Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Mayoral candidates continue to spar over SPLOST

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Mayoral candidates state Sen. Hardie Davis and Augusta Com­mission member Alvin Mason continued their war of words over the next round of the special purpose local option sales tax at an Augusta AMBUCS forum last week while Helen Blocker-Adams reiterated her opposition to the tax package.

“SPLOST 7 is being rammed down our throats like a hard sell – like a midnight madness sale,” she said.

LOST IN CONFABULATION: I’m not sure what candidate Lori Myles said. It takes too much effort to try to figure it out.

BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND: “In this community we tend to move with the winds of political change, and we hover around the things that seem exciting,” said Davis, no doubt impressing the civic club with his ability to turn a contrived phrase, while criticizing Mason’s absence at Mayor Deke Copen­haver’s SPLOST 7 meetings and Mason’s vote for the sales-tax package in 2009.

“I would have been there making the decision instead of coming back to the people saying, ‘Oh by the way, we didn’t have enough public meetings.’ … If it was illegal today, it was illegal in 2009. That’s not what leadership is about,” Davis said.

Mason insisted on correcting what he called “false information.”

“In 2009, there were public meetings,” he said. “So it wasn’t the same process. We shouldn’t say it was the same process. But again, I’m here. I guess you spend so much time in Atlanta you don’t know the deal. The fact of the matter is I’ve been against SPLOST 7 from day one. It has nothing to do with being after the fact. And here’s what I say about true leadership. When you become knowledgeable that something is wrong, do you keep doing wrong? You stop it! You stop it! You don’t just say ’cause it’s been done this way, OK.”

NOT A RUN OF THE MILLS MATTER: A question about the $5.2 million allocation in the sales-tax package for Copenhaver’s Mills District project revealed that none of the candidates knows exactly what it’s for.

“First, we were going to purchase land,” Mason said. “Then it was going to be studies and then programmable things. And now it’s land between Harrisburg to be contiguous with the mills, but there’s been no commitment from GRU that they’re going to build dorms and this type of stuff. And there’s been $8 million for the Georgia Regents University cancer center.”

About $21.7 million of SPLOST money would be bonded for immediate use, but none would go toward roads, bridges, sewage, drainage or public safety.

“The sheriff came out and said public safety was critically important,” Mason continued. “There’s no money being bonded for public safety. If it’s critically important, let’s bond you some money immediately. Let’s just be real here for a moment. When we go look at some of the land that we’re talking about purchasing up as a part of the mills project, you may be surprised – or maybe not – who some of the names of the people who are going to get some of this money immediately.”

TURNABOUT IS FAIR PLAY: Club member Nathan Jolles said he’d asked Co­pen­haver what one question he would put to the mayoral candidates. Copenhaver said to ask them to identify their specific qualifications to manage the growth from the arrival of the Army Cyber Command at Fort Gor­don.

Well now, considering the lack of money for infrastructure expansion vital for the expected growth in the mayor’s tax package, maybe somebody should ask him the same question.

“GET OFF OF MY BLOCK”: After the shooting at Paine College, Augusta Chronicle photographer Jon-Michael Sullivan parked at the old Wife Saver parking lot on 15th Street, got out with his camera and was walking toward the sidewalk when someone shouted to him from a window, and a Paine College police officer approached and told him to leave because he was on private property.

The officer said, “We own this property,” according to Sullivan.

“I’m on the sidewalk,” Sulli­van said.

“We own that too,” the officer replied, which Sul­livan said was news to him.

“Man, just get out of here,” the officer said, which Sullivan did.

Question: If Paine Col­lege is so private it even owns the sidewalks, why did it receive $2 million of SPLOST 6 money for its Health Education Activities Learning Complex and is scheduled to get $6 million from SPLOST 7 if the tax referendum passes May 20?

49 YEARS OF SERVICE: The Richmond County Sher­iff’s Office held a bang-up retirement reception honoring Maj. Gene Johnson at the Charles Webster De­ten­tion Cen­ter last week.

Sheriff Richard Round­tree presented Johnson with a bronze eagle trophy, a traditional law-enforcement symbo. A slideshow of Johnson through the years preceded entertainment by former boss and colleagues Sheriff Ronnie Strength, Chief Deputy Sid Hatfield and partner Gene Staulcup, the owner of Staulcup & Associates.

Strength attributed Johnson’s longevity to loyalty and dedication – and one other thing.

“When it came to elections, Gene never put a yard sign in his yard until after the election, and they were always signs of the winners,” he said.

Strength said he is concerned Johnson will have sticker shock when he has to buy his own gasoline after so many years of driving a government vehicle.

In describing his friendship with Johnson, Staulcup said, “A friend will help you move. A good friend will help you move a body.”

In 2010, Johnson was honored with a surprise party after 45 years in the sheriff’s office, and there he recounted the most memorable event of his career. It was in 1983 when Charlie Harris crashed through the gate of Augusta National Golf Club while President Reagan was there.

