Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

City Ink: Impasse over naming of public building seemily averted

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The good news in Augusta politics this week is that another potential racial impasse over naming an Augusta public building seems to have been averted.



Augusta Commission member Joe Jackson thought it would be a good idea to ask his colleagues to talk about naming the new sheriff’s administration building after retiring Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength. So Jackson put his proposal on next week’s public safety committee agenda before discussing it with everyone. Even Strength didn’t know. So when the agenda came out last week, commissioners were caught off-guard. Commissioner Bill Lockett said they were moving too fast and that the board needed a protocol for naming public buildings after individuals.

“Protocol?” Jackson snorted. “You don’t need a protocol to wipe your nose, but you do it anyway.”

And Commissioner Corey Johnson, who initially agreed to vote for Jackson’s agenda item, unexpectedly asked him to remove it because members of the local legislative delegation, including Rep. Wayne Howard, said they were moving too fast and needed to slow down and wait for Strength to leave office. At that, Jackson blew a gasket and told Johnson that the real reason they wanted to slow down was racial and that he’d bring it into the open.

“I don’t mind playing the freaking race card because it will show the true colors of this commission because you have six people who love Ronnie Strength,” Jackson said. “If you really want it to be about race, I can make it about race.

“And what has our delegation done for Richmond County except House Bill 277, the transportation act?” Jackson added.

Jackson acknowledged he should have talked to each commissioner about his proposal – and meant to – but didn’t because he went out of town on a family matter.

“But we’re all guilty of putting things on the agenda without consensus,” he said. “For example, Bill Lockett has something on Monday’s agenda about making Veterans Day a paid holiday for city employees. He didn’t call everybody about that.”

Actually, Jackson said, he thought his colleagues would have called and congratulated him for the idea to name the building after Strength. Instead he had to spend hours on the phone Friday calling them. But he now has commitments from a majority, including Commissioner Alvin Mason and Johnson, who wants Jackson’s support for his campaign to be mayor pro tem next year.

“You can’t say anything bad about Ronnie,” Jackson said. “He has touched so many lives, including the lives of every commissioner in one way or another.”

A PACKAGE DEAL OR NO DEAL: Rumor has it that City Administrator Fred Russell and Procurement Director Geri Sams will be fired at the Dec. 18 commission meeting, but don’t believe it until you see it.

Russell survived two firing attempts last year led by Mason and Lockett. He could be fired at the upcoming last meeting but probably won’t be unless a motion to fire both is made by a black commissioner.

A majority of white commissioners, dissatisfied with Sams, don’t trust their black colleagues to actually vote to fire her or not to hire her back later. They also have questions about what they’ll do with no administrator and four new commissioners coming aboard in January. Commissioner-elect Marion Williams is already lobbying to save Sams’ job and promising to raise a stink because, he says, nobody has shown she’s done anything wrong.

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS RUN AMOK: Russell spoke at the dedication of a historical marker in Augusta on Friday honoring a Civil War general who was instrumental in defeating the Confederacy. The monument, erected by the Georgia Historical Society, honors Union Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs, who lived in Augusta as a child. It is one of 150 being erected across the state to tell lesser-known stories of the Civil War.

Gen. Meigs was a staunch Union supporter and quartermaster general. And according to the Arlington National Cemetery Web site, “Some said the war could not have been won without him. His intensity was fueled by a growing hatred of the Confederacy, an emotion that led him to place Arlington National Cemetery on the Virginia estate of the South’s leading general, Robert E. Lee.”

I wondered why Russell got that particular speaking assignment, so I called and he said there was nobody else around at City Hall to do it, which is hardly surprising if you know what I mean.

