Augusta Commission candidates favor halt on convention center action

Six Augusta Commission candidates said Monday that they would like to see government action on the Augusta Convention Center put on hold until after new commissioners are elected and begin their terms in 2013.

That matter was posed at a forum held Monday night by the Augusta branch of the NAACP.

While supporting the idea, District 3 hopeful Ed Enoch said it could be disastrous if existing business booked for the center had to be canceled.

“We’d be looking at an empty building,” he said.

District 1 candidate Denice Traina said it was a good idea to put the project off until new blood infuses the commission. She said it would be preferable to get bids from competing firms to run the center.

Stanley Hawes, also vying for District 1, said it would be the best path because he believes Augustans have little faith in the commission because the deal has been so controversial. By letting a new group look at the deal, he said, more of the public would be able to get on board.

A third District 1 candidate, William Fennoy, said the answer was simply to “follow the money.”

“All the money is going to one place,” he said. “That isn’t right.”

The two District 9 candidates at the forum, Harold Jones and Marion Williams, agreed that they would like to see the process stopped until a new commission was voted in.

The forum at New Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Deans Bridge Road was a chance for Dr. Charles Smith Sr., the Augusta NAACP’s president, to advocate for a resolution opposing a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the state to establish charter schools without the approval of local school boards.

The resolution was passed unanimously Saturday by the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, he said. He read it aloud before a few advocates spoke about why they believed the amendment should be voted down.

School board member Barbara Pulliam said the amendment would allow the state to build a school with public money and pick the best and richest students to attend. She said public schools
should be for every student.

“We have a problem with state-controlled charter schools,” she said. “The children who will suffer the most is low-income children, black children and handicapped children.”

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