Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Augusta is a city of inconsistency

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Augusta is a city of incongruities. It’s the Garden City but has a lot of funky smells. It has a Kroc Center close to a crack center. It has Arts in the Heart and the Soul Bar. It’s a city on the move until the trains roll into town.

Almost everybody gets a government check. Some get two or three. It’s the sixth worst in the nation for bad credit, but one of the best for bankruptcy lawyers.

It ranks 135th out of 159 Georgia counties in health outcomes despite having plenty of hospitals and health care providers. People in some areas of the county don’t have access to grocery stores, and some ZIP codes are so devoid of them, they’re classified as “food deserts,” but almost everybody’s fat.

It’s the Golf Capital of the World, but the local politicians can’t figure out what to do with the city golf course. It’s also the venue for the Iron Man contest, but the politicians don’t have enough backbone to even Save the A.

In 2010, Forbes magazine ranked Augusta as the 23rd-strongest metro economy in the nation, and last year it was ranked second for growth of high-tech jobs over the past five years. Still, the unemployment rate is 9 percent, but that might be because when it comes to how educated the workforce is, compared with how educated it needs to be, it ranks in the bottom five cities in the country.

ONE OLD GOAT IS AS GOOD AS ANOTHER: It was a fortuitous moment indeed when memories of the Goat Man unexpectedly popped into my head six years ago, giving me a good ending to my column and triggering reminiscences from readers:

“I woke up one day last week thinking, of all things, about the Goat Man and wondering if any of you remember him. He was a bearded character who used to travel the highways and byways of south Georgia on his way to and from Florida.

The fire whistle going off in town or the road scraper coming down the road paled in comparison to shouts of, ‘The Goat Man’s coming!’

He was a grizzled, bearded old man who went south to Florida every year in his wagon, accompanied by a herd of hard-headed companions. Wherever he went, he drew a crowd, and if I’m not mistaken, he would allow you to take a picture of him and his herd for a fee. I can’t remember how much. He used to come down U.S. Highway 41, and he also went along U.S. 129 in Nashville, Ga., because Er­nie’s daddy, a photographer who recorded all the historic events of the time in Berrien County, took still and moving pictures of the Goat­ Man.

I called Ernie to reminisce about the Goat Man, and he told me that somebody has produced a DVD compiled from various photos and remembrances about the Goat Man and that it is advertised on the Ludlow Porch radio show, which shows what a novelty it was for someone to travel around with a herd of goats.

But, you know, I got to thinking, it wasn’t really so different from all those people in cars and campers heading to Florida every winter with one old goat, except that the Goat Man probably had a lot more fun.”

REMEMBERING THE GOAT MAN: Those few paragraphs triggered more response from people than anything I’d ever written about except for the mysterious screaming creature in Hahira when I worked for the Valdosta Daily Times. People from all over the area sent their memories of the Goat Man. One of my favorites is this:

“Omigosh! It’s been YEARS since I’ve thought of him,” e-mailed Mary Wise, a domestic engineer, wife, mother and grandmother. “My parents took us to see him once. He was camped on Schultz Hill. It was a cloudy evening. He spoke to his herd, ‘Looks like it’s gonna rain, goats!’

“That became a well-worn phrase in our house whenever the weather was threatening. In fact, it still is … ah, memories.”

Since I’m the Goat Man writer for The Chronicle, Metro Editor Bill Kirby passed along a request from Jerry and Dorinda Love, of Aiken, to write something about the late Goat Man.

DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS: Commis­sion­er Marion Williams says the only thing he knows about golf is that he’s seen a ball, but cars are different.

“I know cars,” he said.

He also likes to talk about them. So when the subject of replacing a car or dump truck comes up, he grills fleet manager Ron Crowden.

“I just want to know why 41 cars have to be changed out at the same time?” he asked during a recent meeting. Crowden said the cars were 2004-05 models and have 125,000 miles on them, but Williams insisted they should have at least 200,000 miles before being replaced, and he couldn’t be convinced otherwise.

