Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Candidates not always clear as voting day draws near

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I’m pleased to report Augusta’s mayoral candidates are improving with practice on the campaign trail, but most are still speaking a lot of gobbledygook.

For example, the raven-haired Dr. Lori Myles has repeatedly called for black and white unity, but when the candidates were asked during television station Channel 6’s forum hosted by Brad Means to identify the highest leadership position they’d ever held, Myles touted her work with 100 Black Women.

Candidate and state Sen. Hardie Davis cites among his legislative success a tax increase – transportation special purpose local option sales tax – and the merger of Augusta State University and the Medical College of Georgia into the despicably named GRU, which he essentially said won’t ultimately matter because of the “enterprise” that’s been created.

At a recent forum, Davis said, Augusta ought to consider “the 1,000-pound elephant” that is “historically suppressed tax rates” that do little to attract new residents.

SAY WHAT? And Davis fell into the pit of meaningless jargon when he said, as mayor, he’d establish an intergovernmental affairs department to study services still not consolidated and “break down silos” of inefficiency.

Still, he’s got the experience, education, demeanor and government-speak to make a good mayor.

YOU HAVE CHOICES: Some folks say they don’t like Davis because he’s not black enough. Well, they can always vote for Charles Cummings who sounds like a broken record about the bus service.

He says an improved transit system could generate $3 million a month and that the city is dysfunctional because it doesn’t know where its money is, which is ridiculous.

Cummings proposes that Augusta’s hotels have kiosks with “an information center that you could go to and it would tell you if you want to go dining … Also, that kiosk would provide you the new and improved bus schedule route. You just press on that, and that bus will be coming out front in the next five minutes.”

Every time Cummings opens his mouth, he shows how little he knows about city government operations while displaying a fluency in Ebonics.

Still he’s likeable and entertaining even if he and his wife did get caught operating an unlicensed teen dance hall.

Meanwhile, with visions of being mayor dancing in his head, Candidate Alvin Mason, has metamorphosed into a fiscal conservative with plans to tear down the Savannah River levee.

He’s opposed to the rain tax, but I seem to remember when he was for it before he was against it.

He’s also trying to discredit Mayor Deke Copenhaver by saying there’s a lack of transparency in the mayor’s office and disconnect between his office and the city commission, a tactic I believe is designed to justify his absence from all six proposed penny tax meetings.

Speaking of transparency, Mason says he’ll be transparent, but he doesn’t return phone calls unless he has a message he wants to disseminate, so I’m a little skeptical about all that future transparency.

Still he’s a fine speaker, poised, self-made and self-confident.

But I think his best quality is that he honors his mother, Hazel Sturdivant, publicly and gives her credit for his success.

Why, he even organized and cooked supper for the family when he was just a child and she was working late.

When she’d call, he’d say, ‘Don’t worry about it, Mom. I’ve got everything under control.”

And what of Helen Blocker-Adams? In my opinion, she’s the most honest, sincere and likeable candidate of all.

AND THE QUEEN NEEDS A CASTLE: During the Channel 6 forum, when host Means asked the candidates whether they’d keep the mayoral car and gasoline card, Myles said, “Will I take a car and gas? Oh, quite naturally. And another thing I truly believe we need to do. We need to establish a mayoral house. … If this is what’s part of what’s already been set aside, there’s no need in us deciding humility, and say, ‘Keep all those things.’”

Later she spouted such gems as, “Princess Augusta needs a queen,” and, “We can no longer sit back and watch ourselves make our own mistakes.”

WILL THAT WAY BE VIA YOUR POCKET? The proposed sales tax package sparked a lively debate at the University Hospital board meeting Thursday.

Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson, the Augusta Commission liaison to the board, told its board members the fate of the proposed penny tax package is in doubt when it comes before voters on May 20.

“I don’t think it is going to pass,” he said.

That prompted member L ee Smith to say if it’s voted down it will be a “black eye” for Augusta .

“This community would be so embarrassed statewide,” he said.

In particular, it would be bad because the proposed penny tax package contains $8 million needed for a local match for a new cancer center at Georgia Regents University, a local match that must be in place before the university can access $45 million in state bond funding for the $62.5 million project.

Smith is the president and CEO of The Community Foundation of the Central Savannah River Area, which helped the Masters Tournament donate $4 million to the needed local contribution for the cancer center.

But Johnson said should the penny tax fail, that $8 million could still find its way to GRU to meet that obligation.

“They’ve already borrowed the money,” he said, but have not released it to the university pending the outcome of the proposed penny tax vote.

Should it be voted down, “they will figure out another way,” Johnson said.

WELL DESERVED AND LONG OVERDUE: WGAC radio talk-show host Austin Rhodes was at his awesome best when he spoke at the West Augusta Rotary Club last week before receiving the club’s 2014 Louis Harris Award.

“My Mom ought to be here,” he said, choking up.

