Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

City administrator candidates talk strange line

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In perusing the résumés of Mayor Deke Copen­ha­ver’s top picks to replace city Ad­min­istrator Fred Rus­sell, I find it exceedingly strange that references for all three say the candidates don’t get involved in politics.

Stephen Layson, the chief administrative officer of Bibb County, Ga., “does not get caught up in political issues.”

Janice Allen Jackson, a former manager of Albany, Ga., and current principal of a management, marketing and strategic planning firm, “looks past politics.”

And Oscar Rodriguez, the town manager of Taos, N.M., from May 2012 until his March firing, “never gets involved in politics.”

So the question is, why are candidates who avoid politics seeking the most political job in Augusta?

Layson’s references also state that he has “experience and is politically astute,” which raises another question: Why does he want to come to Augusta?

“Mr. Layson was once an elected official, which gives him a different perspective. He understands that mindset.” So he’s as crazy as the rest of them, I suppose.

People listened to Layson. “He brought meetings to conclusion and managed the process.” Wait until he meets commissioners Marion Williams and Bill Lockett.

Jackson, who’s worked for social service agencies in the past, would find her experience real handy in Au­gusta, where elected officials have to work hard to be social with each other. The fact that she creates “win-win situations” would be a plus because both sides usually think somebody’s tricked them into losing.

“She is a good listener, thoughtful, gathers information effectively and challenges conventional thinking.” She wouldn’t have much conventional thinking to challenge in Augusta government.

Rodriguez is “honest, smart and a good problem solver,” which is a big plus because we know the names of 10 problems right off the bat. Eleven, if you count the mayor.

On the other hand, if he’d solved the problems in Taos, he might not have gotten fired.

“He is tenacious, loyal and brave.” Brave might help. But loyal? Loyal to which six? The mayor? The community? Or himself?

Rodriguez “also is idealistic with strong moral values and does not back down. Those qualities can put him at cross purposes with the elected officials at times.” That’s three strikes against him right off the bat.

Augusta commissioners interviewed the candidates last week after a legal meeting where Williams objected to the finalists because they’ve been city managers instead of administrators. He must have had a doctor’s appointment or something because he left after the first interview.

Jackson’s interview lasted an hour and a half, after which everybody was worn out and hungry. It would have been shorter if some commissioners didn’t pontificate, bloviate and preface their questions with rambling speeches about things the candidates don’t know a thing about. So the interview with Layton was much shorter. After lunch, they interviewed Rodriguez, who talks a lot with his hands but came across well, as did they all.

BUT SHE COULD LEARN: During Jackson’s interview, Commissioner Grady Smith said, “Tell us a little bit about yourself. Family life, married, children …”

“No. No. No. No,” someone cautioned as Commis­sion­er Wayne Guilfoyle showed Smith the list of questions that were off limits.

“I could sue you,” Jackson said with a laugh. “I won’t. But I could sue you.”

“I’m sorry,” Smith said. “Wrong question.”

Jackson said she’s active in her church, writes and follows her son throughout the South­­east watching him develop as a baseball player.

“You don’t play golf, do you?” Smith asked.

“I’m sorry. I do not play golf,” she said with a laugh.

KNOCK KNOCK. WHO’S THERE? I called Russell and asked what he thought about the candidates. He declined the opportunity to opine and just laughed.

WILL PEOPLE WHO AREN’T RESPONSIBLE FOR THEMSELVES EVER BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR PETS? Nothing in recent memory – the renaming of MCG and ASU to GRU being an exception – has created as much public outrage as animal control Director Shar­on Broady’s refusal to allow groups to remove animals from the pound.

After an editorial in Thurs­day’s Augusta Chron­icle asked, “How long will it take to stop the needless killing of innocent animals?” commissioners were barraged with phone calls and swiftly called a news conference to announce that Broady will work with the groups and that killing at the facility will cease until commissioners meet this week to discuss adopting a new policy.

It’s a start, but there’s a long way to go before Au­gusta solves the problem of unwanted animals ending up at the end of a needle at animal control – 13,000 of them over the past two years.

Many are calling for Broady’s firing or transfer to another department, but commissioners Guil­foyle, Corey Johnson and others are standing behind her.

“I think a lot of people just misunderstood what was going on,” Johnson said. “Ms. Broady don’t want to kill animals. I felt bad for her because she’s not that kind of person. She has a background in law enforcement. She’s straight. She tries to work within the law. Her job is not to kill animals. We’re going to support Sharon. If she can figure out a way to work with animal groups, that’s good, but she’s got to support the law.”

And as everybody knows, if people don’t take responsibility for their animals, Augusta will continue to have an influx of them, John­son said.

“These are picked up because they’re roaming the streets,” he said. “We need to figure out how to get pet owners to be responsible for their animals. And whatever we can do to help Sharon save the animals, we’re going to do that.”

Commissioner Donnie Smith says just look at the numbers.

“We take in 9,500 to 10,000 animals a year. All of those cannot be adopted out. So what do you do with the other 8,000?” he said.