The next agenda item was about leasing vehicles, a subject that fascinated Williams but bored the life out of everybody else.

When the meeting was over, I went up to tease Com­mis­sioner Bill Lockett. I said, “Well, Mr. Lockett we’ve got somebody on the commission now who talks more than you do.”

“Whew!” he said. “We’ve got to do something. We’ve got to stop putting vehicles on the agenda.”

IT’S ABOUT PAYING THEIR FAIR SHARE: Augusta lawyer Jack Long has asked the Georgia Supreme Court to hear his appeal of Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s decision that allowed former Rich­mond County Juve­nile Court Judge Willie Saunders to run for Superior Court judge last year even though he had defaulted on state and federal taxes.

Long contends that Kemp’s decision, later affirmed by a Fulton County Superior Court judge, should be reversed because the state constitution states in part that “No person … who is a defaulter for any federal, state, court, municipal or school system taxes required of such office holder or candidate … shall be eligible to hold any office.”

Even though Saunders lost the election, the issues in the case are not moot because they’re likely to be repeated, Long said.

In the July elections, there were three challenges to candidates for Superior Court judge in Georgia with unpaid taxes. The initial decisions of administrative law judges hearing the challenges showed an inconsistent application of the constitutional provision, with two being disqualified and Saunders being allowed to run.

Long contends the ruling makes the constitutional provision “meaningless and of no real force and effect.” A ruling by the Supreme Court would answer questions that have arisen from challenges and would give potential candidates direction as to the true meaning of Article 2, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the Georgia Constitution.

“The decision of the sec­re­tary of state and Judge (Alford) Dempsey makes the constitutional provision meaningless,” Long stated in an e-mail. “This case has never been about Willie Saunders, but has always been a public policy issue. I believe that as we approach April 15th, taxpayers will appreciate the purpose of this constitutional provision. Those who seek to hold public office and get paid with OUR TAX DOLLARS should pay their fair share. Taxes are the price of a free society, and we need public officials who set a good example for the people by paying their fair share.”

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Just My Opinion
5456
Points
Just My Opinion 03/23/13 - 07:32 pm
8
0
Well, I can't fault Williams

Well, I can't fault Williams for trying to get the city to wait until the cars get some more mileage on them...I mean that's pretty much what you and I would do, right? And then, when I realized that I was actually thinking along the same lines as Williams, I thought that, if they did indeed change things to wait on 200K miles, then Williams would stand up and say that they should wait until they reached 250,000 miles!!

Riverman1
82400
Points
Riverman1 03/23/13 - 09:58 pm
6
0
47 or 53 Percenters?

This first part of this column is how I feel when I’ve been reading Countyman’s posts too much. The second part about the Goatman makes me think of our local hoboes again. The part about public officials not paying taxes has me wondering what effect that has on the 47%. They should be in the 47% since they owe taxes, but since they don’t pay I’d count them in the 53%.

fatboyhog
1902
Points
fatboyhog 03/23/13 - 11:30 pm
7
1
Marion knows...

or does he? Marion knows where a drag strip is planned. And Marion knows how to sell his property to the BOE for a huge profit. But Marion doesn't know cars. If he did, he'd know that 125k miles on a patrol car isn't a normal 125k miles. Even though the cars are serviced on a regular basis, they have hard miles on them. Stopping and starting, idling, pursuits, going through medians, etc. takes its toll on a car. I don't have a problem with him scrutinizing purchases, but to say he knows cars and that they should get 200k out of the car is asinine. And, the S.O. isn't asking to replace brand new cars, they are asking to replace '04-'05 models.

countyman
19731
Points
countyman 03/24/13 - 12:31 am
2
8
Rodney King! Can we all get along?

Let's not forget Augusta was ranked the 4th best city to live, 2nd bet place to retire, etc.

I don't understand why Riverman cares so deeply about my comments related towards Richmond County.

