Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Apocalypse didn't happen, but 'fiscal cliff' might

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If you’re reading this, the world didn’t end Friday, as the ancient Mayans predicted. The poles didn’t shift and fling us all into space and to hell and back. I never thought it would. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, “If the Mayans were so smart, why have they all but disappeared from the face of the Earth?”

Now if we can just avoid that “fiscal cliff.” On the other hand, that might be the only way to stop the spending in Washington. The downside is it will stop it everywhere else, too.

“What this country needs is another Depression,” Daddy always said after observing the way the country was headed; i.e., the profligacy and ingratitude of people for what they had, especially we children. He’d launch into a description of the 1930s that always began with people wandering the country “starving to death and begging for food” and ended with what he got for Christ­mas as a boy, which was always “a toy tractor, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and a bag of raisins.”

He’s been dead for 24 years, and I wonder what he’d think about the world now with the police having to pepper-spray crowds rioting over $180 Air Jordan shoes.

POP QUIZ: What do the
apocalypse, the fiscal cliff
and the Augusta Commis­sion have in common?

A. We dread them.

B. We fear that sooner or later they’ll take everything we’ve got.

C. We keep waiting for them to do something but are glad when they don’t.

D. They could make a big mess.

E. All of the above

Answer: Coming next week if the Mayan calendar wasn’t off a day or two.

MUSICAL COMMISSION CHAIRS: OK, enough silliness. But wait, there’s more.

District 9 Augusta Commissioner-elect Marion Williams says Mayor Deke Copenhaver told Commissioner J.R. Hatney that he didn’t want to sit beside Williams at meetings.

Copenhaver said it wasn’t exactly like that. He said he jokingly told Hatney that years ago he developed a constant ringing in his left ear and thought sitting next to Williams might exacerbate it. And he has been considering changing the seating for a couple of years.

“However I do it, it will be completely fair and unbiased,” he said. “When we have a 22 percent poverty rate and are top in the state with child obesity and teen pregnancy, we’ve got a lot of bigger issues to concern ourselves with as opposed to worrying about seating arrangements.”

Williams is not taking this sitting down. He says the District 9 commissioner has traditionally sat to the mayor’s left.

“If you have a reason, I don’t have a problem with that,” he said. “But you don’t have a reason. I have a problem with that. I’ll extend the olive branch, but I’m elected by the people and know the rules. He has no authority to change the seating arrangements.”

HONORS ALL AROUND: The pastor who was supposed to give the invocation at last week’s commission meeting didn’t show up, so Williams, a Baptist minister, volunteered and prayed for God to continue to put love in our hearts to share.

Then several folks were honored, including outgoing Sheriff Ronnie Strength, who received a check to buy bulletproof vests for deputies and a handmade trophy from the Retired Military Police Association.

The outgoing commissioners were honored with plaques. The Augusta Christian football team was recognized for winning the state championship, and Lantz Lamback was recognized for his good showing in the 2012 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic games.

AND I THOUGHT I WAS BAD AT MATH: After that, and after a lot of talk, pro and con, about continuing the downtown Busi­ness Improvement District tax and Clean Augusta Downtown Initia­tive, there weren’t enough votes to renew it or keep it going for 60 days.

Commissioner Hat­ney voiced concern over laying initiative employees off right before Christmas.

“If you let folks go the day before Christmas, they don’t have no job,” he said. “That ain’t right.”

Commissioner Jerry Brig­ham objected to ending the program because 52 percent of the property owners had reportedly signed on to extend the tax.

“I did not know 49 percent would become a majority,” he said. “We are here to represent the majority of the citizens. … I think we don’t have much of a decision. We can either verify the signatures, or not. Otherwise, we’re going to take this whole system and just say, ‘You can come down here and be loud and protest, wear shirts, stand up, holler. And we’re going to do whatever the person who hollers the loudest says. But we don’t see the majority.’”

