Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

City Ink: We must look back before we look ahead

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Janus, the mythological Roman god with two heads facing opposite directions, usually looks back on the old year and forward to make his predictions for the new year. But it was such an eventful year in Augusta politics he’s going to focus mainly on 2012 with only a glance toward 2013.

JANUS LOOKS BACK

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE YEAR: University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby and members of the Board of Regents came to town in January and announced that Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences would be joined into one institution of higher learning, with GHSU President Ricardo Azziz officiating.

They sprang the union on us like a shotgun wedding, and we had a lot of questions, such as “Who’s going to wear the pants in the family?” Now we know, and it won’t be ASU. In fact, there won’t even be an ASU.

There will only be GRU.

SCAM OF THE YEAR: Azziz forming a Branding Consolidation Work Team and authorizing a $45,500 local, state and national survey to find the best name for the New U when he’d already chosen Georgia Regents University and was lobbying the regents for it although it triggered a 97 percent negative response when it showed up on the list at the 11th hour. When outrage arose from students, alumni, faculty, employees and Georgians in general over the word “Augusta” not being in the name, Azziz and the Georgia Board of Regents said, “GRU You.”

MOST LOST CAUSE: “Save the A” campaign.

MOST TIMELY QUESTION OF THE YEAR: “What the hell is a regent?” – Augusta Commissioner Joe Bowles

QUOTE OF THE YEAR: “The name Regents is repulsive to me. It is not American. We don’t like rulers; we don’t like people who don’t listen to the will of the people. It’s like beating your head against that brick wall head of yours that nothing gets into.” – ASU Alumni Association member Catherine Rutland to Azziz during a forum

QUOTE THAT MADE THE WIRE: “Sending Lee Anderson to Washington would be like sending Honey Boo Boo up there.” – Former Augusta first lady Gwen Young, referring to 12th Congressional District candidate Lee Anderson

MOST VIVID QUOTE: “That’s a bunch of crap.” – Augusta Commissioner Corey Johnson when he heard that David Fry had been sentenced to five years’ probation after being charged with trying to bribe Johnson and Commissioner Alvin Mason to vote for the convention center parking deck

QUICKEST ABOUT FACE: Richmond County School Board Trustee Jack Padgett and Augusta commissioners Grady Smith and Jerry Brigham going to the state redistricting office in Atlanta to try to find an alternative to the map of commission and school board districts unanimously approved earlier by an ad hoc redistricting committee, of which they were members. Brigham, Smith and Padgett initially voted for the map with four majority white and six majority black districts, instead of one that maintained a 5-5 balance. But after getting a little feedback from their white constituents, they changed their minds.

Local legislative gridlock ensued over various proposed maps, and U.S. District Court Judge Randal Hall ended up drawing the final one.

BIGGEST LEGISLATIVE BACKFIRES: One was the state Senate Redistricting Committee’s drawing the 24th Senate District into Richmond County which added Republican Sen. Bill Jackson to the delegation. The move gave senators in the local delegation the upper hand in local legislation with two Republicans to one Democrat. Another move with unintended consequences was Rep. Barbara Sims’ bill that shifts the election date for consolidated cities and counties from November to July.

Both measures enraged Augusta’s Democrat lawmakers, who accused Sims and the Republicans of attempting to dilute the black vote in Augusta, and contributed to a big Democrat turnout and election of black candidates for sheriff, probate judge, State Court solicitor.

LUCKIEST POLITICAL CANDIDATE: Richmond County Sheriff -elect Richard Roundtree, who benefitted from a fired-up black electorate; the white vote being split between two white Democrat candidates in the primary election, Capt. Scott Peebles and Lt. Robbie Silas; and hundreds of Republican voters who’d crossed over to vote for Peebles not returning to vote in the run-off between him and Freddie Sanders.

SHERIFF RONNIE STRENGTH’S DISAPPOINTMENT AND PATTI STRENGTH’S VINDICATION: Peebles’ Endorsement of Roundtree after the run-off.