A-HUNTING HE WILL GO: More than 100 VIPs attended Strength’s retirement reception at Rodger Giles’ beautiful Milledge Road home last week. Hosting the gala were Jim Bennett, Ann Boardman, Clay Boardman, Pete Caye, Superior Court Judge Danny Craig, Jeff Hadden, Joey Hadden, Jim Hull, Pat Johannsen, E.G. Meybohm, Dr. Logan Nalley, Robert Osborne, Chief Judge of the Augusta Judicial Circuit Carlisle Overstreet, Larry Sconyers, Randy Smith, Barry Storey and Donnie Thompson.

Strength said he was honored by the turnout of so many great people. The hosts and guests showed their gratitude to the sheriff for his 36 years of service to the county by presenting him with a customized hunting golf car, complete with gun racks, winch and off-road wheels.

“They couldn’t have given me anything I wanted more,” Strength said. “It was such an honor for so many great people to turn out.”

WILL IT BE EDUCATIONAL, TELL-ALL OR BOTH? Merle Temple, who was sentenced to eight years in federal prison in 2006 for helping former state school Superintendent Linda Schrenko funnel federal money set aside for educational services into her 2002 gubernatorial campaign, is out of prison, married and living in Tupelo, Miss. Temple, who was Schrenko’s deputy superintendent and paramour, is writing a book and expects to be in the Augusta area next spring.

IT’S ABOUT THE CHILDREN AND A CHIMP: It was my good fortune to be invited to the Augusta Partnership for Children Inc.’s dinner Thursday to see Ivy Elam and Brian Mulherin receive this year’s Visionary Awards. It also was my good fortune to be seated beside Mason at the table with Frances and Gen. Robert Cutting, the retired commander of Eisenhower Hospital; David and Meryl Alalof, the chairman of the 2012 Augusta State University fundraising campaign; Estelle and Byron Duncan, the retired director of the Jefferson County Department of Family and Children’s Services; and Corinne and Kitty Curtis, the owners of Platt’s Funeral Home.

Mason said his mother, Hazel Sturdivant, is recovering from shoulder replacement surgery. He also said he’s seriously considering a run for mayor in 2014 and expects to make up his mind early next year.

Award recipient Elam made history in 2010 by becoming the first black female president and market manager for Clear Channel Augusta. Under her leadership Clear Channel won the CCME Market Performance Award in 2011, and Augusta is consistently one of the top five markets in the Southeast Region.

Mulherin has been involved in too many community endeavors to name and has received dozens of awards for his volunteer work, such as the Augusta Exchange Club’s 2011 Golden Deeds award. His signature sense of humor was on display when he went up to receive his award Thursday.

“One day a police officer in Atlanta found a little chimpanzee on the street, so he took it by the hand and walked it into the station house and up to the desk sergeant and said, ‘I found this chimpanzee on the street. What should I do with him?’ The desk sergeant said, ‘Take him to the zoo.’

“The next day the policeman came in still holding the chimpanzee’s hand, and the desk sergeant said, ‘I thought I told you to take that chimpanzee to the zoo.’ The policeman said, ‘I did, and we had such a good time, this afternoon we’re going to Six Flags.’ ”

Comments (29) Add comment
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Conservative Man
5578
Points
Conservative Man 12/08/12 - 07:29 pm
10
0
Russell/Sams....

....Let's hope the packaged deal stands....

.. Augusta will be better off with both gone......

....Having said that...No mention of the Aitken shellacking?.....

Riverman1
94467
Points
Riverman1 12/08/12 - 08:18 pm
8
0
Alvin Mason

On the radio Alvin Mason said the disagreement with Jackson about naming the building after Strength was not racial. He said the only ones mentioning race were bloggers on the Chronicle under the story. In other words, us. It looks like Joe Jackson didn't get the message. In any case, it appears Mason will support naming the building after Ronnie Strength.

just an opinion
2951
Points
just an opinion 12/08/12 - 08:19 pm
15
2
Marion Williams

Marion Williams is a perfect example of what the people are like who elected him. They thrive on the race baiting negative energy that is holding this once great city down. And they will win. We are probably looking at the last tax paying, working class, community minded generation to stick around. It's been happening since the 1980's one neighborhood at a time.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 12/08/12 - 08:55 pm
12
0
How can the commissioners be Racial?

