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.


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.


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.


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.


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Riverman1 12/30/12 - 06:47 pm
Brad, Tell Us All About It

Brad, you are trying desperately hard to prove yourself to the boys. Just keep running out long and hope they will throw you the ball one of these days.

I have no personal grudges against anyone beyond the facts of what they do. You said, “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.”

Sylvia said today that Patti Strength was vindicated and Ronnie was disappointed with Peebles endorsement of Tree. She has also said in the past that Tree went to Vegas with Blanchard and that Blanchard would be appointed a captain in the RCSO. By the way, you are the one who brought up Blanchard’s name today…but keep running long. Yeah, you have known “Lewis” since high school when you were the “political activist,” ha, and he was the school safety officer.

My innuendo, to be specific, was a metaphor and means don’t owe anyone favors. If you think people are being nice to you for no reason, you will one day be reminded of the favors. If you want to go into the Vegas trip that you “know the details of” go ahead and enlighten us about the details of the Vegas trip of Tree and Blanchard. This should be fun.

Can I assume they are simply such good friends they just decided to fly out there together, each paying his own way and other expenses? What’s amazing about their newly found connection is Blanchard was backing Peebles against Tree in a bitter campaign, not long before. When we get into the particulars of the trip, I hope they remember you are the one who wanted to get it all into print and not let what happened in Vegas stay in Vegas. So go ahead, Brad, and tell us about the trip. I’m waiting.

Riverman1 12/30/12 - 06:53 pm
Anyone Remember This?

I want to remind everyone of something. When Charles Walker was bargaining with the Feds over the charges and sentencing at the end of his trial, the fact his daughter had accepted a few hundred dollars and hadn't declared it on her taxes was brought up by the Feds. Walker agreed to certain things in return for them not prosecuting his daughter. It doesn't take much to get in trouble with the Feds.

Riverman1 12/30/12 - 08:04 pm
Seating Arrangement...Again

Mayor Copenhaver apparently didn’t use my seating questionnaire last week and has come up with his own seating arrangement system. He does it alphabetically, right to left. I wonder what rules of order book he found that in? What kind of list in the western hemisphere starts on the right? Will he read motions from bottom to top, right to left, Chinese style?

Or is Deke just making up things to make sure Marion Williams and others he doesn’t like are sitting away from him? Should we label the walls with signs to indicate who sits where? Radicals here and conservatives there with Deke under the “No Preference” sign?

Maybe Deke should also have the entire dais made bigger so the Commissioners can spread out real far, in other words, not near Deke. Deke could stretch the thing out so far on that end where he wants Marion to sit that it would turn back in like a circle with Marion all alone facing the other Commissioners and Deke.

But I can see how all this could get out of hand. What if someone decides Deke shouldn’t sit where he does? What if Marion gets there early and takes Deke’s seat? (And you know he would do that in a New York minute.)

Maybe they should take a clue from the Augusta National and make them all bring those little armless folding canvas seats. Just set your seat up anywhere you want.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 12/30/12 - 09:41 pm
Place Holders

You know how when you go to a formal banquet and they've got those little name tags set out on the table to tell you where to sit? Well, Deke could just tell Lena Bonner, clerk of commission, to randomly place the name tags up there each meeting. That way they never know who they're going to sit beside.

HenryWalker3rd 12/30/12 - 11:16 pm
Doesn't South Carolina have a

Doesn't South Carolina have a "second chance" rule......called PTI???

Get off Roundtree's ___________.

HenryWalker3rd 12/30/12 - 11:18 pm
Seating Arrangement

Do the Augusta commissioners not realize that they are the laughing stock of this state, for situations like this???

Patty-P 12/31/12 - 12:01 am
Henry Walker

Sure they do:
...PTI is a Diversionary Program designed for first-time offenders of non-violent crimes. This system allows the defendant to be diverted from court and enter into a program consisting of counseling and guidance, community service work, and restitution. Successful completion of the program requirements will allow the defendant's arrest record to be expunged (destroyed). The goal of this program is to give first-time offenders a second chance. Offenders may participate in this program only one time...

First offenders, not REPEAT OFFENDERS. And the person MUST PAY RESTITUTION. Or better yet, they should first be arrested and charged. Geez, I've seen cases where the person wasn't even ARRESTED. I'm not on Roundtree's ______. Again, and I've said this numerous times, I DO NOT AGREE WITH HIS STANCE. Simply because I've not seen much success thus far. Too much help for the criminals, NOTHING for the victim.

And by the way, burglary and armed robbery DO NOT QUALIFY as a non-violent crime (amongst many others).

corgimom 12/31/12 - 09:47 am
Median family income not a good indicator

"Are Columbia, Greenville, & Charleston mostly low income black people?"

Median family income is not a good indicator, that just tells you half of the families are above or below a certain number, per capita income is a more accurate measure.

Per capita income
Augusta-Richmond County $20,393
Columbia SC $24,603
Greenwood SC $26,412
Charleston SC $29,738
State of SC $23,854
State of GA $25,383

All figures from the 2010 census. Augusta has a high poverty rate- nearly 1 out of 4 residents live below the poverty level- and while Countyman may not like that, it's the truth. Augusta is a relatively poor city.

Riverman1 01/02/13 - 06:25 pm
Roundtree Drivers?

Brad, it looks like someone at the RCSO is telling the radio guy which officers are assigned to work with Roundtree. Not a good start for Roundtree. He really needs to concentrate on being careful.

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