“I’m supporting the 48 percent,” said Com­mis­sioner Bill Lockett, which led Commissioner Joe Bowles to say, “I’m just glad to see Bill Lockett, a lifelong Democrat, is supporting Mitt Romney.”

‘BERCKMANS ROAD IS NOT BROKEN’: Doug Frohman, a Berckmans Road business owner, presented a petition with 600 signatures of people opposing the reconfiguration of Berckmans and proposed circle in front of Willow Creek subdivision.

“Why does this project take precedence over other projects that have been on hold?” he asked. “Who does this project help? Why do it when there are other projects in other districts that are more urgent?”

He accused Brigham, who represents that district, of throwing his constituents under the bus, a comment that didn’t sit well with Brigham and prompted the mayor to tell Frohman not to make personal attacks.

Westwick subdivision resident Marion Mosely said she’d spoken with people at various churches in Augusta and didn’t know “a single, solitary soul that was in favor of this project.”

Then the commission really got down to business and:

• Did not approve the Augusta Regional Airport Rescue Fire Fighting employment agreement. Lockett objected to some of the wording.

• Did not approve spending $991,561 to get the pedestrian bridge across Reynolds Street started. Mason said if it was necessary it should have been in the original contract.

• Did not approve a lease agreement with Vir­ginia Beach Golf Management to operate the municipal golf course, known as The Patch. Mason said the city could have gotten a better deal if it had spent available sales tax revenue to upgrade the course first.

• Approved naming the new sheriff’s administration building in honor of Strength, with Lockett voting no and Bowles abstaining.

FOOTLOOSE: Other big news last week was the swearing in of Sheriff Richard Roundtree.

“I pray we will savor this day because this day belongs to us,” he said to a crowd outside the John H. Ruf­fin Jr. Courthouse. What’s with this “us” stuff, Richard?

Roundtree will have an inaugural ball Jan. 4 at the Legends Club. He will have one fewer inaugural ball than the president of the United States. President Obama is only going to have two this year.

NIMBY: In the category of earth-shaking news were announcements in North Au­gusta of Project Jackson, a sports and entertainment center for the GreenJackets, and Cal Ripken Jr. selling the team.

North Augusta might get something else it hasn’t had before: controversy. Many attending Thursday’s public hearing, which lasted to around 11 p.m., were not happy campers.

BUT OCCIFER …: Last week, I called on my Face­book friends to contribute suggestions for Christmas presents for public officials. This week, I asked officials what they’d give people.

Commissioner Grady Smith: “I’d give this advice. The colors of Christmas are red and green, but be aware of the blue lights in the rear-view mirror. That will ruin a Christmas in a minute.”

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Little Lamb
49094
Points
Little Lamb 12/22/12 - 08:30 pm
3
1
Blue Light Christmas

I remember one special Christmas when all the lights I put on my Christmas tree were blue. There were other family traditional ornaments, as well, but all the lights were blue. It was neat! Why don't you try it some year?

Little Lamb
49094
Points
Little Lamb 12/22/12 - 08:35 pm
9
0
BID

Voting to terminate CADI by ending the BID tax downtown was the right thing to do. You'll never hear the backroom deals that Queen Margaret had to promise to get the last few petition signers to agree. It was dirty politics at its worst.

Remember that the petition for the BID tax is merely a recommendation to the commission. The commission has every authority to reject the recommendation.

And, by the way Rev. Hatney, the real Christmas has nothing to do with business. If the tax ends in December, then CADI employees need to look for work in January.

just an opinion
2932
Points
just an opinion 12/22/12 - 09:41 pm
7
0
"They don't have no job". ??

Exactly where did "Dr." Hatney earn his Ph.D?

justthefacts
25063
Points
justthefacts 12/22/12 - 10:13 pm
3
0
Mayans

Ah, the demise of the Mayans by Ms. Cooper is greatly exggerated. There are still millions still alive and kicking.

Conservative Man
5578
Points
Conservative Man 12/22/12 - 11:21 pm
8
0
RE: CADI.....