We all know they can change their color and spots quicker than a Chameleon given an ill wind.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 12/08/12 - 09:14 pm
15
0
Name me 1 reason other than the mistake

his mother made of having him here in the South on Broad St., that justifies any honorable historical mention?

Union Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs was a northerner. Who fought the south in a cold blooded vicious manner. I would like to know by who, and how he was nominated for selection? It is almost like some Uber-PC member of the board wanted to stick it to the Southerners before getting fired.

BTW: It is fitting that Fred Russell did the honors.
Many of us feel he shares a commonality with Union Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs, regarding the overall outcome of their activities concerning Augusta's surrounding areas and their outcome.

dichotomy
37683
Points
dichotomy 12/08/12 - 11:13 pm
18
2
'Commissioner-elect Marion

'Commissioner-elect Marion Williams is already lobbying to save Sams’ job and promising to raise a stink "

Stink is about all Marion Williams is good for. He used to be good as a joke but we've got plenty of jokes on the commission nowadays. One of them wants to be mayor. Of course, under our Consolidation Charter, it really doesn't matter who the mayor is. It's like the least important job in the world. I'm sure if Mason gets to be mayor he will blow a lot of hot air but that's about all our mayor has the power to do.

Of course Williams wants to protect Geri Sams. She is black. If she was white and had been showing as much racial preference in procurement actions she would have been gone years ago.

Little Lamb
49343
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Little Lamb 12/08/12 - 11:30 pm
12
0
Back in the day

I recall that Commissioners Alvin Mason and William Lockett said on the record in commission session that they did not and could not trust Fred (What, me worry?) Russell. Russell has disciplinary sanctions in his personnel file. There should easily be six or more votes to fire him, and Geri Sams should be in the same package deal.

Both of these scalawags (Russell and Sams) have enough misdoings to justify firing them with cause, and therefore denying them the golden parachutes they so greedily covet (def. covet — desiring that which belongs to someone else, i.e., the taxpayer).

Little Lamb
49343
Points
Little Lamb 12/08/12 - 11:10 pm
8
1
I know it's a done deal, but . .

Instead of naming the new law enforcement center by commission resolution, let us instead get some money out of it. The commission should open up a bidding process to let private citizens or businesses pay to name the law enforcement center. They should not sell the naming rights, but instead lease them. I propose a ten-year lease (non-renewable) in which the winning bidder makes annual payments into the city general fund. That should general enough money to make the proposed stormwater tax unnecessary.

404Law
226
Points
404Law 12/09/12 - 01:43 am
5
18
Here we go with the race stuff again...

Geez. Let not a 'black commissioner' disagree with or vote against a proposal put forward by a 'white commissioner'. Tantamount to 'black on white' crime, eh...and we know the sentencing disparities when that happens (vs. white on black crime). The AC seems to be following suit in their 'execution' of 'black commissioners.'

Importantly, the AC will pick one 'black commissioner' to support this term...and we all know it will be your man Corey Johnson...The AC will portray Corey as the most agreeable and wisest of the 'black commissioners' - you know, "the one that we/AC can trust.' It will be the only way that the AC will be able to balance its bias against the other 'black commissioners.' Balanced coverage in a CNN (Chicken Noodle Network) kind of way.

First up...mayor pro tem...any rational being knows that Lockett is the most qualified on the Commission...but that ain't going to happen because the AC needs a wedge issue to kick off Year 2013...And 'black commissioner on black commissioner' crime will sell copy.

Go forth AC! You make me proud.

404Law
226
Points
404Law 12/09/12 - 02:06 am
0
20
Something for Sylvia to think about...

If I know you, then I suspect you are not the type of person who reflects and reads previous columns you've written. I also understand that you don't read these comments. Then again, maybe I don't know you at all.

