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Augusta mayoral candidates discuss race, taxes and development

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 10:09 PM
Last updated Wednesday, April 2, 2014 6:57 AM
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Race and money took center stage at a Tuesday forum for the five candidates for Augusta mayor.

While the remaining four candidates cited military experience, working both sides of the aisle or being involved in multiracial groups, candidate Lori Myles called it “a sad day” that the first question candidates were asked was how they’ll “deal with race” as mayor of Augusta.

Rather than answer, Myles reflected back on a childhood as the interracial grandchild of a prominent Iowa farmer and the stepdaughter of a man who “made us a family” irrespective of skin color.

From there, most of the questions submitted at the Tuesday forum, held at Williams Memorial CME church, dealt with city finances and how to improve them.

Asked if they’d support the commission raising property taxes, the candidates’ positions varied.

Commissioner Alvin Mason said no, he hadn’t voted for a tax increase during his two terms on the commission, nor had the city raised taxes during that time, and nor would he consider a tax increase before slashing the city budget.

Sen. Hardie Davis said Augusta ought to consider “the 1,000-pound elephant” that is “historically suppressed tax rates” that do little to attract new residents, but later said if elected mayor he’ll establish an intergovernmental affairs department to study services still not consolidated and “break down silos” of inefficiency.

Helen Blocker-Adams, an entrepreneur and motivational speaker, said she wouldn’t want to increase taxes, although budget cuts equal service cuts in the city government.

Residents wouldn’t be so opposed to a tax increase “if the government was honest,” she said.

Myles said yes, if Augusta is running an $8 million deficit, “we are going to have to look at raising taxes,” but not as a “bad thing.” Rather, it would be “an investment in our community.”

Retired restaurateur Charles Cummings reiterated his campaign focus on transit. Steering guests in Augusta’s 7,000 hotel rooms to public transit to get around the city would generate millions, he said.

During the forum, Mason repeated his campaign platform items of enforcing city codes against negligent landlords, including those downtown, and lowering the downtown levee to increase development.

Davis cited the benefits of state-created Enterprise and Opportunity zones to Harrisburg and the Laney-Walker district.

Blocker-Adams said Augusta was too fond of the “flavor of the month” and ought to focus on existing assets and issues.

A final question dealt with privatizing city services versus letting career city employees go.

“If I was a department head, I’d probably be as gray-haired as our president right now,” said Blocker-Adams, who said she favors outsourcing services but not at the expense of longtime employees.

Davis said the government, despite the 1996 Consolidation Act, hadn’t truly merged city and county, posing “opportunities” for public-private partnerships to create savings, though not at the outsourced transit department or golf course, whose release to private management companies he called “debacles.”

Cummings said McDonald Transit was merely “doing the job” it was contracted to do, while longtime city employees do sometimes “abuse the system” and “need to be looked at.”

Mason cited his job in Information Technology contract procurement at Fort Gordon and the numerous contracted services the city relies on.

“You can’t do business without contracts,” he noted, while the question remains “where do you outsource, and where do you not?” Mason said a recent cause of the city’s troubles – “bad contracts” – was gone, with the December termination of former administrator Fred Russell.

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dickworth1
954
Points
dickworth1 04/02/14 - 07:30 am
4
1
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Unpublished

Alvin Mason has not voted to raise taxes, but he did not do anything about hidden taxes and cost going up! Folks, you trash cost doubled and in my opinion, the service went downhill. Water bills are climbing and you have to pay an extra month this year for whatever reason and that needs to go to court because the liberals in goverm,ent have not change the year to 13 months instead of 12. Vote for new blood and out with the old, mason now wants to blame everything wrong on Russell, but the commissioners had to agree on his actions, so check the records on voting on issues, don't let these candidates be allowed to win the mayor's race without checking their past records. Maybe even ask marion "the mouth" Williams for the candidates hard drive!

seenitB4
87396
Points
seenitB4 04/02/14 - 07:37 am
6
1
would generate millions

WHAT!!!

Yeah right...from motel/hotel to a transit bus??? What has he been drinking...

story1
802
Points
story1 04/02/14 - 07:38 am
4
0
Mr. Mason

Opposes Splost VII. That reason alone is why I will cast a vote for him. It's time the citizens take our community back and stop the "back room" deals that are so apparent in this Splost.

dichotomy
33053
Points
dichotomy 04/02/14 - 07:58 am
6
0
Mason does not oppose SPLOST

Mason does not oppose SPLOST VII. He just opposes the current list of things on SPLOST VII. Believe me, he will support SPLOST VII if the current list fails in May and he gets to put the stuff/things/areas he likes on the SPLOST VII list in November. Mason's opposition to the current SPLOST VII is nothing more than a peeing contest with Deke and a convenient campaign issue for Mason.

seenitB4
87396
Points
seenitB4 04/02/14 - 08:00 am
3
1
^^^ right on brother

I think dichotomy has it right.

