City Administrator Fred Russell said the Georgia Board of Regents has hired a consultant to evaluate Augusta’s proposal to develop a university campus at Sibley and King mills and a cultural center downtown.
If the planning group thinks it’s “cool,” Russell said he thinks the city will go “full speed ahead” to make a $500,000 or so financial commitment to develop the concept.
Russell said recently that the project is a “big reach” but “you’re not going to have a big step forward” without some risk.
“What if Columbus had never sailed to America or Lewis and Clark hadn’t explored the Northwest or Seward had not bought Alaska?” he asked.
I ran that by a friend in the 12-step Kool-Aid Recovery Program, and he said he didn’t think you could compare the city or state underwriting an urban redevelopment (the mills project) with Meriwether Lewis leading the Voyage of Discovery.
“The only thing Fred’s examples have in common is that the taxpayers picked up the tab in each case: Queen Isabella for Columbus, President Jefferson for Lewis and Clark, and the federal treasury for Seward,” he said. “We’d be better served with comparisons to where private money made a difference. Oh, can’t think of any? Yes, someone spiked Fred’s Kool-Aid!
“May I have another glass of Kool-Aid?” he asked.
Hogan’s r-right whin he says… ‘Justice is blind.’ Blind she is, an’ deef an’ dumb an’ has a wooden leg.
– Finley Peter Dunne
EXAMPLE 1: Augusta Fire Chief Chris James had to borrow 52 air cylinders from Fort Gordon because more than 200 of the fire department’s cylinders had missed a five-year deadline for required testing. So James has disciplined a lieutenant who didn’t forward a message about the cylinders needing to be inspected by April 30.
Meanwhile, the city has been fined $8,850 and ordered by the state to correct environmental violations involving three underground fuel storage tanks.
The violations included failure to install overflow prevention systems, monitor tanks at least every 30 days and conduct a required annual test of the automatic leak detectors.
If anyone’s been disciplined, it’s a well-kept secret.
EXAMPLE 2: Tom Beck, a 35-year employee, was fired as recreation department director for signing off on Operations Manager Melinda Pearson’s time card that indicated she had worked four days she had actually taken off as comp time. Pearson was demoted to maintenance worker on grounds that, as an exempt (salaried) employee, she was ineligible for comp time.
City officials claimed salaried personnel weren’t eligible for comp time, although it was a written department policy and established practice that salaried and hourly employees could earn and use up to 240 hours of comp time. Beck contends that Russell authorized paying salaried employees who worked overtime at May Park after Hurricane Katrina.
EXAMPLE 3: And then we have Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick who received $25,941 a year in supplemental pay since 2009 that was never authorized by commissioners. Russell said the city made a mistake in allowing the unusual supplement and not seeking commission approval.
He said they did it wrong, but they couldn’t take it back.
Kendrick was not disciplined for letting someone make off with $25,000 from his office three years ago. Procurement Director Geri Sams has never been disciplined for decisions that resulted in costly legal fees, and Housing and Community Development Director Chester Wheeler has never been disciplined for the money the city has had to pay back to HUD.
Wheeler blamed a single employee – Housing Manager La Sandra Corley – for the department’s troubles, including having to repay $344,000 in misspent federal money, and suspended her for four days without pay. She appealed.
Local government loves to throw people under the bus when it’s a matter of convenience, not when it’s a matter of justice.
THE GRAND TOUR: Two local people saw George Jones’ funeral live at the Grand Old Opry House in Nashville, Tenn., last week.
Caroline Carnahan, a 21-year-old soon-to-be graduate of the College of Charleston and her father, Adam, a registered nurse at University Hospital, decided to go to the funeral on a “huge whim.”
“Neither of us had ever been to Nashville, but my grandfather, his dad, was a huge fan of George Jones,” she said. “My dad grew up listening to his music and then raised me listening to and singing along with those famous songs like, He Stopped Loving Her Today, The Grand Tour and These Days. So we decided to go; we just wanted to say goodbye to one of the greatest country legends and thank him for all of his music and memories he gave us.
“When we got in line Thursday morning around 8:15, there were already over 1,000 people waiting and we weren’t very confident in our chances to get in. I actually asked my dad what he thought our percent of a chance was and he just looked at me and said, ‘Well, zero.’
“When the line kept moving, and we realized we were going to make it, we were ecstatic. Walking in and seeing all of the famous stars sitting in the bottom section of the Grand Ole Opry was surreal. We were excited to see so many of our favorite artists, but also realized how sad everyone was to be saying goodbye to a friend, loved one, and even hero.
“When dad and I finally got a program and began looking through it, we saw that there were to be performances (homages) by Tanya Tucker, Randy Travis, The Oak Ridge Boys, Charlie Daniels, Travis Tritt, Kid Rock, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, Brad Paisley, Ronnie Milsap, Wynonna and Alan Jackson – some of the greatest performers alive today. Laura Bush even spoke and told great stories of growing up listening to George Jones just like so many of us did. But, Vince Gill and Patty Loveless’ performance was by far the best. As they sang Go Rest High On That Mountain, they both were overcome by emotion and began crying. There wasn’t a dry eye in the entire place. Also, Alan Jackson closed with He Stopped Loving Her Today, which was a perfect ending to the great and extraordinary life and man that was George Jones.”
A KNOT IN TIME: Caroline’s Nana and Poppa, otherwise known as Gwen and Bob Young, also witnessed a memorable event last week. They attended the opening of the George W. Bush library on the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas.
At one point they were on an elevator with an elderly man who was having trouble tying his shoe. So Gwen said, “Let my husband tie your shoe. Bob, tie his shoe.”
So he did, after which Gwen struck up a conversation and asked the man his name.
“I’m Bucky Bush,” he said. “I’m George’s brother.”
George H.W. Bush’s brother.
Bob said he was concerned he hadn’t done a good enough job tying Bucky’s shoe and that it would be his fault if he tripped and fell during the ceremony.
“I was worried about that,” he said.