I choose to not respond when he praises Columbia County daily. I irony is he chooses to spin my facts, and then gives incorrect information which I don't respond back too. I could have easily commented how Bryan, Charlton, Fulton, Chattahoochee, Forsyth, Jenkins, Long, & Wheeler counties in Georgia all grew faster in the latest census estimates. There's no way Columbia County is the 14th fastest growing county in the nation. I don't respond that often anymore, because similar to Richmond County and Aiken gaining around the same amount of people in the lastest census estimate. The growth in Richmond County will eventually catch up to Columbia County by the next census. The merger of GRU(need for student housing) will only speed things up.

rational thought trumps emotion
2549
Points
rational thought trumps emotion 03/24/13 - 12:40 am
6
1
County Vehicles

FBH, you certainly have that right - Columbia County replaces their patrol cars at around 80,000 miles and many law enforcement agencies have vehicle retirement policies at 100,000 miles. Police Officers need and deserve good working vehicles to keep them and the public safe as they perform their daily duties.

From a cost analysis, standard car repairs and maintenance are covered under fleet maintenance up to 100,000 miles. Vehicles in excess of 100,000 miles are billed back to the county for all standard maintenance, repairs, oil changes, etc. which greatly increases the yearly cost of using the vehicle. These vehicles are also in the shop more often creating problems for the deputies, firefighters, and other county departments which then must use spare vehicles (ones really about to fall apart) while these are in the shop. These vehicles get less gas mileage, need more repairs, are often less than optimal to drive and in some cases are even safety issues.

When you calculate all of the additional costs, loss of use time, maintenance and repair fees, etc. it is actually in the best interest of the county to sell/retire county vehicles (especially those used for public safety) at 100,000 miles and this doesn’t even include the calculation of reduced expense on gas which is achieved through the use of new model vehicles.

Keeping the above in mind, the commission should actually have a report issued on vehicle purchasing and get their fleets updated in order to save money in the long run.

smartasugarsugar
139
Points
smartasugarsugar 03/24/13 - 02:55 am
2
1
county vehicles

my biggest complaint is do they need such lavish and gas guzzling vehicles? I think they need to also consider the money they spend on fuel. ok we need a few fast ones interceptor cars but the rest can be whatever. heck if cops can be just as effective on bicycles or motorcycles then give em more bikes motorcycles and scooters. they have radios to call for help. how often does someone really try to out run a cop? and didn't at some point we decide if they (speeders) are going to drive like maniacs that we were not going to pursue them as its just more dangerous? As for the mileage ride em till they are not cost effective. most people do it with their own cars, but i guess if i had someone's money to spend heck id get me a caddy too. and why do we need 4 wheel drive? one or two emergency vehicles ok yea, but for everyday use? are we that far out in the country? its doesn't surprise me at all. Columbia county BOE does it all the time, and they get to drive these gas guzzling vehicles home in the once a year chance of getting a midnight call to go fix something. What you don't know wont hurt you.

ClearCookies
133
Points
ClearCookies 03/24/13 - 03:52 am
3
0
A'round and a'round we go.
Unpublished

...And the beat goes.

Life; it is what YOU make it.

nocnoc
41276
Points
nocnoc 03/24/13 - 06:01 am
5
1
If it wasn't for

The Suburban Taxpayers and city visitors what would Downtown do for revenue income with 2/3 on the dole?

De-Consolidation make so much sense in so many ways.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 03/24/13 - 06:53 am
5
2
Sylvia has found her groove
Unpublished

Sylvia has found her groove back. The first five paragraphs are sure to be a classic tale.

seenitB4
85650
Points
seenitB4 03/24/13 - 07:33 am
8
1
countyman

Who really cares HOW fast a county is growing....can you fix this??

when it comes to how educated the workforce is, compared with how educated it needs to be, it ranks in the bottom five cities in the country.

Is Sylvia after you too....or just telling it like it is...

seenitB4
85650
Points
seenitB4 03/24/13 - 07:36 am
8
1
Any answers ....