Riverman1
84151
Points
Riverman1 04/02/14 - 08:04 am
5
2
Cummings For Mayor

I have decided to support Charles Cummings. I could have fun with him being mayor even more than the poster boy king for passive behavior who is now mayor.

Okay, Hardie Davis is saying raise taxes. 1,000 pound elephant and all.

I notice the Chronicle NOW describes Blocker-Adams as an entrepreneur and a motivational speaker. It sounds like someone on unemployment compensation to me.

story1
802
Points
story1 04/02/14 - 08:30 am
5
0
Mason Opposes

The current Splost. He favors Splost for infrastructure but opposes Splost for outside agencies. Infrastructure, isn't that the reason Splost was originated? Where did all the outside agencies come from begging for Splost dollars? Oh wait, easy money......

triscuit
3086
Points
triscuit 04/02/14 - 10:39 am
2
0
Cummings and Myles are just

Cummings and Myles are just too embarrassing for words. Riverman, please tell me your remark was in jest.

corgimom
32615
Points
corgimom 04/02/14 - 10:48 am
1
0
It doesn't matter who you put

It doesn't matter who you put into office, the tax increases are coming. It is inevitable.

lovingthesouth72
1368
Points
lovingthesouth72 04/02/14 - 11:10 am
4
1
Same beat ...

So instead of beating the same boring tune to the same boring drum, why not look at places that are thriving and growing, places like Columbia SC, or maybe Evans, Ga? Instead of raising taxes, bring in private sector investments and get rid of inneficient government programs. Make people want to come to Augusta!! Raising taxes just scares people away. Then with growth in the private sector the revenue itself will reduce deficit.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 04/02/14 - 11:22 am
6
0
The race question is a

The race question is a legitimate one to ask. It has never been more important in the history of Augusta and our nation to elect leaders who are not only qualified for the position, but have the necessary skills and values to do what is right. All emotions aside, it comes down to economics. We must become fiscally responsible in government and provide adequate police protection.

The fat needs to be cut from the top down, beginning with the mayor's and the administrator's salary. Both job descriptions should be reviewed and the necessary authority needed to carry out their duties should be granted. If legislation is required to amend the governing laws, it should be introduced. Positions where people are not performing or needed should be abolished. All services and private contracts should be reviewed. The commissioners should be required to conduct themselves as gentlemen and abide by the rules of order. Failure to do so should result in swift consequences. No commissioner, city employee or elected county official should be performing services for the county. A commissioner or any other elected official should be in good standing with their own property taxes to be allowed to qualify for office.

Sweet son
10415
Points
Sweet son 04/02/14 - 12:20 pm
2
0
SPLOST should be for infrastructure and not fluffy 'nice to

haves.' I don't care for Mason but his stance on this is right. And I especially don't like the idea of giving Paine College money. Their recent past history in managing money has been dismal. Don't call me racist because I don't want the arts groups to get any money either. If they need money then they can raise it themselves.

Butterman
3680
Points
Butterman 04/02/14 - 01:29 pm
2
1
Grab your wallets
Unpublished

if Hardie Davis is elected. We already know he supports Splost. He wants to bring parking meters back to downtown, and according to this quote, it sounds like he wants to raise property taxes as well... 'Sen. Hardie Davis said Augusta ought to consider “the 1,000-pound elephant” that is “historically suppressed tax rates” that do little to attract new residents.'
**What? Is he serious? So Hardie Davis actually believes that Augusta is not attracting new residents because its property taxes are not high enough? Dichotomy... Mason has been the only candidate unequivocal about not raising taxes. I really do not know how much clearer he could be but you obviously have some personal beef with him so go ahead and vote for a candidate who will raise your property taxes, then when you come back in a year complaining about south augusta property owners getting screwed to pay for more downtown boondoggles we can say 'we told you so'. Apparently you have not attended any of the mayoral forums.I have. Mason has made it clear that he will not support any Splost that gives money to outside groups and private colleges. He has said tha Splost should only be used for needed infrastructure as the law stipulates, not a free-for-all for every special interest group in town. For goodness sakes, countyman supports Davis. Could it not be any clearer which candidate is the choice of the downtown boondoggle crowd?