Last year, 1,128 animals were adopted from the facility. Rescue groups took 212.

“There are some excellent rescue groups out there, but there are some who take them and breed them, and we can’t check on them,” Smith said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to people. How many people are willing to go out there and adopt an animal?”

The city has been trying to hire a full-time veterinarian but can’t find anybody who wants the job. Young veterinarians say they can make more money in private practice, retired vets don’t want to do it a few days a week and the established vets in town don’t want the competition. It truly is an overwhelming problem, and if the public doesn’t keep the heat on, nothing will change.

HARD AT WORK IN THE BIG EASY: If commissioners would quit traveling so much at taxpayers’ expense, they’d have the money to hire an employee, maybe two, to follow up on cases of people who adopt animals and don’t return with proof that they’ve had them spayed or neutered.

This weekend, Commis­sioner Alvin “Lame Duck” Mason, Williams and Lock­ett are in New Orleans attending the National Asso­ciation of Counties’ Annual Conference and Exposition. That’s more than $6,000 that could go for something worthwhile. They say they learn so much at these conferences, but as I’ve said, I can’t see how since they already know it all.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Some­times, it’s really not the teacher’s or principal’s fault. The parents have to be held accountable, too, especially those who don’t think an education is valuable. I don’t have a problem holding principals accountable. We have to acknowledge all the people that are at fault. Until parents get involved at their children’s schools, we are not going to grow. With all the free programs and extra help available, there is no reason for a child in this county to not graduate.” – Richmond County Board of Education President Venus Cain, on a proposal to give principals a three-year period to improve students’ academic performance or possibly be demoted.

Comments (19) Add comment
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Little Lamb
46392
Points
Little Lamb 07/12/14 - 09:47 pm
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0
News Conference

The hastily convened news conference led by interim city administrator Tameka Allen said that the city was going to stop euthanizing dogs immediately. They were going to use one local animal rescue group who would take the dogs, get them sterilized at a clinic out on Columbia Road, then try to find homes for the dogs.

Tell me, does anyone think this one rescue group can find homes for 6,000 dogs every year? There are just not that many responsible families out there to take in that many dogs.

Even if you really love dogs, when you adopt one, you have entered a fifteen year commitment. You can't keep taking them year after year.

jpbrig
208
Points
jpbrig 07/12/14 - 09:53 pm
11
1
Lockett, Mason and Williams

Lockett, Mason, and Williams need a paid trip out of Augusta to get away from the politics, after all they need to bring back some new ways to spend tax money on their "pet" projects. Like a rain tax and a no rain tax, so they win either way.

Little Lamb
46392
Points
Little Lamb 07/12/14 - 10:07 pm
8
1
Brig

Good to see you commenting again, jpbrig. You know them better than most.

I wonder if they enjoyed those hurricane drinks?

Little Lamb
46392
Points
Little Lamb 07/12/14 - 10:12 pm
6
1
Breeding

From the story:

“. . . there are some [rescue groups] who take them and breed them, and we can’t check on them,” Commissioner Donnie Smith said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to people. How many people are willing to go out there and adopt an animal?”

Yes, some rescue groups take in animals who are too old to be readily adoptable. They keep them in cages and breed them. Then the rescue groups take the puppies to pet fairs where most of the litter gets adopted by families with young children and very little experience at taking care of a dog. It is a racket with some of these rescue groups. I've seen it.

rebellious
20916
Points
rebellious 07/12/14 - 11:31 pm
6
0
It is strange

how the comments center more on the plight of animals than the future of Augusta. Just saying...

corgimom
33159
Points
corgimom 07/13/14 - 05:54 am
6
4
Little Lamb, you are 100%

Little Lamb, you are 100% correct. Those "rescue" groups aren't all that people think that they are. Some are very good and are doing it for the right reasons, others aren't.

And those families that adopt those puppies don't know what they are getting into, they discover that having a puppy is a lot of work and expense and that puppies are destructive, and those are the dogs that wind up back at the shelter.

seenitB4
88080
Points
seenitB4 07/13/14 - 06:13 am
9
1
That tidbit is good to know!

"if he’d solved the problems in Taos, he might not have gotten fired."

Little Lamb
46392
Points
Little Lamb 07/13/14 - 06:25 am
6
1
Future

Good comment, Rebellious. But the trouble with commenting on the three finalists is that all we have to look at is each one's resume. We have no idea how each one would perform on the job. It's a crap shoot to hire an outsider. Of course, Fred (What, me worry?) Russell was an insider, and we see how that worked out.

seenitB4
88080
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seenitB4 07/13/14 - 06:51 am
10
2
more on the plight of animals

and so it goes for the whole USA...This am in the news, what do we see..
Let me check---Rosie coming back to the view---Elizabeth has a new duel with her...Kanye & his life--what Kimk is wearing---G Clooney won't accept apology---do you see a common thread here??

