Augusta Commission member Bill Lockett came on like a hawk in the Aug. 20 commission meeting, publicly chastising commissioners for turning a blind eye to repeated wrongdoings and the media for failing to be government watchdogs. Six days later, he’d turned into a dove with an olive branch.
“I want to make a concerted effort, and I’m going to extend an olive branch to all of our colleagues, to include Grady Smith, that on this day, Aug. 26, 2013, we are going to learn how to get together as a body,” he said at a committee meeting. “We may not be the best of friends, but we can be cordial with each other and come to the realization of why we’re here.”
(All these years on the commission, and they still don’t know?)
And so forth and so on …
“And I know that we all have our individual personalities,” he continued. “No one of us is guilty. We all are to a certain extent, some of y’all far more than others, but we’re not going there today.”
And so forth and so on … and the mayor read the commission’s code of conduct.
NOT EVERYBODY WAS READY FOR AN OLIVE BRANCH: Commissioner Bill Fennoy said he was particularly surprised to see Lockett’s agenda item concerning commission decorum on Monday’s agenda because a commissioner (Lockett) had criticized him in a “local tabloid” for voting to hire a new company to run
Lockett was quoted as saying that after the transit vote, he kind of wished a member of “the gang of six,” former District 1 Commissioner Matt Aitken, was still on the board because he knew what Aitken would do.
“But to think I had the support of his replacement and didn’t get it was a complete surprise and upsetting,” Lockett stated in the article.
Fennoy said the District 1 voters elected him to represent their best interests, not another commissioner’s.
During a Friday interview, Commissioner Joe Jackson took exception to Lockett’s quote in the same article that stated he didn’t do anything for black people.
“So the two fish fries at Shiloh Community Center to help them raise funds for the roof don’t mean anything?” Jackson asked. “Last week he’s attacking my character in the Metro Courier, and Monday at the committee meeting he wants to be friends and put everything behind us. If you’ve turned over a new leaf, then honor me
and Bill Fennoy for the words you said in the Metro Courier.
“He owes myself and Bill Fennoy a public apology for what he said in the local paper, degrading my character,” he continued. “He just didn’t get his way on a vote. He doesn’t know anything about me, and I wouldn’t do that to him. What I’m about is the Scout law. I don’t disrespect people. If I have a problem, I go talk to them personally.”
Fennoy said he couldn’t care less whether he gets a public apology.
“A public apology would have no meaning for me,” he said. “And it would have no impact on how I do my job – on how I represent the people of District 1 who elected me.”
DON’T WASTE A PERFECTLY GOOD OLIVE TREE: “The way things are, we don’t need to tickle each other with an olive branch, we need to cut the limbs off the olive tree and stop the war,” Smith said. “Sadly, we’re messing up a good county by either playing the race or political card instead of doing what’s good for moving the county forward and being what we should be in the state.
“The main thing is instead of always telling people how smart you are, shut your mouth and listen. By listening, you might hear something that would draw you to understand the other side.”
Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said nothing will change unless the charter is amended to reduce the number of commissioners.
“It’s been this way since consolidation,” he said. “The racial divide … We ought to be working for every district. A lot of commissioners do.”
FOLLOW THE MONEY: Commissioner Marion Williams said several groups around Augusta have been calling commissioners and talking about how they should all get along.
“They come in the back door, so to speak, talking about one thing and end up talking about commissioners getting along,” he said. “But different districts have different needs. I’m talking about whites, blacks, Hispanics. It’s not a race thing. It’s a human rights thing.”
“Anybody in Augusta talking about getting along, it’s all about compromise over the money,” he said. “When the money comes in, it goes in the same direction. Follow the money. It goes to one side of the city. The cuts are made to the other side. And then they say we should have that brotherly love. But when it gets down to the money, people ought to be getting their fair share. That’s the bottom line. It’s not black. It’s not white. It’s green. That’s the problem.”
WHAT TURNED A HAWK INTO A DOVE? Asked why he’d ruffled everybody’s feathers one week and then called for peace the next, Lockett said, “It was just a combination of things that happened over months and months and months. Maybe even back to 2010. I suspected there would be a backlash, but I’m man enough to handle it.”
He said the agenda item calling for commission harmony was written three months ago, but he felt then wasn’t the right time to put it on the table for discussion.
“Sometimes when you’re an addict, you’ve got to hit rock bottom before you can get better,” he said. “And I just thought it was the right time to initiate dialogue and communication. I do believe we are going to be successful as a result of that. Aug. 26, 2013, will be a new beginning for the commission because we will begin communicating and develop trust.
Of course, there’s not always going to be smooth sailing. From time to time there will be bumps in the road. Just like an alcoholic, you slip up, but I believe my colleagues will do our very best to ensure that this will be a success.
“I believe in 30 days from Aug. 26, people will look and say, ‘They’re really doing it. They’re putting forth a collective effort and through the process of communication we will get to know each other better.’
“I’m not saying anything negative about anyone.”
SHE WANTS TO CONTINUE HIS WORK: Dianne Murphy, widow of late state Rep. Quincy Murphy, announced Friday that she’ll qualify to fill the Augusta Democrat’s District 127 state House seat in the special election.
“One thing you could always say about Quincy Murphy: He fought the good fight,” she told a crowd of family, friends and elected officials.
Murphy, 60, is employed by the Richmond County Board of Education. She said she’s looking forward to meeting with the people of Richmond and Jefferson counties to discuss her qualifications and their hopes for the future.
Augusta Commissioner Corey Johnson has said he’ll run for the District 22 state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Hardie Davis, who plans to run for mayor of Augusta. Commissioner Alvin Mason is also running for mayor.
Williams said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll run for the Senate, the House, mayor or stay where he is.
“I’ve got people pulling at me about the mayor’s job,” he said. “I’m just weighing my options. I’ve got the name recognition. Even the folks that don’t like me, respect me.”