Taxing task sure to trip up Augusta Commission

If voters were to approve the $721.7 million wish list of projects for the next special purpose local option sales tax, the tax would last 20 years. At the current collection rate of $35 million a year, a lot of people alive today wouldn’t live to see the end of it, and a lot of people still unborn would end up paying for it.

So the key is for Augusta Com­mission members to look at the requests, agree on necessary projects and reduce the cost to a reasonable number. Sort of like balancing the budget. And we know how good they are at that.

Realistically, the only essential items on the list are $30 million for Marble Palace renovations and $5.5 million each for relocation of the public defender and juvenile court offices.

After that, the public needs to depend on commissioners to make wise decisions – another of their strong points.

 

I’M FROM THE GOVERNMENT, AND I’M HERE TO TAX … I MEAN HELP YOU: Replacing fire and police vehicles with sales-tax dollars makes sense. The downside is that Com­missioner Marion Williams gets to kick all the tires and argue about which type should be on each vehicle.

The recreation department’s $106 million request could buy country club memberships for everybody in Richmond County and pay their annual dues for the life of the tax.

The engineering department’s $370 million request would pave every road and clean every ditch the county ever had or will have. As a matter of fact, they’ll be able to build more dirt roads, so they can pave them, too. And with all that money floating around the next 20 years, will there be any need for the rain tax thundering your way with lightning speed? Or should it just dry up and blow away?

The Downtown Develop­ment Authority wants to spend $5.6 million for Au­gusta Common, Phase 2. But if Commissioner Alvin Mason gets his wish to tear down the levee, and it keeps raining like it’s been raining, they’ll need to make sure Phase 2 floats.

The DDA also wants $3 million for a downtown business incubator. That’s a lot of money to hatch more goose eggs.

The mosquito control people are itching for a new $450,000 building. I’d suggest they take a Benadryl.

The Arts Council wants $14 million for public arts implementation. I’m not sure what that is, but it sure would buy a lot of finger paint and sidewalk chalk.

You have to admit it takes a lot of chutzpah for the Augusta Regional Colla­bor­ation Corp., aka Boy King/Matt Kwatinetz, to ask for almost $12 million for the Mills District, which I do believe is for renovation of Sibley and King mills. Say what you will, those boys think big.

As for the $8 million request for Paine College’s Fine Arts Cultural Center, the $12.9 million for the Miller Theater and $1.8 million for the Mini Theater, all I can say is, “Get real.” Not that we don’t love fine arts. We do. I have a master’s degree in theater, although I’m not sure that’s a fine art. But I am sure you can’t get much of a job with it.

The request for $8 mil­lion to commit to the planned $53 million cancer research center seems like a great investment. Everybody has been touched in some tragic way by the plague of cancer.

Besides, as the sage Com­mis­sioner Joe Jackson observed, “When you put in an $8 million investment for a $43 million return, that’s a hell of a return on your investment.”

(Don’t blame me if the math is bad. I just write what they say. However, I think there’s another million or two floating around somewhere.)

 

BAITING THE TRAP: The political reality of having sales tax programs is the necessity to put things in the package that will garner support from all segments of the community. In other words, a little bit for everybody. The approach taken with the next round of the tax is a whole lot for everybody.

Don’t read this aloud to your children, commissioners, but there is no San­ta Claus, as former Admin­is­tra­tor Fred Russell knows all too well, seeing as how they abruptly fired him two weeks before Christmas.

 

NIGHTMARE ON GREENE STREET: In the “politics makes strange bedfellows” category, after rumors surfaced that Russell might run for mayor, Mason surprisingly expressed support for Wil­liams to get Russell’s computer hard drive.

Tut! Tut! Such a subtle attempt to find dirt on Rus­sell.

Williams has expressed support for Mason to be mayor and vowed he’ll “stick to him like glue.” Hope it’s not Crazy Glue.

I had a dream that turned into a nightmare last week. Mason and Williams were running Augusta, but they started butting heads over who had the floor during the inquisition of department heads and staff. Fortunately, one of our dogs was having a nightmare too and woke me up.

 

HEAVE HO TO THE STATUS QUO: Commissioners need five members for the Ur­ban Re­development Author­ity to oversee the Laney-Walker/Bethlehem revitalization and the city’s pared-down Urban Redevelopment Area, which includes the Marble Palace, the old public library, Port Royal and other downtown property.

Last week, they discussed how they’d appoint the members, and agreed that the commission should work in pairs, beginning with District 1 and District 2 commissioners, and so on.

So far, District 4 Commis­sioner Mason and District 5 Commissioner Bill Lockett have agreed to appoint former Mayor Bob Young.

Dis­trict 7 Commissioner Don­nie Smith and District 8 Com­mis­sioner Wayne Guilfoyle have agreed to appoint commission gadfly Brad Owens, which I hear has caused consternation among some folks who’ve been targets of Owens’ criticism.

One thing’s for sure, with Young and Owens on the authority, everything, and I mean everything, will be scrutinized. No yes men here.

 

THE SIGNS THEY ARE A- CHANGIN’: Can’t wait to hear the inside skinny on why Georgia Regents University President Ricardo Azziz agreed to allow the word “Au­gusta” to be added to campus signs.

It might have been like this:

Azziz is sitting at his desk when the receptionist ushers in three members of the Georgia Board of Regents. Greetings are exchanged.

Regent Dinky NeHigh says, “Now look here, Azziz. You’ve gone a little too far this time.

“We let you name the place after us because we’re vain fools. Easy to flatter and all. But we soon realized that was a mistake, especially after everybody found out you were lying about the naming survey. And then they started that embarrassing Save the A campaign. We overlooked the wedding fiasco thing and you having the campus police haul your kids around. We even overlooked your king-sized garage addition.”

“But that was last year,” says Regent Ben Tarbaby III. “This is an election year. The political winds have shifted, and it’s not the smell of paper mills blowing from here to the governor’s office. It’s the scorched earth and burned bridges.”

To be continued next week …

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