People in some areas of the county don’t have access to grocery stores, and some ZIP codes are so devoid of them, they’re classified as “food deserts,”

What causes a grocery store to flee an area.....a big clothing store to flee.....nice restaurants.....countyman....any answers??

southern2
6033
Points
southern2 03/24/13 - 08:18 am
9
2
"City of inconsistency"

"City of inconsistency" paragraph sadly describes present day Augusta. This all happened in my lifetime with plenty of blame to go around. I remember when saying you graduated from Butler High was a respectable thing, having a child out of wedlock was disgraceful, and only the really needy got public assistance and just until you got back on your feet. Now a shopping trip to the mall is life threatening, a red light is a nerve wrecker caused either by the loud bass thumping speakers from the car behind you or the three cars that run the light after it changes to red, public sidewalks are used as a fashion runway for young males to proudly display their nasty underwear. RIP my hometown.

Riverman1
82400
Points
Riverman1 03/24/13 - 11:27 am
2
0
Columbia County's Amazing Growth

This is the much ballyhooed first official estimate since the 2010 census that some have been predicting would show Richmond County show a big increase. It appears that’s not the case. Still it’s good for the CSRA as a whole. Although Richmond County is growing slower than the nation, at a 1% growth with 7.5% of its population less than 5 years of age, it is a positive. Columbia County with a 6.5% population less than 5 years of age and Aiken with only 5.6% under 5 years of age have higher percentages over 5 years old. It’s all good, but especially so for Columbia County.

For counties over 100,000 population, Columbia County is the 22nd fastest growing county in the NATION. For those over 10,000, it is the 45th fastest growing county in the NATION. It grew an amazing 6.1%. It’s an actual population gain of 7574.
http://www.census.gov/popest/data/counties/totals/2012/index.html
http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/13/13073.html

For Richmond County
http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/13/13245.html
The population increased with the latest US Census estimate from 2010 to 2012 by 1%. Its population grew by 2038. The state increased 2.4% while Columbia County increased 6.1%. The nation as a whole grew at a 1.7% rate.

For Aiken County: It had 1.7% growth, with only 5.6% of those under 5 years of age. It’s population grew by 2706.
http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/45/45003.html

CobaltGeorge
155488
Points
CobaltGeorge 03/24/13 - 08:39 am
4
0
Careful Rm

you don't want to make countyman look bad on his statistics that he so trully provides because you just may "BOOF"!

Brad Owens
4290
Points
Brad Owens 03/24/13 - 08:55 am
7
2
This sums up RC's problem in a nutshell...

"In 2010, Forbes magazine ranked Augusta as the 23rd-strongest metro economy in the nation, and last year it was ranked second for growth of high-tech jobs over the past five years. Still, the unemployment rate is 9 percent, but that might be because when it comes to how educated the workforce is, compared with how educated it needs to be, it ranks in the bottom five cities in the country."

It just could NOT be a lack of leadership with vision could it?

Riverman1
82400
Points
Riverman1 03/24/13 - 09:14 am
7
1
A Way to Help Richmond County Growth

"The growth in Richmond County will eventually catch up to Columbia County by the next census. The merger of GRU(need for student housing) will only speed things up."

If Richmond County could only get a White Squirrel Festival going here like Margaret Woodard started in North Carolina, it would probably help.

Riverman1
82400
Points
Riverman1 03/24/13 - 09:22 am
5
0
What Aiken and Columbia Counties Can Learn from Richmond

From the census estimates, the rates for children under 5 years of age are Richmond 7.5 percent, Columbia 6.5percent and Aiken 5.6 percent. Obviously, children under 5 years old are significantly higher in Richmond County. 13.3 percent higher than Columbia County and a whopping 24.4 percent higher than Aiken. Would it help the two counties to study Richmond and see how they have significantly higher numbers of children?

