City Ink: Media not invited to city's secret meeting

It’s a sad state of affairs when the Richmond County school board president holds a tea party at the public library and invites the mayor of Augusta, commissioners, school board members and a former Fort Gordon garrison commander and doesn’t invite a single member of the media.

Worse yet, when a lone reporter from The Augusta Chronicle hears about the gathering and decides to drop by to see what’s going on, hostess Venus Cain said, “It’s none of your business, could you please leave.”

A less intrepid reporter than Meg Mirshak might have acquiesced to Cain’s request, considering the president’s track record.

 

ROUND 1: In 2007, Cain and trustee Joe Scott, now deceased, clashed at a school board meeting over whether members should read the two questions they’d come up with to ask finalists for the superintendent’s job or ask them extemporaneously.

Board member Marion Barnes and others thought everybody should read the questions so there would be no variations.

Scott said nobody was going to tell him how to ask his questions, so he and Barnes went at it until Cain asked Scott why he was always trying to divide the board, whereupon he said because he blankety-blank wanted to.

You could have lit a fire under Cain, who went around the table and told him she’d kick his A. Board president Jimmy Atkins was so offended by Scott’s profanity that he immediately jumped in and said there would be no taking God’s name in vain in the board room.

Some people thought Cain won the fight. Others sided with Scott. But the final decision would come from a magistrate judge because Scott wouldn’t settle for a split decision and tried to get her locked up.

Cain’s supporters knew she was right, that she definitely could kick his A.

When Cain said that if she could kick her 6-foot-4 husband’s A she could sure kick Scott’s, she wasn’t kidding.

Back in 1995, she might have done that very thing. She was involved in a domestic dispute at their home in Hephzibah and was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge, according to Richmond County Magistrate Court records.

Still, Cain’s reference to her 6-foot-4 husband, Alfred, now deceased, was a low blow, seeing as how Scott was about a foot shorter, so it’s no wonder he got belligerent and started flailing his arms around. Only the intervention of Barnes and Atkins kept him from getting a real education. You know, in the three R’s: Rumblin’, Riotin’, and Rasslin’.

 

HERE COME DUH JUDGE: Rich­mond County Civil and Magistrate Court Presiding Judge H. Scott Allen denied Scott’s request for an arrest warrant during a pre-arrest hearing a few weeks later.

The judge chided both of them and Barnes for using “language more appropriate to pre-K children in a sandbox” than people elected to make decisions affecting the education of 33,000 children.

The judge suggested they all apologize for their profanity, which they did, and he commended them for it.

“That is the example we want to set for the schoolchildren,” he said.

 

YOU’VE GOT TO ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE, ELIMINATE THE NEGATIVE – AND THE MEDIA: Anyway, it was only after Mir­shak asked why the public wasn’t notified as required by law that Cain admitted the meeting’s true purpose.

“We’re having tea,” she said. “Would you like to stay for tea?”

Mirshak had never crashed a tea party before, especially an illegal one, but when the group said she could stay, she thought, “Oh, what the heck.”

Then they started talking top secret stuff, like ways to promote positive developments in the city, such as Frog Hollow Tavern being named to Business Jet Traveler magazine’s list of “12 Terrific Restaurants You’ve Probably Never Heard Of.”

Board member Barbara Pul­liam suggested organizing more cultural events, such as a James Brown festival.

Cain said she arranged the event so community leaders could brainstorm ways to move the city forward and combat the negative image often portrayed in the local media as the Army Cyber Command and other military units prepare to relocate to Augusta.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver has been warning folks that the Pentagon is looking at Augusta every day and doesn’t like what it sees in the poor performing schools and city commission.

Well, who does?

And I resemble that remark about the negative local media. We have the sports pages, features, the funny papers, wedding announcements, birth notices and want ads.

Is it our fault Commissioner Marion Williams can’t shut up about Fred Russell’s hard drive, or that people get mugged on the riverwalk, shot at in River Glen, stabbed on lower Broad Street and that kids are failing in school because the parents have failed at home?

They can drink all the tea in China, but the news won’t change until the people do.

 

APRIL 2007: While perusing the newspaper archives in search of details of the Cain-Scott clash, I ran across a City Ink column I thought was entertaining, especially the comments from people online. This is an edited version:

Augusta was blanketed with yellow last week, from pollen and journalism from Golf Magazine, which had the effrontery to describe the Garden City as “largely low rent, a bargain-basement mosaic of strip malls, strip joints and unassuming houses - all surrounding the world’s most exclusive club.”

They even threw in a snide comment about Bud Light and beef jerky at the corner store “a short walk from Amen Corner.”

“They only seen the nice areas?” asked iletuknow.

“I don’t see where the magazine was that far off base,” wrote Honest. “If you drive John Calhoun Parkway and take an exit, there is a good chance you may leave without your wallet or car …”

“The truth hurts, doesn’t it?” asked peonynut. “Too bad they left out all the crime.”

“It’s a miracle that the golfers aren’t being shot at while driving to and from the airport in south Augusta … Oh wait. That’s right. They were last year. How soon we forget,” wrote jeremychughes.

“The article was correct,” said jennifer2803. “All that’s in Augusta is trashy rundown buildings.”

“Well it is about time somebody stood up and took notice. Kudos to GULF MAGAZINE,” wrote Babsthekid. (It’s Golf Magazine, Babs.) “And to the MAYOR, instead of denying, why don’t you do something about the ‘Bump and Grind Shops’ the ‘Red Light’ district, the Crime and Killings and Robberies instead of spending money on trips to Hawaii? Give the money to the police department to help clean up the disgusting city of Augusta. There was not one word in the article that was untrue.”

(Yes, there was. T-Bonz Steakhouse at 1654 Gordon Highway is not the players’ favorite grub joint. It’s the one on Washington Road. Also, the mayor didn’t go to Hawaii, Babs. If you’re going to be a serious writer, you have to get the facts straight.)

“Well, the first step is to halt low-income housing construction,” said thugskin. “Sorry, but the number of poor must be controlled.”

Quorum of BOE members turns brainstorming event into illegal meeting
'Golf' story prompts cheers, jeers

More