In honor of the release of Get on Up, the movie about James Brown, this week’s column will incorporate not only his lyrics but also his thoughts about Augusta politics.
DEKE’S “GOT A BRAND NEW BAG”: After nine years as mayor, Deke Copenhaver has learned that politics is quid pro quo. You reward your friends and punish your enemies. Of course, Augusta politics has always been that way, but who’d think the vote on a new city administrator would go as cheaply as two movie tickets?
“LOWDOWN POPCORN”: Everybody knows the tickets are the cheapest part of the date. The popcorn and drinks are a whole lot more expensive. Maybe if the Boy King had thrown those in, he’d have gotten the vote he needed to hire the man he picked.
Anyway, we learned during Tuesday’s Augusta Commission meeting that the mayor had promised to give Commissioner Bill Fennoy two tickets to the Augusta premiere of Get On Up, but when Fennoy didn’t vote for Deke’s pick, he texted Fennoy that he’d changed his mind and would give them to someone “interested in Augusta.”
At first, Fennoy probably said, “Guess I gotta cry, cry, cry.”
But then he must have started thinking about payback:
“Sold me out, for chicken change (yes you did!)
Told me that they, they had it all arranged
You had me down, and that’s a fact
Now you punk, You gotta get ready
For the big payback!”
The payback began when Commissioner Marion Williams, who’s always “Talking Loud and Saying Nothing,” put an item on the meeting agenda asking for an update on the city’s sponsorship of the movie premiere.
“Some people had tickets, and if some of us are going to be compensated, rewarded, encouraged, then everybody needs to be treated the same way,” he said.
“I DON’T WANT NOBODY TO GIVE ME NOTHING. (OPEN THE DOOR AND I’LL GET IT MYSELF)”: Commissioners Alvin Mason and Mary Davis said, “I Got a Bag of My Own,” and they paid around $200 to attend the film and after-party.
Mason loves to dance, just like James Brown. When he was running for mayor, there was a video of him dancing in the streets to I’ve Got Ants in my Pants (and I Want to Dance.)
Anyway, the mayor said the event was short on money and that he had a bag of his own, too, so he became a sponsor. He also said he apologized to Fennoy after sending the text and had his assistant Al Dallas tell him he would have tickets for him after all. Al was going to “Take Some, Leave Some” at the will call window.
While all of this was going on, Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle just sat there looking “Bewildered.” Commissioner Joe Jackson looked like he was thinking “It’s Too Funky in Here.” And Commissioner Donnie Smith, who’s still on administrative leave from the Georgia State Patrol during an investigation of a possible policy violation, might have been feeling a “Cold Sweat.”
“IF I RULED THE WORLD”: Once again, Williams was “Doing it to Death” and calling for Heery International, the city’s project manager on the Marble Palace renovation, to be fired. And he was outraged that they weren’t at the meeting, so he told the clerk to put it back on the next meeting agenda.
“They had the disrespect for this body enough not to show up,” he said.
And he wants “Revenge.”
“TRY, TRY ME”: Meanwhile, Commissioner Grady Smith, who is “Forever Suffering” through the interminable talking, said everybody had an opportunity to review the architectural and engineering plans before the renovation began and should have said something then.
“I think we’ve got a good product here,” he said. “If we’ve got some changes that need to be made …. There’s no sense in beating on them (Heery).”
Commissioner Bill Lockett interrupted to say, “Mr. Mayor, I call the question.”
“Be quiet,” Williams said. “When you talk, I don’t say anything. Down! OK.”
“Hey!” Lockett said.
“You got it,” Smith said. “I say let’s move forward. All this other B.S. can go somewhere else.”
“Mr. Mayor, point of personal privilege,” Lockett said. “I think my colleague needs to be versed in Robert’s Rules and parliamentary procedure.”
“He needs to study up himself,” Smith said later. “I don’t use Robert’s Rules of Order when I’m dealing with an adversary. I use Grady’s Rules of Order, which allow the other person to speak and complete his thoughts. It’s called courtesy.”
“I’M PAYING TAXES, WHAT AM I BUYING?” When James Brown sang Even a Blind Man Can See It, he must have been thinking about Augusta’s petty politics.
Citizens who attend commission meetings often exit muttering “I’ll Go Crazy.” Most believe the whole commission should get on the “Night Train” and leave because it’s “Like it Is, Like it Was” and “It Ain’t Getting No Better.”
Some people say when the new mayor and commission come on board next year, it will get better. Maybe. Maybe not. But “Santa Claus” will definitely be here to stay.
“HOW DO YOU STOP”: The city’s human resources director made a compelling case for amending the city’s contract with ADP to do away with providing health and wellness services and bring the function back in house.
Tanika Bryant told commissioners that she could hire three benefits specialists to help take over that work for $134,000 a year and save the city $154,000. What she didn’t tell them at first is that the contract changes wouldn’t go into effect until 2016 although the employees and ADP would be working in 2015.
That reminded me of when I was covering the Lowndes County Commission for the Valdosta Daily Times. The tax assessor came before the board with a request for a new assessor because the ones he had couldn’t keep up with the workload. He said the county was losing tax revenue because there were properties that needed to be reassessed, but he was so shorthanded they couldn’t get around to them.
Commission Chairman Fred DeLoach said, “You were here last year and the year before asking for a new assessor, and each time we gave you what you wanted.”
“I know,” the assessor said. “But if I can just get one more, I’ll be set for a while.”
“So you won’t be back before this commission next year?”
“No sir. Not next year.”
“What about the year after that? Will you be back here asking me for more employees?”
“No sir, I don’t believe I will because you’ll be out of office by then.”