LAMEST DUCKS: The four outgoing Augusta commissioners for leaving a $4 mil­lion budget deficit for their successors to deal with.

MAYORS COALITION FOR MAKING GUNS ILLEGAL: Mayor Deke Copenhaver has taken a position for more gun control by signing a letter to President Obama from the Mayors Coalition Against Illegal Guns urging him to get high-capacity rifles and magazines off the streets.

BEST ACTOR AND ACTRESS: WGAC radio talk show host Austin Rhodes and WRDW News 12 anchor Meredith Anderson for their stunning performances in Love Letters, A.R. Gurney’s Pulitzer-nominated classic at Le Chat Noir on Dec. 21 and 22. No one, and I mean no one, could have given more captivating, funny, heart-wrenching performances than Austin as Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Meredith as Melissa Gardner . The play raised $4,000 for the theater and was so well received, there might be a repeat performance, possibly in February. Don’t miss it.

JANUS LOOKS FORWARD

A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: Former Mayor Bob Young will announce he’ll run for mayor again in 2014.

ANOTHER BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: Augusta Commissioner Alvin Mason will also announce for the mayor.

MOST COVETED JOURNALISTIC AWARD: Augusta Chronicle Staff Writer Steve Crawford will receive the McGregor Cleveland Award for his exposé of ineligible voters voting in Richmond County elections. As you might have read, McGregor, a West Highland terrier who died about two years ago, received a voter registration form this year. It was one of 5 million mailed in 27 states by the Voter Participation Center, which targets minorities and unmarried women for various clients, such as the NAACP.

STALEMATE: New Super District 9 Commissioner Marion Williams and Copenhaver will not come to terms over the mayor’s decision to rearrange commission seating. To ensure the seating will be fair and unbiased, the mayor will seat commissioners alphabetically, beginning with Mary Davis on the end to his far right and ending with Williams on the end to his far left. Williams will not agree to the change and will insist that the tradition of the Super District 9 commissioner sitting directly to the mayor’s left be upheld. He’ll refuse to sit on the end and will spend the next four years standing up.

THE BIGGEST LOCAL TAX INCREASE: Transportation sales tax.

ANOTHER TAX TO SOAK US: The rain tax.

Comments (37) Add comment
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Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/29/12 - 08:27 pm
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You Mean You Can't Trust Some People?

“SHERIFF RONNIE STRENGTH’S DISAPPOINTMENT AND PATTI STRENGTH’S VINDICATION: Peebles’ Endorsement of Roundtree after the run-off.”

What an accurate statement. But it’s not over yet. Roundtree shouldn’t think he’s becoming paranoid. “They” really are out to get him. Yeah, the same ones. They will endorse anyone they think can beat him. What happens in Vegas is sent to a safety deposit box in Augusta to be used when needed.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/29/12 - 08:32 pm
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Next Mayor Won't Be Young or White

Bob Young should run against John Barrow as a Democrat. He could beat him, but he will never be elected mayor again. The next mayor will be an old black person...and there's nothing wrong with that.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 12/29/12 - 10:32 pm
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Charges

Did the district attorney drop the domestic violence charges against Alvin Mason yet?

Patty-P
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Patty-P 12/29/12 - 10:34 pm
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Riverman you've made a

Riverman you've made a complete 180 from some time ago. You have made some very revealing statements about Roundtree in the past.

jwilliams
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jwilliams 12/29/12 - 11:40 pm
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Lockett and Mason