....Agree with LL....the petition was "dirty politics" as all indications are that some signatories don't own the properties signed for. Further, that some of these very same signatories owe back taxes....

As far as the CADI employees losing their jobs...

I would submit that if Margaret Woodard and Paul King did what they promised there would be no need to fire anyone...
It is obvious that they care more about keeping their source of funding intact than they do about CADI employees....

Little Lamb
49094
Points
Little Lamb 12/22/12 - 11:51 pm
7
0
Hatney

The Rev. doesn't have a Ph.D. degree. Instead, it's a doctor of divinity degree from one of those mail order firms. Anyway, he's a lame duck and we'll have Rev. Marion to kick around in these next two years.

seenitB4
97601
Points
seenitB4 12/23/12 - 05:28 am
2
1
Mayans

I can vouch for what JTF said...I have seen a few myself while vacationing in Cancun....
Kinda strange & a sight I won't forget are many ramshackle type houses with a big color tv sitting in the middle of it...

Riverman1
93737
Points
Riverman1 12/23/12 - 06:48 am
8
0
"Kinda strange & a sight I

"Kinda strange & a sight I won't forget are many ramshackle type houses with a big color tv sitting in the middle of it..."

I see that all the time right here in GA-Carolina.

Riverman1
93737
Points
Riverman1 12/23/12 - 07:14 am
10
0
Seating Controversy

It appears there is controversy with who sits where at Commission meetings. Deke doesn’t want to sit by Marion Williams. Marion is not sure Deke has that power. In my effort to always help, maybe they should all submit their preferences on a form:

1. I would prefer to sit in the... (Check one:)
___ Quiet section
___ Mumbling section

2. If mumbling, which category do you prefer?
(Indicate order of interest for mumbling:)
___ Evil cabal
___ Fred Russell
___ Privatizing EVERYTHING
___ General gossip
___ Specific gossip
___ Deke
___ Black music
___ White music
___ Asian music (Just for Wayne)
___ What others are wearing
___ Why they look awful
___ Presidential Election
___ Sex (Preference: I know they are all male…just want to see what they say)
Other:_______________________________

3. I want a seat located (Indicate order of
preference)
___ Near the exit
___ Reynolds Plantation
___ Near the bathroom
___ As far away from Deke as possible
___ As far away from Fred as possible
___ Near the free food
___ Where no one will notice me sleeping
___ Where I can get THE best view of pretty women reporters
___ Where the camera can’t catch me gawking at the women

Please do not place me anywhere near the
following people:
(Limit of 5; if you require more space, you may be in the wrong county)

Your name:_________________________________

Cabal Member or Not________________________

LillyfromtheMills
14315
Points
LillyfromtheMills 12/23/12 - 07:53 am
5
0
hahaha

This is going to be fun!

seenitB4
97601
Points
seenitB4 12/23/12 - 08:10 am
5
0
Sometimes you nail it!!

River did this am with the seating idea...lol

seenitB4
97601
Points
seenitB4 12/23/12 - 08:12 am
3
0
Thank you

I'll take general gossip....white music & near the exit please...

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 12/23/12 - 08:14 am
1
0
Riverman

You forgot Mary!

Riverman1
93737
Points
Riverman1 12/23/12 - 08:22 am
5
0
Omnomnom, yep, you're right.

Omnomnom, yep, you're right. I forgot about her. Well, I knew there was a reason for that block to check sexual preference (no, not that kind).

JRC2024
10491
Points
JRC2024 12/23/12 - 09:32 am
5
1
Mr. Hatney, get an English

Mr. Hatney, get an English grammar book. You need it if you talk like that in public. And who would want to sit next to Marion Williams with his objection and long diatribes on everything.

soapy_725
44121
Points
soapy_725 12/23/12 - 10:22 am
0
0
Children at play......mindless expensive play....
Unpublished

The ring master and his clowns are at it again and the <40% of ARC that pay taxes are being raped.