Butterman
3680
Points
Butterman 04/02/14 - 03:11 pm
2
0
TEE Center
Unpublished

Mason was the most vocal opponent of the lopsided TEE Center contract that was going to bleed Augusta taxpayers to the tune of $1.5 million per year. He stood his ground and held out for a better deal whereas some of his colleagues (matt aitken, jerry brigham)were ready to rubber stamp the contract that Billy and Pauls's lawyers drew up that favored them. Mason easily saved Augusta taxpayers $700,000 a year right there. Some of you people have very short memories. This probably why the citizen activists who were heavily involved in that fight like Al Gray are openly endorsing Mason.

triscuit
3086
Points
triscuit 04/02/14 - 03:12 pm
1
0
Al Gray lives in another

Al Gray lives in another county, correct? Anyway...I don't care what Mason says, when the time comes and this current package is reworked, I can bet you that Paine College gets their money. The Symphony and Imperial need to also raise their own money too, as does that Mills project, so it's NOT a color thing.

Butterman
3680
Points
Butterman 04/02/14 - 03:54 pm
2
1
Al Gray
Unpublished

saved Augusta millions on the TEE Center contract. All for no charge. Augusta taxpayers should thank him. While all your high paid consultants and Fred Russell were bound and determined to ram a management contract through that would have given Augusta Riverfron LLC almost unlimited plundering capabilities on Augusta's General fund. Mason was one of the commissioners that understood the ramifications of this and voted against the bad contract. But you had others who were more than happy to give Augusta Riverfront a blank check. Like Gray, Mason understands how bad contracts are costing this city millions of dollars.. add procurement to that. There is no need to raise taxes if you fix the contracts and the procurement process. Mason understands this. Davis instead wants to raise property taxes, intall parking meters downtown and is pushing a Splost giving away $22million to outside groups and Paine College. The choice should be crystal clear on this one.

Lori Davis
926
Points
Lori Davis 04/02/14 - 03:50 pm
2
0
Yes the citizen activists are openly endorsing Mason me included

Hardie Davis is a disappointment. Looks like the cabal has gotten their candidate. Sad, sad……. How can he be for Splost when he is a law maker and this SPLOST breaks the law. OCGA 48-8-110, 111. Also, Davis says that the OZ has been wonderful for Harrisburg. WHERE?? Who is feeding him his talking points? I would say he needs to do some research of his own before jumping on A bandwagon of sorts. The Harrisburg OZ was done with a falsified application. Can't speak for the Laney Walker EZ, but Harrisburg being helped by an OZ remains to be seen, however, I am sure it won't be long before we REALLY see why is was put into place in the dark of night.

triscuit
3086
Points
triscuit 04/02/14 - 05:17 pm
2
0
I dont particularly think

I dont particularly think Mason would not be a good mayor, but I know a lot of people see he is a commissioner and consider him to be part of the problem. That's just what I hear.

itsanotherday1
43330
Points
itsanotherday1 04/02/14 - 05:37 pm
3
1
Just reading opinions, it

Just reading opinions, it sounds like Mason might be the lesser of evils between he and Davis. What about the rest?

Butterman
3680
Points
Butterman 04/02/14 - 08:21 pm
2
1
Commission
Unpublished

The commission is hardly a monolithic body. I would say Mason has been on the side of reform and govt transparency. He has consistently been against tax increases and was against the rain tax too. I would say of the bunch running , he has the most consistent fiscally conservative record. I also applaud Helen for coming out against Splost but we have no voting record for her. Plus her answer on raising property taxes is a little troubling. Not really a yes or a no.. but a definite maybe. Even on Splost she seems to be allowing herself some wiggle room. But I would say she would be my second choice after Mason. Cummings and Myles are just filler fringe candidates and I know for a fact one of them was put up to run by one of the other candidates. The only viable candidates are Mason, Davis, and Blocker-Adams.. and to be realistic, it is mainly between Mason and Davis. That is who will likely be in the runoff. We know Davis is Pro Splost and thinks property taxes are too low. Mason opposes Splost and is against raising property taxes. The differences could not be more stark

triscuit
3086
Points
triscuit 04/02/14 - 09:20 pm
1
0
I think Ms. Adams is being

I think Ms. Adams is being very underestimated. I also think Davis is over-estimated. And it surprises me that I say that. It will most certainly be a run off with the 2 that don't belong there in the first place being ousted first.

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