Johnson said he and a couple more officers were in the Green Jacket Res­tau­rant parking lot when Har­ris went through the gate.

“We went through behind him,” he said. “He had some people hemmed up in the pro shop, and me and a Secret Service agent was laying on the floor trying to talk to him, and he was drunk. He said, ‘If y’all don’t get me another bottle of liquor, I’m going to shoot somebody.’ About that time, he put his hand out the door and shot the TV.

“He was drinking tequila, and he had a bottle about half-full on the front seat. He kept hollering he wanted the tequila. J.B. Dykes was sheriff then. He said, ‘Reckon we ought to give him some more?’ I said, ‘No, we want him to sober up.’

“Another time, I was duty investigator one weekend, and I had five murders. I actually had three murders and a murder-suicide. I tell you, that was the busiest weekend I ever had. In fact, I went to the autopsy that morning, and Dr. (Kailash) Sharma said, ‘What did you do last night?’ He had bodies laying everywhere to autopsy.

“One guy they killed was riding a bicycle, and a guy walked up to him and cut his throat and just kept on walking .… While I was doing that, they called me to another one on the other end of Olive Road. It was in a house. A shooting. I had a busy night that night. It was Halloween night.”

Comments (20) Add comment
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dichotomy
32157
Points
dichotomy 05/10/14 - 07:47 pm
8
3
Here is my question. They are

Here is my question. They are going to immediately bond the money for the cancer center and the mills. Now Mason is making noise about immediately bonding the money for the sheriffs department.

Do all of you remember the stories about how the TSPLOST money is not coming in as fast as they projected. TSPLOST comes from the same place as regular SPLOST. If the TSPLOST is not coming in like projected then SPLOST, in fact all sales tax, is probably coming in slower than projected.

So my question is, if they bond all of this money and the tax collections to make the payments are slower than projected, HOW THE HELL DO THEY PLAN TO MAKE THE PAYMENTS.

I say DO NOT SPEND ONE DAMNED DIME UNTIL IT IS COLLECTED AND IN THE POT. We are floating so many bonds we are bonding ourselves into OBLIVION if we have another burp in the economy and retail sales slow down. Our whole government has become like Wimpy and his "I'll gladly pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today". The problem is that I don't think our "leaders" are smart enough to actually keep up with how much we owe "tomorrow". My guess is that we are maxed out on spending for about the next 50 years already with all of these bonds we owe.

Pops
7797
Points
Pops 05/10/14 - 08:29 pm
8
4
“Man, just get out of here,” the officer said."

Maybe the Paine officer should have had that attitude with the so-called trespassers causing all the mayhem at their institution of higher learning....

nocnoc
41425
Points
nocnoc 05/10/14 - 09:29 pm
10
1
What is there to Spar about

This SPLOST is bloated with PORK, Handouts, paybacks, a pay forwards and a $50 Million "YET TO BE DETERMINED" money Pit.

It should be voted down, cleaned up and resubmitted to the public in Nov.

The $194Million really needs to be closer to $100 Million 3/4's focused outside the OLD CITY Limits.

nocnoc
41425
Points
nocnoc 05/10/14 - 09:37 pm
10
1
BTW: its been MONTHS since the proposed SPLOST was released.

Have I missed it, or has 1 commissioner stepped forward to explain where the Engineering dept would spend $50Million?

Why the Miller/Imperial Owner(s) legally can receive Taxpayer $$$$ to keep operating their Businesses?

Why Project Mgt fees are so high and WHO will be the PROJECT MGT Group?

They just did not put the $50-Million or other numbers out of their backside orifice.

They have some idea what was needed, so they have some idea WHERE, WHAT & WHO it is needed for.

WHY WON'T THEY PROVIDE A LEGALLY BINDING DOCUMENT OF THEIR SPENDING PLANS?

Little Lamb
45383
Points
Little Lamb 05/10/14 - 10:46 pm
7
1
Slush

Because SPLOST has now become a slush fund of the mayor.

geecheeriverman
2067
Points
geecheeriverman 05/11/14 - 05:32 am
1
1
Check property records

Check the property records of the owners of some of the property that stands to benefit from the SPLOST funds. I think you would find it very interesting.

story1
802
Points
story1 05/11/14 - 08:02 am
1
1
Mr. Mason makes sense.

Vote Alvin and vote No on this Splost. Let the new leaders prepare a more reasonable proposal for taxpayers to approve.

Conservative Man
5451
Points
Conservative Man 05/11/14 - 08:22 am
6
1
Agree with the last two comments...

...As to the first comment...I think Alvin Mason is trying to make the point that why are we bonding money for a nebulous "mills" project FIRST, when we haven't even discussed the more pressing needs of law enforcement nor infrastructure...Thats my take on it

..I will also re-iterate what he's been askking all along.."If it's such a great deal for the city, why all the secrecy surrounding WHICH properties will be bought, and for what purpose specifically"..