Riverman1
82400
Points
Riverman1 03/24/13 - 09:26 am
3
0
Rational, All That Makes Sense

Rational, I understand what you say and it makes sense, but couldn't we encourage the drivers to take it a little easier on the vehicles? Seriously. I can't see driving conditions being THAT much different than that of the public. Maybe I'm wrong?

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
7387
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 03/24/13 - 09:39 am
6
0
Rational

Riverman, maybe I can clarify that for you. I worked in LE in the CSRA for over 12 years. Those cars take a beating in just the way he described. I once took a 90,000 mile Crown Vic into the shop for a severe vibration in the front end. They put it on the lift and when they raised it up the whole wheel a frame assembly stayed on the ground. Imagine if that came off on Bobby Jones while responding to a call around Wrightsboro Rd at 5 pm on a weekday. Can you say multicar with serious injury pileup. Then add in Mr. One Call that's all and it's a lot cheaper to replace the cars at 80,000 miles. Richmond County tried propane fueled vehicles but they didn't have any power. VW Beetles were outrunning them. They also ran hotter, so much so that the mufflers caused grass fires when they pulled onto the side of the road.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
7387
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 03/24/13 - 09:47 am
8
2
Richmond County Growth

Could it be from Baby Mama's and Crack Daddy's having babys that everyone else is supporting. Just the other day, I heard one Baby Mama to another Baby Mama whose children were running wild in a convenience store as she was buying energy drinks, chips and junk food with an EBT card that if she has two more children she'll get $2000.00 a month in EBT to spend!!!

JRC2024
8529
Points
JRC2024 03/24/13 - 09:55 am
4
0
Seenit, you know what causes

Seenit, you know what causes them to flee. Crime and no money.

seenitB4
85650
Points
seenitB4 03/24/13 - 10:01 am
5
0
JRC

I know for sure...I just want others to admit it!

JRC2024
8529
Points
JRC2024 03/24/13 - 10:07 am
6
0
Southern2, you are so right

Southern2, you are so right about the noise and the underwear but those aren't the good people in the town. Just don't pay any attention to them because they do that to get your attention. And to Cold Beer, it is my belief they should reduce the amount given to these baby producers. They are not and never will be my responsibility and should be fixed so they can't reproduce. I know some will think this is over the top but something has to be done with those that produce all the children they can't support.

countyman
19731
Points
countyman 03/24/13 - 10:56 am
3
4
Usual double standard

Riverman... I don't remember anybody saying Richmond County would show a big increase in the 2010 census.

Seenitb4... Plenty of areas in Columbia or Aiken County don't have a grocery store. Any answers why? Plus I can't think of one zip code in Richmond County without an grocery store.

Costco, Publix, Sams, Fresh Market, etc are located in Richmond County. Any answers why?

Brad Owens.... The metro monitor ranking for how educated the workforce needs to be includes Richmond, Aiken, Burke, Mcduffie, Columbia, and Edgefield. Keep in mind it's based on the 100 largest metros, and not every single city in the entire US. Many cities the size of Augusta have to improve it's workforce in order to fill jobs at the NSA for example. The jobs on Fort Gordon at the NSA need a security clearance.

Why do people only single out Richmond County? Every single county in the area has problems, but people want to focus on the hand that feeds the entire metro area.

The irony is the CSRA would easily be one of the worst cities in terms of jobs, industry, entertainment, shopping, universities, health care, etc without Richmond County. Riverman loves to bash Richmond County, but I hope he knows almost 30k people from Columbia County commute to Richmond for jobs.

harley_52
22989
Points
harley_52 03/24/13 - 10:57 am
5
0
"Could it be from Baby Mama's and Crack Daddy's....

....having babys that everyone else is supporting. "

Yep.

It also could be that Fort Gordon, with thousands of young families, resides in Richmond County and not Aiken, or Columbia.

countyman
19731
Points
countyman 03/24/13 - 11:04 am
3
3
Augusta second in terms of shopping

Coldbeerpeanut.....

Can you explain why Apple, Tutti Frutti, PF Changs, Pandora, Chop Houe, etc only have locations in metro Atlanta and Richmond County? The state of Georgia is almost 10 million people.