Hello Little Lamb this post is in response to your post referring to Lockett and Mason being “Two Faced”. Mr. Lockett and Mr. Mason did not contribute to the formation of a quorum; it was formed by Bowles, Jackson, Brigham, Gilfoyle, Aitken, Smith, and Deke. Yes Deke, although Deke cannot vote, he can contribute to the formation of a quorum. The commissioners that formed the quorum were hoping that none of the other commissioners would come to the meeting, which would give them a majority vote to add anything that they wanted to add to the agenda and have a unanimously vote to approve it; but thanks to Mr. Lockett and Mr. Mason for showing up to stop those plans. So you see Little Lamb Mr. Lockett and Mr. Mason truly did a “GREAT” job in reference to their constituents by stopping the “Reign of Terror” that has lasted throughout the 6 /4 era. Good riddance to Bowles, Brigham, and Aitken, and I hope that the MAJORITY of Augusta Richmond County will join me in making sure that as Janus looks forward, none of these men will be elected to anything ever again, especially not mayor. Thank you and Happy New Year.

rebellious
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rebellious 12/30/12 - 01:41 am
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Blather

So much yesterday's news... I find myself bored by Sylvia's column this week. Intrigue me, tease me! And I am not that much in the news to know, but for heavens sake, make me think!!!! Come on gurl, I wait for a week for this.....????

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 12/30/12 - 06:37 am
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Quorum

Thank you, jwilliams, for your clarification. I did not realize that the mayor counted toward the quorum tally. I appreciate Mason's and Lockett's efforts to fire Fred Russell. I just wonder why they have been so ineffective in forming coalitions to succeed.

I think it is shameful that the old commission even conducted business after the election and before the new commissioners were sworn in.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/30/12 - 07:05 am
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Patty-P

Patty-P said, "Riverman you've made a complete 180 from some time ago. You have made some very revealing statements about Roundtree in the past."

I assume you are saying I appear to support Roundtree more these days? I certainly wasn't a Roundtree supporter before he ran and in any of the elections. I supported Silas, was silent for the run-off against Peebles and supported Freddie in the general. Having said that, Roundtree won and I sincerely hope he does well and avoids the pitfalls that I see others digging for him.

Since the demographics of Augusta are predominantly low income black folks and they are the ones who supported him, he could be tremendously effective just as Reuben Greenberg was in Charleston. I encourage Tree to read about Chief Greenberg if he hasn't already.

Most of all he should be careful with the back slappers and hanger-ons who will get him in BIG trouble. We have already seen their attempts. I am not so naive that I don't know it hasn't gone on for decades on various levels, but he will be carefully scrutinized.

Patty-P
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Patty-P 12/30/12 - 08:24 am
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Thanks for that clarification

Thanks for that clarification River. I don't see any pitfalls for him, just hoping he is serious about diving in and cleaning the drug and crime infested streets up. I truly have an issue with his 'second chances' stance, perhaps he doesn't realize that the great majority of offenders have already been in the system for some time and have YET to learn a lesson. I don't know who the back-slappers are but they can only do to him what he is naive enough to let them. Let's hope he is smarter than that.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/30/12 - 09:02 am
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Love Letters

Congratulations to Meredith Anderson, Austin Rhodes and the Le Chat Noir volunteer workers for presenting Love Letters. It's a unique, minimalistic play with the two performers reading the letters in an austere set. But it's amazingly effective and has been performed in communities across the country to great accolades. You gain an understanding of the characters from their words.

I'd like to see a play based in the Internet age with e-mails and instant messages. If you think hand written letters, slowly passing back and forth are powerful, multiply that by 1000 and speed up the effect.

I see the play with the two actors at keyboards with monitors the audience can read as they go back and forth. For the audience, have them read aloud as they enter the words.

JRC2024
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JRC2024 12/30/12 - 09:08 am
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PattiP, I too hope he will

PattiP, I too hope he will try to clean up the streets of the low income areas where most of the crime happens. The good people that live in those areas are tired of it also. Being sheriff is a big job for a smart person and I hope he is up to it.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 12/30/12 - 09:19 am
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You all are still spouting campaign rhetoric...

The "second chances" non-sense was blown all out of proportion by Saunders against Sheriff Roundtree during the campaign. Anyone who thinks that Sheriff Richard Roundtree is not going to punish offenders is just not in reality. Anyone who thinks negative campaign propaganda using out of context quotes is worthy of serious consideration needs to wake up and read the election results.