Again, more money being pulled out of MY pocket to pay for something no one wants and something we don't need....

Last point on this "mills" thing..

Do any of these "suits" who are proposing this boondoggle have a clue as to how many millions of dollars it will take to get that place even remotely livable?

My guess is tens of millions of dollars...and for what... and paid for by whom?

Kill this whole discussion by voting NO to SPLOST VII on May 20th..

geecheeriverman
2067
Points
geecheeriverman 05/11/14 - 09:00 am
1
0
Check Property Records

Check the property records of the owners of some of the property that stands to benefit from this TSPLOST package. I believe it would be an eye opener to some folks.

seenitB4
85810
Points
seenitB4 05/11/14 - 09:12 am
5
1
Let this sink in....none know

"A question about the $5.2 million allocation in the sales-tax package for Copenhaver’s Mills District project revealed that none of the candidates knows exactly what it’s for."

Riverman1
82448
Points
Riverman1 05/11/14 - 09:50 am
6
1
Mason Was Using Sarcasm

Yeah, Mason was just using a little sarcasm about the whole SPLOST. He appears to be firmly against it as opposed to Hardie Davis. He laid out well the whole Matthew Kwatinetz and Deke giving him millions with no accountability episode.

Riverman1
82448
Points
Riverman1 05/11/14 - 10:11 am
4
1
Augusta's Very Own Rasputin

I've been studying Matt K with his Rasputin like hold on Deke. Brad Owens also spoke glowingly of him the other day, but when I asked him specifics, he didn't answer. It appears to be a personality thing they admire without concrete specifics.

Since Kwatinetz doesn’t tell us his plans with the $5.2 million nor does Deke or anyone else, I’m trying to figure all this out. When you Google photos of Matt you see him in artsy type, posed images. I don't think he is married. Maybe that's part of the problem. He doesn't view communities as places where families pay taxes and raise children. He's coming from a whole different perspective. He goes off with this theoretical sculpting of the city as if he were working with clay instead of people and their tax money.

However I also think there's a practical side to him. He was or still is an officer with Heartland LLC, a Seattle-based real estate advisory and investment firm. The company figures out ways to make money off of areas where public money is going to be invested. Does he fit right in with Augusta or what?

seenitB4
85810
Points
seenitB4 05/11/14 - 10:37 am
5
1
google some of his words...

Kwatinetz said.....in article in AC..

ARC Project principles include funding facilities, not groups, he said.

“In my world, the ideal thing would be to have all the right facilities that everyone needs and they’re free,” just like the roads
and schools everyone uses now, he said.

Ok now---roads & schools are free....nice to know that....what a gift from heaven....free free free...

http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/government/2013-11-15/consultant-detai...

seenitB4
85810
Points
seenitB4 05/11/14 - 10:41 am
5
2
River..please

We are just too LOGICAL...shame on us....we actually THINK taxes pay for this stuff......stop it.....can't we be artsy & clever & wait for manna to fall from the heavens??
Shake it off....let's float away in another world. Be FREE BE FREE...

Riverman1
82448
Points
Riverman1 05/12/14 - 01:05 pm
1
2
Speaking of Funding the RCSO

By the way, in many places the hotel tax goes to fund the Sheriff's Office. Here $750,000 a year of it goes to fund the ongoing Laney Walker fiasco.

Sweet son
10111
Points
Sweet son 05/11/14 - 01:44 pm
0
0
Congratulations to Gene Johnson for his service to this

community. Wouldn't it have been great to be a fly on the wall at the Augusta National that day. :)

Also the chief and the rest of the Paine police need to be schooled on the rights of photographers to do their work. And learn that the sidewalk near the street is not theirs. Most street sidewalks are on the right of way which is public property.

corgimom
31477
Points
corgimom 05/11/14 - 08:22 pm
2
2
"About $21.7 million of

"About $21.7 million of SPLOST money would be bonded for immediate use, but none would go toward roads, bridges, sewage, drainage or public safety."

This is INSANITY.

But on a personal note, my husband's family and Charles Harris' family were very close, my husband's family would come down every summer from Charlotte and visit. Charles' mother and my late mother in law were best friends, and had been since the 1940's, when their husbands were in the Navy together. They were friends until death, Charles' mother passed first, and my mother in law a few years after.

corgimom
31477
Points
corgimom 05/11/14 - 08:23 pm
1
2
Riverman, you mean, fund the

Riverman, you mean, fund the L/W slush fund.

triscuit
2997
Points
triscuit 05/11/14 - 09:05 pm
1
1
It will take $5 million to

It will take $5 million to pay for cleanup, and probably a year of just studying that phase.

geecheeriverman
2067
Points
geecheeriverman 05/12/14 - 10:03 am
0
1
Check Property Records

Check the property records and see who owns the property, that stands to benefit with the passage of this SPLOST package, and I think you may see why certain people are pushing this to pass.

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