“I’m probably the only recipient of this award whose parent read Louis Harris every day. Every day. She (Beverly Bentley Rhodes) loved it. She thought when Phil Kent took over it was a shame because he wasn’t conservative enough.

She passed away in December. She asked that on her tombstone “The Spirited Mother of Austin Rhodes and Bentley Rhodes” be listed prominently.

“Here’s how spirited she was. Back in 2005, when she heard Barry Paschal had won the award – a dear friend of mine – she said, ‘Well, Austin, you were screwed over. Excuse me if I’m a little emotional. My daughter is here.”

He went on humbly thanking the stations manager for their support, members of the WGAC family and other media folks he’s worked with the past 31 years.

His mother, Beverly, would have been proud.

The club has presented the award annually since 1979 to honor the memory of Harris, a community leader who was editor of The Augusta Chronicle and Augusta Herald in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.

City Ink thanks The Augusta Chronicle’s Science and Medicine reporter Tom Corwin for his contribution to this week’s column.

Comments (16) Add comment
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Butterman
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Butterman 04/26/14 - 07:43 pm
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Well Deserved Austin!!
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So Glad Austin Rhodes won this year's Louis Harris award. You may not always agree with him, but Austin has his pulse on what's going on in Augusta. And his show is a must if you want to know what's going on in Augusta politics.

Butterman
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Butterman 04/26/14 - 07:49 pm
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Helen Back
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Sure.. Helen is extremely likable.. She's as sweet as a honeybun. No arguing she is a nice lady.. but she would be a very weak mayor. The commission would steamroll right over her. Her holding hands and "uniting together" and singing kumbaya sounds good but it is extremely naive.. especially in the bloodsport that is Augusta politics.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 04/26/14 - 08:13 pm
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Has Sylvia Received A Louis Harris?

Yep, I appreciate the level Sylvia operates on. I pretty much agree with her column except I have to wonder about the bold type for Alvin Mason’s mother, Hazel Sturdivant. Puzzling, kind of. With Hardie Davis, I was on board and wearing my life jacket. And I got IT about, bless her heart, Helen Blocker-Adams, whom your Chronicle colleagues supported previously. As I said, I think the Louis Harris Award should have gone to the girl in Edgefield County who did the lost and found, plus the community news. Probably the most overlooked part of the column is the thanks to Tom Corwin that got me wondering what he contributed. Then I found it. If anyone believes University Hospital doesn’t wine and dine Commissioners to keep them out of its administration and finances, I have a house to sell you in Richmond County.

Butterman
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Butterman 04/26/14 - 08:16 pm
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No one wants it
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Riverman... you would have a hard time giving a house a way in Richmond County

Austin Rhodes
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Austin Rhodes 04/26/14 - 08:53 pm
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Thank you Sylvia...

...and lest anyone think my Mom had a problem with Barry Paschal, that was her pat answer starting sometime in the mid to late 90's...whenever the award was announced. Barry was one of the most deserving winners of an award, that I always thought was supposed to honor a long and successful career in AUGUSTA media.

It has been called a "journalism" award, but there are plenty on the list who were not "journalists", but very successful media personalities and executives. Terry Sams, Lee Sheridan, George Fisher, Harley Drew, and Matt Stovall would have been great examples of that.

Actually the only recipient I ever had a problem with, as far as being named a winner, was Tom Grant. No issue with the quality of his work, it is just that he was here for a very brief period of time.

...and OF COURSE Sylvia won it...in 1994.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 04/26/14 - 09:19 pm
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Okay, WE GOT IT

Okay, WE GOT IT. Austin reminds us he got it in 2014. I want one for Dichotomy or some other internet Chronicle commenter (ok,I could be drafted if Dichotomy declined the nomination). Mary Dits is the other best online candidate and would be a hoot.

Austin Rhodes
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Austin Rhodes 04/26/14 - 09:25 pm
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Riverman1
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Riverman1 04/26/14 - 09:27 pm
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Who Did Barry Paschal Support?

Austin, do you think Barry Paschal supported you for the award?

Butterman
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Butterman 04/26/14 - 09:27 pm
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Dichotomy
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I would have agreed with giving Dichotomy an award until he abandoned his principles and jumped on the Hardie Davis bandwagon.. the one candidate running who is the opposite of what dichotomy stands for..... so maybe "dichotomy" is an apt name after all.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 04/26/14 - 09:44 pm
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Austin has left the building.

Austin has left the building. Heh.

Butterman
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Butterman 04/26/14 - 09:52 pm
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Sylvia....
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tell them about the furniture.
Speaking of Paschal.. I was never a fan. Came across as a know-it-all and was routinely rude to people here in the comments sections for no reason other than so he could feel of so superior. Plus he seemed way too cozy with the Ron Cross/Allen Cabal.

Austin Rhodes
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Austin Rhodes 04/26/14 - 09:58 pm
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Barry posted several very nice notes on the subject...

...with the only snarky comments coming from anonymous posters in the AC comments section. Maybe the Whine Liners will chime in with a few next week?

