Augusta mayoral candidates discuss contributions to arts

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Supporting Augusta arts programs gave five mayoral candidates different material to talk about at a forum Monday.

Retired educator Patricia Cum­mings, who is involved with Augusta Mini Theater and the Lucy Craft Laney Mu­seum of Black History, raised the issue by asking what each candidate would do to support the Mini Theater, a south Augusta youth program left off the $194 million special purpose local option sales tax package going before voters May 20.

“Because of the historical legacies that exist in Augusta, there are some things we need to make sure we actually need to take care of, and one of them is the arts,” said candidate Lori Myles, a language arts teacher at T.W. Josey High School.

Myles cited the Imperial Theatre and the Augusta Mini Theater as examples, then questioned why certain entities had to obtain matching funds to get sales tax dollars and others did not.

The city is requiring several outside agencies seeking sales tax dollars for cultural facilities to raise 25 percent in matching funds, including the Imperial, Symphony Orchestra Au­gusta and Paine College, but isn’t seeking a match from other outside agencies, including Georgia Regents University and the Augusta Regional Collaboration Project.

“When it comes to GRU, if they don’t have to (do) matching funds, why do any of the other institutions have to do matching funds?” Myles asked.

Myles and state Sen. Hardie Davis are the only two mayoral candidates who have said they support the sales tax package.

Candidate Charles Cummings, who has said he opposes it, said Paine’s $1.2 million match requirement to obtain $6 million for a cultural center might not be such a good deal for Paine. Plus, his daughter attended Mini Theater programs.

“I’m going to be all about Augusta Mini Theater,” he said.

Candidate Helen Blocker-Adams said as mayor she would push a city grants coordinator to search for resources to help agencies such as the Mini Theater, and attempt to strengthen them, but community support is vital.

“That’s the problem, we’re not supporting as a community Augusta Mini Theater,” she said.

Commissioner Alvin Ma­son, a vocal opponent of the tax package for a variety of reasons, warned against using sales tax funds for the smaller arts programs.

“I would be very cautious about what you ask the government for, because when you get the government into your business, the government begins to take over your business,” he said.

Mason cited roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, bicycle paths, courthouses, civic centers, jails and cultural centers as appropriate uses for sales tax funds and said he’d seek other sources to help the arts agencies.

“I can only deal with what’s legal and what the legal statutes, the state laws tell me I can do,” Mason said.

Davis, noting that his son attends Davidson Fine Arts Mag­net School, said he’d first pull out his checkbook to help the arts groups.

Next, as mayor he’ll create an “office of cultural affairs” to not only “leverage the government’s role” but also “bring the business community together on those things that are important on cultural arts, entertainment and welfare of all our citizens.”

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SRD 04/15/14 - 05:23 am
Do it right and legal

The only candidate here that mentions the legality with the tax and remember folks this is a tax is Mason. These other candidates supporting this splost tax really need to study the law on this because they are supporting an illegal tax that could come back and bite us. The loser will not be the newly elected Mayor but the citizens who will be stuck with another tax to pay for something Augusta could not afford to begin with. Wake up folks and study up candidates. You are supporting an illegal tax hike!

Pops 04/15/14 - 06:00 am
The whole

affair was a joke. Again, it's a little ceremonial position that pays way too much money.

Riverman1 04/15/14 - 06:24 am
Mason Makes Move

Alvin Mason does make a lot of sense. He certainly appeals to the "Vote No SPLOST" crowd we have.

By the way, it's interesting that the location of the forum is not given nor are photos of the candidates and audience provided.

Riverman1 04/15/14 - 06:19 am
Where is ARCP Private Money?

The other thing that caught my attention was the point Myles made about the Augusta Regional Collaboration Project (ARCP) not having to match funds. Deke’s close buddy, Matt Kwatinetz, is just given millions with no oversight or him even providing an outline of what he’s doing.

How much is simply going to pay Kwatinetz’s salary? We were told that private contributors were pouring huge sums into the nebulous one man entity. Where is that money? They can’t even provide an accounting to display they match a portion of the SPLOST funding?

I sense in a few years a couple of guys will be swirling a Bordeaux in long stem glasses at the Jazz Café on Broad Street, giving big tips and smiling about the 5 million before going out on their tandem bicycle.

story1 04/15/14 - 08:28 am
Mini Theater

How much Splost $ has the Mini Theater received through the years? I'm sure they present good programs but isn't it time for all the arts groups to raise their own money or get out of the business? GAAC, Mini Theater, SOA, Imperial.....
Splost 7 Vote NO

dsterling9 04/15/14 - 09:09 am

This proposed SPLOST has too many 'give-away' items. Our Commission needs to ensure there is a requirement for oversight and accounting for every tax dollar given to anyone. I have a feeling a majority of the funds are spent on administrative items/people.

As far as mayoral candidates...Mason is the only candidate expressing any knowledge of requirements and functions of the office of mayor.

PrayN4U 04/15/14 - 09:47 am

I was at the forum last night and the only ccandidate that answered his questions with documents to substantuate his answers was Mason. Helen Blocker-Adams gave good answeres, also. Cummings answers always went back to the transportation issue. He skirted quite a few questions. Davis and Myles voted for the SPLOST knowing it would be used illegally and if Myles attitude last is any indication of how she will treat the other people under her Lord help us all. She went so far as to attack a candidate who was not on the forum. Sounded personal. I feel for her students. Mayne that's why she was suspended for the Martin Luther King "N" incident.

Butterman 04/15/14 - 10:18 am

is clearly the only choice and sounds like the only fiscal conservative out of the bunch of supposed Democrats. In addition to wanting to raise property taxes, being for the SPLOST with all its fluff to special interests, now Hardie davis Jr wants to create a city "Bureau of Cultural Affairs." Lord help us if that man gets elected.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 04/15/14 - 05:47 pm

That's right, PrayN4U, the reporter should have told us readers the location of the forum (and perhaps even the time it started and ended).

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