Why is the opinion of major retail & restaurant chains so much different from yours?

Can you explain why West Augusta, Summerville, Forest Hills, Central Business District, etc have some of the most expensive real estate in the metro?

I laugh at the comments from the usual people who live in Columbia County, because Big Lots is coming to Evans in the old Food Lion lol..

harley_52
22989
Points
harley_52 03/24/13 - 11:19 am
4
0
For All Those Who Believe....

....their county of residence somehow demonstrates their wisdom and beauty it's probably worthwhile for them to examine most all metropolitan areas across the country. As central cities aged, people moved out into the suburbs where they could escape the problems of the inner city. Crime, overcrowding, aging infrastructure, traffic, and higher property prices are some of the factors leading to a process known as "suburbanization" across the country. That process is what spawned Columbia county. That process, along with the Savannah River Site, is what brought us Aiken County. But, as they say....the times, they are a-changin.' There is plenty of evidence that people are starting to move back into the central cities. I'm not talking specifically about Augusta, but rather a general trend in demographics throughout the U.S.. Don't take my word for it....look it up for yourself.

As regards Augusta specifically, I've spent a little time downtown lately and I think Broad Street has made some remarkable changes in the past couple of decades. So has Wrightsboro road and several other areas in ARC. Conversely, every time I have to drive out Washington road and toward Pollards Corner, I am reminded why I feel fortunate that I've chosen to remain in Richmond County for more than thirty years.

I'm very skeptical of studies and surveys because I know how they can be twisted and manipulated to prove whatever one wants. I know how the "scientists" like to trivialize and ignore peoples' anecdotal experiences, but driving out Washington, or Bel Air roads will provide you all the evidence you need to make your own decisions.

seenitB4
85650
Points
seenitB4 03/24/13 - 11:34 am
4
0
harley I agree withya

We are not immune here in the metro Atlanta area.....just reading the paper everyday will tell me we have mucho problems here...i do post some on here off/on....& even called a fear monger when I do....we have broken down BOEs...we have crime out the gazoo....we have malls that are dead now....this is a big universal problem & it is growing imo..
I guess what stirred me today is that babys killing...how senseless---how inhumane--a small innocent baby paid the price for WHAT....our failure as human beings to get a handle on our way of governing...

We can NOT support feral children....we can't continue to pay others to give birth & then leave them for the world to raise...it is not working for the USA...don't care what color---what race---doesn't matter..

Riverman1
82400
Points
Riverman1 03/24/13 - 12:11 pm
4
1
I agree with Harley about

I agree with Harley about suburbanization (with one exception). The suburbanization process is common all over the country. I simply reported the numbers the US Census estimated. I did hear many saying Richmond County was growing after the 2010 census was disappointing for the county. These people noted new neighborhoods in Richmond County but apparently those were offset by people leaving.

Ft. Gordon does count with the population of Richmond County for those who live on post. However, the actual families living on post is not nearly as great as the total number of soldiers there, many of who are young, unmarried and living in the barracks. There are 900 family housing units on post is all. Many Ft. Gordon familes live in Richmond and Columbia Counties.

itsanotherday1
42139
Points
itsanotherday1 03/24/13 - 11:56 am
4
1
About the cars

There is merit on both sides IMO. The patrol cars do take a beating with a lot of stop and go, but I'm not sure with today's technology where the cutoff for replacement would be. In our fleet, we started at 60K miles because they were lease vehicles and the turn in penalty became larger and larger the longer you kept them, not to mention increased maintenance. Fleet determined that with better reliability in later cars we could up that to 90K; but there is still that crossover point where it is costing you more to drive them than keep them; and the safety point is somewhere a good ways before that.

You just have to trust that the fleet manager you pay is doing a good job, and let him/her do it. Of course, that is the problem with Williams and his ilk, they want to meddle in the day to day minutia of well paid people doing their jobs.

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