Butterman
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Butterman 04/26/14 - 10:03 pm
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well
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Austin I think you deserved the award and I am glad you won. Try to listen each day when I can. Still not a big fan of Paschal, but I will admit he is very knowledgeable of Colco history.

JRC2024
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JRC2024 04/26/14 - 10:16 pm
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Butterman, I bet you would

Butterman, I bet you would want my house in Richmond County if you knew where it was. I used to live in Woodbridge (CC) but like it here much better.

Butterman
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Butterman 04/26/14 - 10:43 pm
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You want mine?
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I will sell it to you at a great price. Don't blame you for leaving Woodbridge, those homes are overpriced and shoddily built. I remember looking over there when they were building it.. was not impressed.

dichotomy
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dichotomy 04/26/14 - 10:56 pm
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I never jumped on the Hardie

I never jumped on the Hardie Davis bandwagon. I only pointed out that he was the only one that could ast answer a question with a coherent sentence that made sense was relevant to the question which he was asked. Which is more than I can say for the gobbledygook most of the rest of them break into as soon as their mouths open....including Skybox. And Myles.....she needs to take up baseball because she is already way out in left field.

I said right up front that, unlike Davis, I still oppose the SPLOST because of PRIVATE organizations on the list and I also said I disagree with Davis and his comment about PROPERTY TAXES.

I think Butterman is just mad at me because I don't like, or trust, Skybox....but the truth of it is I don't like any of them. I think we have a poor pool of candidates to be our mayor and it's an embarrassment, but telling, that Augusta could not come up with better.

geecheeriverman
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geecheeriverman 04/27/14 - 05:00 am
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Augusta loses

Augusta/Richmond County loses, regardless of which candidate wins. If I were a voter in A/RC, I would vote for The Rev. Hardie Davis. He is not black enough for some voters, and therein lies the problem with the low information voters! The racial divide will never change in A/RC, nor in the USA until Politicians stand up and say this is the problem. Blacks have gotten much bolder in the 5 plus years of the Obama Administration.

Conservative Man
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Conservative Man 04/27/14 - 09:16 am
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It's official….

….Sylvia backs HBA…
It is my opinion that Hardie and Helen would be more of the same "wishy washy" so called leadership we've had the last eight years…

We need someone with some gumption to take charge…

Alvin Mason for Mayor!

AutumnLeaves
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AutumnLeaves 04/27/14 - 12:18 pm
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We need someone with some

We need someone with some gumption to take charge...Helen Blocker-Adams seems to be the best choice so far among the candidates.

Butterman
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Butterman 04/27/14 - 01:25 pm
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Gumption
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"We need someone with some gumption to take charge...Helen Blocker-Adams seems to be the best choice so far among the candidates""
I can think of many positive words to describe HBA. Nice, personable, likable, popular, etc, etc. But "gumption to take charge" is not a phrase I would associate with Helen. She is too naive with her approach and her lack of political experience and command of the issues would set her up to be steamrolled by The Commission. I am all for strong female leaders.. but HBA just doesn't seem to have the "gumption" to get things done.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 04/27/14 - 03:22 pm
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Cold

This thread has pretty much gone cold. I agree with dichotomy's 11:56 p.m. post. All the candidates lack critical discernment and "stand on principles of liberty" genes. But so far, only two have unequivocally spoken out against this 2014 SPLOST referendum — Alvin Mason and Helen Blocker Adams. So, one of them will get my vote.

Butterman
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Butterman 04/27/14 - 03:31 pm
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Lamb I am
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Don't forget Cummings is a vocal SPLOST opponent too.. but I would not consider him a credible or viable candidate. Mason was the first to come out against SPLOST. The reasons he gave is that the process was rushed and the package including $22 million to outside groups is "illegal".. He wants the money going to outside groups removed. This shows he is the true anti-splost candidate who will be our best hope at reforming SPLOST. helen said she is against "this package" but only because it did not have enough "infrastructure projects." She has not weighed in on the money going to outside groups and whether or not she would support that in the future. I just get the feeling with Helen that she is sort of sticking her finger in the air on this one, knowing that it is likely SPLOST will fail, but at the same time does not want to distance herself from all of the outside groups that stand to benefit from it. her opposition is tepid at best. mason has made no bones about why he is against this SPLOST.

SRD
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SRD 04/27/14 - 06:58 pm
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What are you thinking

You sound a little confused to throw the Mayoral race and Austin's award in the same opinion piece. Is it because he supports Helen so you will support Helen. I've seen the debates, I read the interviews and you don't seem to have a clear head. Helen is sweet on the surface but sweet isn't what the Mayoral position needs. Augusta needs a leader with experience and is economically conservative. Alvin Mason appears to be the most qualified for the job. I disagree with you, looks like you are writing from your heart and not your head!

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 04/27/14 - 07:28 pm
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Candidates

I'm with you, butterman.

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