Nonetheless, some advice to you: A few of us believe that 'eternal life' is the memory that people have of you and your work once we return to the Earth. What they say about you after you're gone? Do they laugh and reflect on your work with admiration and contentment? Or, do they read your work 5, 10, 20 years from now and simply lower their heads in disappointment and embarrassment. Do you really want people's memory of you to be this stuff that you publish on a weekly basis?

Each week, you have the opportunity to educate tens of thousands of readers who are thirsty for critical analysis and reflection (in a digestible way, perhaps through humor, stories, satire). But the energy that you put forward in these columns is so destructive and negative, especially when you write about race. It's stiff and inflamed. It lacks nuance and sophistication.

It's almost as if you are intent on destroying the character of men -- black men who have sacrificed time with their family and their profession to serve this imperfect city. Sure, they may have their comical errors. We all do. But when you write about it, there is just a meanness to it that suggests something more than a Sunday morning read.

Sylvia, I just hope that when people reflect on your work that they somehow find the comedy in this tragic writing.

Gage Creed
19483
Points
Gage Creed 12/09/12 - 02:45 am
6
2
incredible...to believe that

incredible...to believe that there are those that profess that the "comedy" of errors should not be shown the light of day...706realism

corgimom
38808
Points
corgimom 12/09/12 - 04:55 am
12
1
404 Law, by all means, you

404 Law, by all means, you should write a column with nuance and sophistication. In the meantime, perhaps you should not torture yourself with reading Sylvia's column, since you find it so repugnant. You must not have been around when Margaret Twiggs wrote her articles, Sylvia is a welcome change from Margaret.

Riverman1
94467
Points
Riverman1 12/09/12 - 06:44 am
12
1
Memories, Keep Cracked and Faded Photos

For 404Law, I can’t remember what I read, or wrote for that matter, five minutes ago and you want Sylvia to write something you can remember 20 years from now? Maybe the blame is with our perception and memory and not on what’s written. They say fish oil helps the brain.

Riverman1
94467
Points
Riverman1 12/09/12 - 06:46 am
5
1
401Law, well, to give you credit

401Law, well, to give you credit where credit is due, your 1:42AM comment was pretty accurate.

avidreader
3572
Points
avidreader 12/09/12 - 07:38 am
1
5
The Strength Building?

I agree with Mr. Lockett. Let's hold off. Think of the emabarrassment if something concerning character went awry in the future. And don't say it CAN'T HAPPEN! Remember: Joe Paterno. Let's just hope there are no scandalous skeletons in Mr. Strength's closet. One never knows! He's been a politician for a lot of years.

Riverman1
94467
Points
Riverman1 12/09/12 - 07:53 am
7
1
Plenty of Things to Name or Rename

Look, if we can name the detention center after Charlie Webster, we can name this building after Ronnie Strength. There will be something left to name after Richard Roundtree. If Barack Obama can get a Nobel Prize after two weeks in office, I have no doubt we can find something to name after Roundtree, the first black sheriff, a year or so from now.

Truth Matters
8105
Points
Truth Matters 12/09/12 - 08:55 am
2
5
Strength

I am still trying to figure out how sheriff-elect Roundtree, who has not yet been sworn in, has become germane in the conversation about naming a building for Sheriff Strength. As I read it the suggestion from the commissioner was that the building be named for the out going sheriff. Now people have made the leap that the only reason that some commissioners asked to slow down has to do with Roundtree. I think the problem lies within the people on this page, not with the request or the hesitancy by some commissioners.

It's called projecting.....

Truth Matters
8105
Points
Truth Matters 12/09/12 - 08:59 am
4
1
404Law

I think Law has a point. I am suspect at the people who don't like division along racial lines, but are the first to implicate race as a factor when people disagree. And don't tell me what other people did in the past. This is now! In the words of Stephen Covey, 7 Habits....the only way to stop playing games is to stop it!

seenitB4
98779
Points
seenitB4 12/09/12 - 09:02 am
4
2
I will PROJECT too

I say name it after Freddie Sanders....he was a real gentleman throughout this election...after all he was the 1st to be defeated by a black man for Sheriff in Richmond county....naaah just joking here...I like The Strength Building & I would bet Freddie does too!!