Added to the agenda with proactive school security measures should be proactive taxpayer rape prevention.

Little Lamb
49094
Points
Little Lamb 12/23/12 - 10:41 am
5
0
Success

Another successful vote at the last commission meeting was stopping the unnecessary covered walkway above Reynolds St. We certainly don't need that.

Gage Creed
19407
Points
Gage Creed 12/23/12 - 11:07 am
6
0
From a Sylvia Cooper piece in

From a Sylvia Cooper piece in June 2007...."Commissioner Joe Bowles suggested the hard drive, which an attorney has said is not public record, could be checked for tampering without examining the contents. Mr. Williams said that was the "dumbest thing" he'd heard in a long time and referred to Mr. Bowles as "boy."

"Don't call me boy," Mr. Bowles said before suggesting Mr. Williams pay his overdue property taxes."

Having Marion Williams back on the commission will be so refreshing.....Only thing missing will be Betty Beard!

Riverman1
93737
Points
Riverman1 12/24/12 - 09:34 am
3
0
I got the seating requests

I got the seating requests back and Deke wants to sit by Mary.

Little Lamb
49094
Points
Little Lamb 12/30/12 - 02:35 pm
2
0
Seating Chart

I could not find a hard news report on the Copenhaver/Williams commission seating controversy in the Chronicle search engine. Sylvia's column last week teased with it, and she fleshes is out a little today with her 2013 prediction of "stalemate." Did the Chronicle publish a story about Williams being upset about the mayor's notion of changing the seating next year? If not, why did they bury it? My guess is that they didn't want to embarrass Williams. The commission has been a laughingstock statewide many times, and a seating controversy would merely add fuel to the fire.

One fearless publication did find the seating controversy important. In the Dec. 20 - 26 number of The Metro Courier the entire front page was labeled The Commission Christmas Fight Card. The preliminary bouts were Joe Jackson vs. Aviation Commission and Bill Lockett vs. Patch Privatization. But the Main Event, right up under the masthead, was Rev. Marion Williams vs The Mayor. It seems that Williams is not pleased with Copenhaver's plan to move the District 9 commissioner's seat farther away from its traditional spot next to the mayor. Here is an excerpt:

Mayor Copenhaver is planning to change the seating arrangement of commissioners in Commission chambers – a move that has Williams crying foul. “Like me or not, I have been elected by the people. I wanted to know his reasoning for it, and (Copenhaver) said, ‘It was good.’ Well, if it was good, why hasn’t it been done before now?” Williams asked. Williams says the Mayor’s actions speak volumes. “I watch what people do, not what they say. All of the white commissioners, except for Corey Johnson, sit on his right. . . .

As if putting the story at the top of the front page wasn't enough, Courier publisher Barbara Gordon extrapolated the seating controversy to a mayoral snub against "black folk" in general in the lead editorial. Here are some excerpts:

. . . Copenhaver plans to switch up the seating arrangement – a move he says will “shake things up.” He suggests that the move is not one of ill will, but quite frankly, WE DON’T BELIEVE IT!!! The fact that the Mayor would “shake things up,” as he calls it, is not only an insult to Rev. Williams, it is an insult to the constituents Rev. Williams represents. In other words, the mostly black districts of Augusta. Currently, District 1 is the heartbeat of Augusta because it encompasses downtown Augusta and is predominantly black as is the county. That seat is at the Mayor’s right. The District 9 seat has always been at the left of the Mayor. Why is it that the Mayor wants to make this move all of a sudden? We know the truth. He doesn't want to sit next to District 1 commissioner-elect Bill Fennoy, who just ousted Matt Aitken and effectively ended the “Gang of Six.” And he certainly doesn’t want to sit next to Rev. Williams, who has been a thorn in the side of the citys shady politics.

Don’t that beat all?

Riverman1
93737
Points
Riverman1 12/30/12 - 07:12 pm
0
0
LL, it's Deke's personal

LL, it's Deke's personal Roberts' Rules of Order.

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