Also, Riverman1, you comments about Las Vegas are also off base, WAY off base. I am not sure why you have such a personal problem with Lewis Blanchard but get over it. I have known him on a personal level for over 20 years and he is a good man and his company is a good corporate citizen of our community. Your off base innuendos serve no purpose except to make things look bad that are not and to bring into question the integrity of people who do not deserve it.

And one last note, I have run into lots of white folks who say things like "Roundtree won't last a year before he is indicted.." ... "I'm not worried about Roundtree, he won't be there long.." .. wishful thinking.

What are they REALLY saying? I guess that is what they expect of "them" huh?

Brad

Patty-P
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Patty-P 12/30/12 - 09:38 am
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Brad

I have seen and heard SEVERAL interviews where Roundtree states he supports 2nd chances and alternatives to incarceration. I just happen to NOT agree with him. The rest of you can fall in line with that philosophy if you'd like. Hopefully you or your loved ones won't fall victim to one of his 2nd chancers.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/30/12 - 09:47 am
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Sylvia brought up Roundtree going to Vegas

Brad, Sylvia brought up Roundtree going to Vegas with Blanchard in a past column, not me. Then she said Blanchard would be named a captain with the RCSO. Aren't the events for Tree being held in Blanchard's club? Get real is all I'm saying. Did Tree pay for his own trip when he is trying to pay off taxes and so on? By the way, you supported Peebles previously, too, with flowery praise. That bandwagon is only so big you know. I sincerely hope Tree does well and I will do everything I can to support him and INFORM him of the dangers he faces without making room for myself on the bandwagon. I think he KNOWS that.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/30/12 - 09:50 am
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Tell the Truth

"The "second chances" non-sense was blown all out of proportion by Saunders against Sheriff Roundtree during the campaign."

Sanders (not Saunders) did not blow anything out of proportion as evidenced by Patty-P's remarks. Tree should be aware that stance was not taken kindly by a large segment of the county, black and white. Instead of attacking those who point out problems, try telling him the truth.

bushwhacker
39
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bushwhacker 12/30/12 - 10:39 am
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“SHERIFF RONNIE STRENGTH’S DISAPPOINTMENT

He should have backed his party.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 12/30/12 - 11:13 am
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RM1...Patty-P

You all keep believing that Sheriff Roundtree stands for not arresting criminals...geese. By the way, it is not his job to punish the criminals only to arrest them and detain them until the courts decide what to do.

Also, RM1, you are the one who made the comments today about the Las Vegas trip and alluded to someone having blackmail goods from the trip right? Stand by your innuendo and clarify please, I happen to know the details of the trip, you only THINK you do.

Again, what is your beef with Lewis? He is a law enforcement officer and has been for more than 20 years. He is a successful businessman on many levels. he pays his taxes and supports our town. What is your beef?

And yes, I was a solid supporter of Scott Peebles, I have known him for many years and he has always been a first class guy. When he lost Roundtree's platform matched his almost exactly and Sanders' did not.

IN fact, Sanders said nothing was wrong in RC and that he would continue Ronnie's programs, methods and would not change much. He has not been in uniform in almost 25 years. Hence he was soundly defeated not even carrying the entire Republican vote. So looks like I was not the only one who saw that Roundtree was the best choice by far.

Patty-P, if you think that what you read here is the way it is, look for all those truthful TEE Center articles that were in the paper critical of the contract process. Oh wait, they are not here.

There is nothing 100% unbiased and truthful anywhere.

allhans
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allhans 12/30/12 - 11:31 am
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If Peebles had won there

If Peebles had won there would be no questions....

omnomnom
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omnomnom 12/30/12 - 12:02 pm
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"I have seen and heard

"I have seen and heard SEVERAL interviews where Roundtree states he supports 2nd chances and alternatives to incarceration. I just happen to NOT agree with him. "

then ya'll should take issue with Georgia's corrections reform bill. signed into law by Governor Nathan (R) Deal earlier this year. It takes effect January 1st 2013.

