vote, and they are not going to vote for the monied interests, so they turn to their friends in Atlanta to save them.
I suggest you change the name of the city to South Detroit. Because like Detroit, eventually it is going to end up in state hands.

crkgrdn
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crkgrdn 02/26/12 - 09:40 pm
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Economically, the change to

Economically, the change to July to November makes good sense. But, were commissioners consulted?

When I moved to Augusta the first time in 1964 you could really say that Augusta had not much going on. But today Augusta has so much going on and so much promise.

That we have leaders that recognize the potential of the combination of two great enterprises-nuclear power and information technology-is commendable.

As for Mayor Bob's novel, let's give it a look. Indeed Augustans were most unhappy with Erskine Caldwell's "Tobacco Road" and how we have forgotten Louise Shivers novel, "Here to get my Baby out of Jail" and the film "Summer Heat."

I have lived in Europe and Asia and all over the United States, but Augusta has become my home of choice for many many good reasons.

Techfan
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Techfan 02/27/12 - 05:49 am
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River: That must be Sconyer's

River: That must be Sconyer's follow-up to his best selling, "Things I Learned While Sleeping".

Riverman1
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Riverman1 02/27/12 - 07:13 am
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Techfan, ha. I don't think

Techfan, ha. I don't think most people knew what any of the book titles were about. Heh.

Little Lamb
46080
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Little Lamb 02/27/12 - 08:49 am
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One little tidbit that is

One little tidbit that is overlooked in the voting thing: The General Assembly decreed (and the governor signed) that all consolidated governments hold all their non-partisan elections in July of even-numbered years; and the law became effective in 2011. Leave it up to the bone-headed Augusta Commission (along with a few Democrat members of the local delegation to the General Assembly) to say, “That law doesn't apply to us because we're spay-shul.” That is why state Rep. Barbara Sims felt compelled to write this new bill stating that the law does apply to Augusta/Richmond. If today's Democrats don't like the fact that Augusta/Richmond is a consolidated government, then they need to take it up with Charles Walker. They allow visitors at Estill.

Jane18
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Jane18 02/27/12 - 01:18 pm
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Me too, dichotomy and David

Me too, dichotomy and David Jennings!

c6murphy
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c6murphy 02/27/12 - 10:48 pm
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I am glad Augusta is

I am glad Augusta is someone's home of choice. Having lived in 8 states 12 cities and spent considerable time overseas it certainly isn't mine. I had the unfortunate luck of being born here and when I retired I wanted to return to my relatives. I was proud to say I was from Augusta as I lived in New England and saw their idea of taxes and discrimination. But when I returned in 2009 I was sorely disappointed. Nothing had changed in 30 years but the names, and some of those were still the same. The whites are still looking for there Mecca and the blacks for their revenge. The only thing the two communities have done together is to make Augusta a dispicable caricature of a Yankee version of a southern city. The so called civic leaders need to look at similar size cities and see what they do right. Why have a "regional" airport for a name. It denotes some vast area of rural or undeveloped area. Lexington, Ky wih a metro area only 75% of Augusta and within 70 miles of two international airports (Cincinnati and Louisville) has a beautiful airport and it has a name, Bluegrass. Not regional, Columbia has Metro, Toledo Express, but Augusta, why not just call it crop duster? You know the difference, they are not built in some far off corner of the city but are in places you want to go. Bluegrass is across the road from Keeneland, one of the premier horse tracks in America. Lexington also has an ACL minor league team. They built their stadium in a not so great part of town, but they cleaned up around it, it's call Appleby Field, you can see it rom a main artery into town, it has paved parking lots and restaurants, and it's attendance is double Augusta's. Instead of building it to barely meet league standards as Augusta, they built with a double AA club in mind. But Augusta, it ranks with Charleston, WV and other cities time has forgotten. Augusta is sitting quietly by, fighting itself while Athens is carting away the Medical College. It rants when the college hires a self promoter and starts demanding change. One thing you have to give a self promoter, they will build monuments to themselves, so let the guy build his monument. Take a look at a little college in Lakeland, Fl, 15years ago it was run down and about to close with only a few hundred students, they hired a self promoter, he doubled the size of the campus, it has 3000 students and ORU gave the school over 10million dollars to break the guys contract so he could lead ORU. But not Augusta, our guy will be run out of town. Augusta is run by a few for the benefit of a few. What is accomplished here is done inspite of instead of because of these civic leaders. This newspaper has done more than its fair share to make that so. The only thing I have ever witnessed the paper support that might cost a dime is something a related company of the newspaper might get its name on, manage or have part ownership. The civic center was continually opposed while being built, it was cut down in size until no major act would ever play it on a weekend. Even it was built on politically connected land. Augusta desperately needs leadership. But then that's just one man's opinion.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/28/12 - 09:02 am
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Why don't you tell us how you

Why don't you tell us how you really feel, Irish? And I agree with you about Hardie Davis. I thought he had promise when he was running for office. But he has been a great disappointment.

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