We have a BRAINWASHED society...empty minds that have been programed to gloss over anything important.
Israel at war with neighbors
Middle east fighting constantly
Borders wide open spaces for drugs-criminals-diseases
New expense of health insurance for ALL (dumbbehinds)

Talk about Rome burning.....we may never be the same country again....& the main stream media has a huge blame in this. A HUGE BLAME!

jwilliams
893
Points
jwilliams 07/13/14 - 07:13 am
12
0
The only trip that Alvin

The only trip that Alvin Mason, Joe Jackson or Corey Johnson should be taking at this point is the trip back to their respective homes and out of the good citizens/taxpayers pockets. We know that Mason and Jackson are gone (172 days and definitely counting) and I implore the good citizens of Senate seat district 22 to “HELP” Corey “Because I’m Great” Johnson, (his words not mine) join them.

southern2
6263
Points
southern2 07/13/14 - 10:18 am
7
0
“I could sue you,” Jackson

“I could sue you,” Jackson said with a laugh. “I won’t. But I could sue you.”

Man, that didn't take long. I mean right out of the box.

Willowtree
20
Points
Willowtree 07/13/14 - 01:17 pm
4
0
Rescue

Most people who read the newspaper accounts have very little idea how much work and commitment it requires for a rescue group to take animals, vet them, foster them, transport them and rehome them. Rescues beg daily for foster homes, money to cover expenses, able volunteers, and new adoptive homes. Sure a few hundred or maybe even thousand can be shipped up North but even those states are tightening the rules. The Northeast is not the salvation for all the animals in the shelter. Only responsible pet ownership is and we have a long ways to travel on that highway.

Thank you City Ink for presenting another angle on this hot topic.

Little Lamb
46392
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Little Lamb 07/13/14 - 01:49 pm
4
0
Willow

Thank you for joining the forum, willowtree. I empathize with your comment about begging. I've been down that road trying to find homes for stray animals I've rescued, paid for tests and shots, and sterilized. I've asked and asked and begged. I've lost friends by doing that.

Now, if I catch a stray, I pay for the tests and shots, I pay for the sterilization, then I release the stray back to the wild. I've got too many pets (all former strays) to take in any more.

Sweet son
10547
Points
Sweet son 07/13/14 - 04:08 pm
3
0
I just feel sorry for the candidates for having to be

interviewed by our know nothing commission. The first one off of the list would be the 'sue you' person if that's the first thing that comes to her mind. She would have immediately cooked her own goose even if Grady was wrong.

Williams, Locket, Johnson and Mason always show their intellectual level at every turn so I'm sure the candidates were really impressed. I wouldn't want the job for any amount of money. It is just a job with a no win history.

corgimom
33159
Points
corgimom 07/13/14 - 06:05 pm
0
3
No, sweet son, she was asked

No, sweet son, she was asked illegal questions, and she was trying to laugh it off but to let them know that what was being asked was illegal.

That was the fault of the commissioner.

Good for her, that she stood up for her legal rights, and didn't fall for that crap! She has integrity and won't let people break the law.

And I like the way that she let everybody know, loud and clear, how the INCOMPETENT commissioners are still at it!

They would've NEVER asked that question of a man.

corgimom
33159
Points
corgimom 07/13/14 - 06:09 pm
2
3
Southern2, yeah, that didn't

Southern2, yeah, that didn't take long, for the commissioners to show how they don't know how to do ANYTHING, let alone conduct a job interview!

What was she supposed to say?

Don't blame HER, blame that incompetent Grady Smith, that could've gotten the county sued- and she would've WON!

In fact, if she doesn't get the job, I think she will.

And I would too.

You can't believe that an employer would ask that question in 2014. How is RC supposed to conduct its business adequately when a commissioner violates Federal law?

And people wonder why Augusta gets sued all the time????

jwilliams
893
Points
jwilliams 07/13/14 - 06:44 pm
4
0
Grady’s not the only

Grady’s not the only incompetent commissioner down there, check this out. In Sylvia Cooper’s City Ink article on 6/29/2014, she wrote the following, “Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson said they should raise taxes enough that they wouldn’t find themselves in this situation next year.” Then two days later 7/1/2014, Corey “Because I’m Great” Johnson (his words not mine) stated in an interview telecast by WJBF news 6 the following, “Mayor Pro-Tem Corey Johnson says the budget is a concern...but he doesn't support raising property taxes now."There's been a lot of concerns and issues about services and things of that nature. Like I said before, I stand behind my word. I don't see increasing property taxes, at this point, with the economy," says Johnson. Good people of District 22 this is a continuation of the incompetent double talking that the “Great One” has shown since being elected as commissioner for district 2. Is this the type of inept person WE need representing US under the dome?

Little Lamb
46392
Points
Little Lamb 07/13/14 - 07:57 pm
5
0
District 22

I hope the good people in District 22 vote for Harold Jones for State Senator in the run-off July 22.

Corey Johnson has been a complete disappointment as commissioner.

AFjoe
3224
Points
AFjoe 07/14/14 - 07:45 am
2
0
Decision Made When?

When is the RC commission going to tell the men to leave town? Everyone knows its a "dog and pony" show & these dogs don't get rescued.

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