When Roundtree gets into office his policy/stance will simply be UPHOLDING THE LAW.

countyman
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countyman 12/30/12 - 12:35 pm
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5
How are the demographics of

How are the demographics of Augusta mostly low income black people??

The 2010 median income(2010 census) of Richmond County is higher than every large city in the state(Columbus, Macon, Athens), and only slightly lower than Savannah. Fulton County(Atlanta) is the only county who had a little separation.

The median income of Richmond County is similar to Greenville, Charleston, and Richland Counties.. Are Columbia, Greenville, & Charleston mostly low income black people?

Apple, Costco, Pandora, Jared Galleria, PF Changs, etc only have locations in metro Atlanta, and Augusta. There's no way that opinion of Augusta's demographics is correct.

Patty-P
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Patty-P 12/30/12 - 12:59 pm
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Omnomom and Brad

There are concrete REASONS why I keep referring to the 2nd chance issue. I do know he is SUPPOSED to uphold the law, but sometimes those in authority will bypass what is written and do something totally different. He may or may not do such a thing, but if he feels that crooks should have alternatives I'm simply saying I don't agree. Period. It is what it is and we'll see how things go as time passes. I'm just wondering how the school secretary was able to avoid jail time for such a huge whopping sum of money that she stole. Weird. That was beyond felony theft.

Patty-P
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Patty-P 12/30/12 - 01:00 pm
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lol

Hi Countyman. Happy Sunday to you.

Patty-P
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Patty-P 12/30/12 - 01:11 pm
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"I'll put serial killers in

"I'll put serial killers in jail, I'll put murderers in jail because they are violent people in this county, but again, there are also people within this county, within in this system, and life itself that deserve second chances," said Roundtree.
http://www2.nbc26.tv/news/2012/nov/02/both-richmond-co-sheriff-candidate...

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/30/12 - 01:13 pm
3
1
Well, it's not real bad, but

Well, it's not real bad, but there are 55 counties in Georgia with a higher per capita income than Richmond County. Columbia County only has 6 counties ranked higher. Chatham, Charleston, Greenville and Richland Counties are higher also, but not too much.
http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/countypcirank.htm

seenitB4
97020
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seenitB4 12/30/12 - 02:07 pm
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Brad my dear

Today my opinion of YOUR opinions changed a lot....

Freddie would have made a GREAT Sheriff.....yes better than Roundtree....& that has NOTHING to do with race.....what River & patty are saying is true....Rtee did talk about 2nd chances over & over...& keep him mind he REFUSED & didn't try to debate with Sanders...why do you think THAT happened...GEEZ

You really surprise me sometimes...

seenitB4
97020
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seenitB4 12/30/12 - 02:09 pm
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About outgoing Strength

We better hope & pray we see the same integrity that we saw with Strength...

seenitB4
97020
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seenitB4 12/30/12 - 02:12 pm
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Dud duh duh

We all know why the vote went the way it did.....& so do you Brad..

If Freddie & Rtree had been running in Columbia we know how the vote would go there too!!!!!

seenitB4
97020
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seenitB4 12/30/12 - 02:17 pm
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The reason I need a break

Is right here on these posts....SOME think they know everything about Augusta....but really don't KNOW SQUAT!!

Brad...You don't know Freddie Sanders either...

Patty-P
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Patty-P 12/30/12 - 02:24 pm
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I really wasn't aware that

I really wasn't aware that Brad knew Peebles that well either.

seenitB4
97020
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seenitB4 12/30/12 - 02:28 pm
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Bluff & Fluff

THAT is what we see a lot of in Augusta politics...& on here also....gotta go now...keep up the good posts patty......you are so right about crime in Richmond county....& I know you just want some changes & it doesn't matter who gets the job done.....goodluck.♥

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