Bulldog
1333
Points
Bulldog 12/09/12 - 09:12 am
5
0
Fred has to good

It's been far too long! He has to go!

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 12/09/12 - 09:22 am
3
1
404Law Crime Statistics

Under President Obama Administration, The Dept Of Justice lead by Eric Holder (Appointed by President O) compiles national crime data. http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/data/table_43.html

I implore you read for yourself, why more of our fellow black Americas are convicted of crimes.

Expect more of someone and you generally get more.

Currently I feel it is a problem that is NOT being properly addressed, likely due to well meaning Liberals and PC clowns.
Too many of which just want get in front of the media for a sound bite.

seenitB4
98779
Points
seenitB4 12/09/12 - 09:26 am
3
0
Writing a book...LOL

If ole Merle Temple can write a book weeel many on here could too....yall would love it.....if they open up with the stories that is.....cause ....what cha see ain't always ain't always the full story....:)

404Law
226
Points
404Law 12/09/12 - 09:27 am
2
5
Curtain Call

You know, I was actually giving the AC (and Sylvia) the benefit of the doubt when I called it a 'sentencing disparity' rather than 'sentencing discrimination.' Perhaps you can look that up too?

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 12/09/12 - 10:17 am
6
0
Name it after Ronnie

Name it after Ronnie Strength. He has served the community for 36 years with excellence.

justthefacts
25501
Points
justthefacts 12/09/12 - 10:47 am
7
0
Whatever

Whether it is sentencing disparity or sentencing discrimination, it is driven by money, not race.

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 12/09/12 - 10:50 am
5
1
O. J. Simpson.

O. J. Simpson.

Conservative Man
5578
Points
Conservative Man 12/09/12 - 12:51 pm
8
0
Interesting comments....

....on race and the Russell/Sams issue....

To some who may not know....it's common knowledge among city government "watchers" that the Russell/Sams situation has been at an impasse for months....White commissioners want Sams gone, black commissioners want Russell gone. But neither side was willing to take the hit within their own community by signing off on either.....

As I said in my first post....lets' hope for the sake of the city that whatever deal they've cobbled together stands....because both need to go....

This should NOT be a racial issue ,,this should be an issue of what's best for the city....period.

SemperParatus
3225
Points
SemperParatus 12/09/12 - 06:13 pm
2
1
Very Important People

I don't recognize some of the VIP's at the sheriff's party. Who are the Haddens?

F4therTime
4656
Points
F4therTime 12/09/12 - 09:06 pm
2
0
Alvin Mason?
Unpublished

Are you kidding me? He rarely goes to commission meetings. I used to think a lot of Mason but the last year he has been off his rocker. Time for him and a lot of the other commissioners to move on. Sadly, if he runs he will get elected based on one thing.

Someone Who Loves Augusta
6
Points
Someone Who Loves Augusta 12/10/12 - 11:34 am
3
0
Ronnie Strength's List of VIP's

As far as the Host for this event, they are usually the ones that step up to the plate when they are called upon to help the community. As far as the Hadden brothers, they are two of the nicest, most giving people I have ever had the pleasure to work with. They have built a great business that I believe was once their fathers business that they purchased from him. They are involved in just about every non-profit or benefit that I see something printed and as I am a volunteer on many boards in the community they are called on constantly and always help in some way. They are very humble, hard working and giving young men and the community is very fortunate to have people like them. They give back to the community not take from it and we need more people like them that want to to see Augusta move forward. If you want to know more about them you can find article after article in the back issues of the Chronicle acknowledging their accomplishments in the communty. I am a big fan of Phoenix Printing and the Haddens.

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