Smoking in public places, a proposed excise tax on manufacturers to help fill an $8.5 million gap in the 2014 general fund budget and the Richmond County Board of Elections’ closed-door meeting to discuss the date of next year’s nonpartisan elections were hot topics in Augusta last week.
The hottest – a proposed amendment to the city smoking ordinance that would have banned smoking in all public places – was snuffed out when Commissioner Joe Jackson’s motion to reject it passed on a 6-4 vote, leaving a roomful of advocates stunned but vowing to return and fight another day.
A public hearing on the proposed budget drew executives from the local manufacturing sector to speak against City Administrator Fred Russell’s proposal to impose a 2 percent tax on the energy used in manufacturing, which would generate $1.5 million.
Last year, the Legislature passed a bill that exempted manufacturers from paying sales taxes on energy used in manufacturing, but allowed local governments to impose up to a 2 percent tax to partially make up for the loss.
Commissioner Donnie Smith says the Legislature gave away 6 percent and the city just wants 2 percent of it back.
“They’ll still be getting a 4 percent tax break,” he said. “It’s not the Legislature’s money anyway. They carved out this group and said they don’t have to pay taxes on energy. There are other groups that want to be exempt. Manufacturers have record profits. They make money. I’m looking out for the individual property owner.”
Other commissioners, including Jackson, fear the industries will leave Augusta for greener pastures.
“You’re telling the CFO of DSM Chemicals to step up to the plate when they pay over a million dollars in property taxes and employ over 500 people,” he said.
WHEN THE PUBLIC WILL VOTE IS NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS: According to Augusta Chronicle Staff Writer Susan McCord, attorneys for the Board of Elections could provide only legal opinions and existing law – not an actual threat of litigation – to show why a board meeting was closed to discuss whether elections for mayor and the commission will be held in July or November.
The threat was not litigation but that the public would hear them disagree about the election date, which Republican members say should be July and Democratic members, along with the nonpartisan member, say should be in November.
WHO SAID THAT? Match the speaker to the quote.
1. “Who is going to be determining what’s a cigarette and what’s an e-cigarette?”
2. “Where does the regulation stop, I guess is my question.”
3. “If you’re going to use our services, you have to help pay for them.”
4. “This is not a close case on whether or not it qualifies for attorney-client privileged discussion.”
5. “Augusta has a tendency to gravitate toward less information to the public than more.”
6. “That was pretty quick, wasn’t it?”
7. “When you start designating morality, you’re stepping into the freedoms that a lot of our forefathers died for.”
Choose from: Donnie Smith; Commissioner Grady Smith; Commissioner Joe Jackson; Peter Rabbit; R.J. Reynolds; City Attorney Andrew MacKenzie; Commissioner Corey Johnson; Jennifer Anderson, chairwoman of the Augusta BreathEasy Coalition; the agent registering you for Obamacare; former Commissioner Andy Cheek.
Answers: 1, Johnson; 2, Jackson; 3, Donnie Smith; 4, MacKenzie; 5, Cheek; 6, Anderson; 7, Grady Smith
If you correctly matched all quotes with the speakers, you keep up with everything, and you are retired.
If you matched three or more quotes with the speakers, you keep up with the news and you have a job.
If you didn’t match any of the quotes with the speaker, you keep up with the Kardashians and draw unemployment.
ON YOUR MARK: A candidate for the District 4 Augusta Commission seat and two candidates for the District 22 state Senate seat will announce in coming weeks.
The Rev. Melvin Ivey, the pastor of Greater St. John Baptist Church in Harrisburg, said he plans to run for the District 4 commission seat. Ivey is president of the Richmond County Neighborhood Association. He retired as a chief petty officer in the U.S. Naval Reserves and as postal manager of the Forest Hills and Fort Gordon post offices.
Former Richmond County State Court Solicitor Harold Jones said he will announce plans to run for the Senate seat in the next two weeks. Jones ran for the seat in 2009 and was defeated in a runoff by Sen. Hardie Davis, who is stepping down to run for mayor.
Political newcomer Elmyria Chivers will announce her candidacy for the state Senate seat at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse. Chivers is a vice president at Meybohm Realty and has sold real estate in the Augusta area for 22 years.
“I’ve always been an advocate for Augusta,” she said. “I’ve been able to relocate over 600 families to Augusta, which has made an economic impact.”
Commissioner Corey Johnson says he will also run for the state Senate seat.
POLITICS, MEMORIES AND CARAMEL CAKES: Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jack Kingston received a replica of a $40,000 check at a fundraiser Monday in Augusta. Hopefully, he got the real thing before he left town.
Augusta developer Rodger Giles spearheaded the event at Enterprise Mill attended by many interesting people, such as attorney Trav Paine, who gave me a copy of a column I wrote for The Valdosta Daily Times in 1986. It was about the 50th anniversary of the Valdosta High School graduating class. Trav had found it among the belongings of his late father, Travers Paine II. Trav’s father was voted “most handsome” in the class and called “Have You Ever Seen Such Blue Eyes?”
Trav Paine played football at the University of Georgia when my ex coached there. Trav told me at the fundraiser that a touchdown run he made in the 1969 Georgia-Florida game is online and can be seen if you Google his name and “beer commercial,” which I did, and there it was.
The effervescent Vera Lynn Dent was also at the fundraiser and regaled me with tales about her homemade caramel cakes, which she has given to notables such as Prince Andrew (for which she received a thank you note from Buckingham Palace), Gov. Sonny Perdue and Barack Obama during the primary election in Columbia in 2008.
She said he asked her whether she would vote for him, and she said, “No!”
But she did give him the cake after he promised to eat it and not throw it away.
BRIGHAM UPDATE: Former Augusta Commissioner Jerry Brigham is in Doctors Hospital, recuperating from complications from surgery in September.
He lost 80 pounds the past year on a low carbohydrate diet and then lost another 56 pounds during a surgical procedure.