Augusta mayoral candidate Charles Cummings wants to be 'ambassador' for city, improve transit

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 9:17 PM
Last updated 9:44 PM
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Retired businessman Charles Cummings is running for Augusta mayor on a three-pronged platform of lowering taxes, improving public transit and helping young people become entrepreneurs.

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Augusta mayoral candidate Charles Cummings, 57, is a retired businessman. Cummings said the government of Augusta is "the perfect example of dysfunctionality."  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Augusta mayoral candidate Charles Cummings, 57, is a retired businessman. Cummings said the government of Augusta is "the perfect example of dysfunctionality."
Susan McCord
Government Reporter
Twitter: @reportr1
E-mail | 706-823-3215

MEET THE CANDIDATES

Through Friday, The Augusta Chronicle will publish Q&As with the five Augusta mayoral candidates on the May 20 ballot. Answers by the candidates were edited for space.

MONDAY: Alvin Mason

TUESDAY: Helen Blocker-Adams

WEDNESDAY: Charles Cummings

THURSDAY: Lori Myles

FRIDAY: Hardie Davis

In an interview with The Augusta Chronicle, Cummings spoke about his background in Army intelligence and detailed his plans to improve Augusta Public Transit, and he spoke frankly about a killing at his longtime south Augusta nightclub, Super C’s.

Q: Tell me why you think you’re the best candidate for mayor as far as being the face of Augusta.

A: Being an ambassador for the city of Augusta is certainly a role that I am cut out to do. As a former Army military intelligence captain, I have been involved in many different kinds of meetings; I’ve traveled far and abroad to interact with various kinds of people.

To be able to take forth the message of Augusta, that the Garden City is a beautiful place to live, being able to influence and encourage folks to move here, live here, I am the guy.

Q: Specifically, how would you improve our mass transit? What are some of your ideas or concepts?

A: Let’s just take the hotels in Augusta, for instance. We’ve got 7,000 rooms available for rent a day. We generally rent about 5,000 rooms. Those 5,000 rooms generate $1.2 million daily. If we take the $1.2 million and mobilize it throughout the community by way of transit, those folks will go out and buy up our services and goods.

Here’s what I propose. I think the hotels we have, the fine hotels – the Marriott, the new Holiday Inn that just opened up (on Broad Street) – if a kiosk would have an information center that you could go to and it would tell you if you want to go dining ... Also, that kiosk would provide you the new and improved bus schedule route. You just press on that and that bus will be coming out front in the next five minutes.

Q: Is it OK for the transit system to operate at a deficit or should it pay for itself to be viable?

A: That bus system is simply a vehicle employed by the city to get folks from Point A to Point B. Making a profit would be just a nice thing, but the transit system in itself is already paid for. If the bus goes and picks up the little old lady on the corner and takes her to get her prescription and brings her back, that’s what the buses pay for to do.

Folks who have a car should not be so hard on the folks who don’t have a car and just determine that, “Well, you’re a disabled vet, you’re an old person or you’re a young person just getting out of jail and we’re not concerned about your transportation issue.”

Q: You don’t think most motel guests in Augusta arrive in a vehicle?

A: No, I don’t think so. And even if they did, they’d probably want to park their vehicle and not get lost in the city, just ride the bus … I think they would use the transit system if it was clean and presentable, as more of a treat than anything else.

Q: As a small business person, you know that cutting costs is paramount. Where would you do that with the city, or do you think that’s necessary? Do you know what the city’s total budget is?

A: No I don’t. The first thing I would do is do audits on the (special purpose local options sales tax). The SPLOST is supposed to have an annual audit so that we can maintain accountability on the cash flow …

As your mayor I will require a financial report on a daily or weekly basis so we can trace those dollars down the line. If we can trace those dollars, we can close up and trim up a lot of the cash flow right there.

Q: You’re not in favor of this particular (tax package)?

A: First of all, let me commend (Mayor) Deke Copenhaver. I think he’s trying to do the best job he can possibly do. Not a bad fellow. You’ve got commissioners who wasn’t present. I don’t know why they wasn’t present ...

SPLOST 6 is still in effect. You can’t have two … going at the same time and by SPLOST 7 being introduced right now, that means if it got approved it would be in effect at the same time, then we’d be in violation.

Q: So it’s a technical issue with you? It’s not necessarily the amount or what’s being funded or not being funded, it’s because it’s technically not legal to do so?

A: Technically not legal, first and foremost. I think that the commissioners need to be at the table. I don’t know what the issues are; I’m not proud of the way that they conduct themselves back and forth. Deke has never lost his composure; I’ll give him credit for that. I don’t blame him for the things that the (next tax package) has listed there.

But we’ve got things that need to get taken care of. We’ve got Marion Homes with those 50-year-old pipes in the ground. Those pipes have been there in the ground corroded and funding for those pipes has come and gone, but the pipes are still there.

Q: You said earlier you didn’t know why some of the commissioners didn’t show up for that meeting when the (tax package) was voted on. Should they have made some sort of special effort to be there?

A: I think if it was within their physical ability to be there, you’ve got to be there to represent the people under any circumstances. You cannot help the city move forward by not attending a meeting, whether you like it or not.

Q: You no longer have an interest in your former business, the dance hall Super C’s.

A: No. I ran it for 20 years ... I met a lot of people, met a lot of friends, did a lot of good. I taught free aerobics there. A lot of folks came from far and near to take my class. I had one lady that lost 80 pounds just taking aerobics right there at my business. The first voter registration that ever took place in south Augusta took place right in front of my business.

Q: Super C’s had some issues in the mid-2000s when a young man was killed there and you lost your liquor license. Is that something you think voters will be concerned about?

A: Across the state, across the county, throughout the city, crimes are being committed. If you run a business for 20 years, chances are you’re going to have a crime committed somewhere in your business or around your business.

What I will challenge the public to do is to grade the individual and not the individuals who committed the crime. Because crime is going to happen. It’s going to happen in this building, at the courthouse, church, anywhere.

Q: Is the government of Augusta dysfunctional, or is it just a perception?

A: Dysfunctional. We’ve got the money, but we don’t know where it is. That’s the perfect example of dysfunctionality.

Q: Is there any way that you could combat that divisiveness, maybe improve the image of the commission?

A: I think what has to happen, and this is what I’m going to do when I become mayor of Augusta, is I’m going to establish a report card and each commissioner would be graded and also myself as mayor, by the citizens. First by their district, then by the body at large.

If they make a decision that’s unpopular, they’ll know about it. If they make a decision that’s unpopular, they’ll know about it. If they walk out of a meeting and abstain as a rule – I feel like no commissioner should abstain on a particular thing because that’s just the way they feel – the government would fail if someone would come in with that attitude.

I’m going to have professional development for my commissioners. And we’re going to talk about the various things that affect each individual district.

Q: You mentioned you would start a report card. How would you grade the mayor now and the commission?

A: I give Deke a 75. I’ll give him a passing mark. That’s a C, a straight up C.

Q: Why only a C?

A: I think Deke could be a little more aggressive. I think he does work behind the scenes to get things done and he has been involved with things that’s good for the city. He hasn’t embarrassed us or done anything to make us say, “I wish he hadn’t done that,” in terms of his actions.

The commissioners, I’ve got to give them a failing grade. All of them, as a group, because I look at the commission as an entity.

Q: D or F?

A: I’ll give them a D because we haven’t collapsed as a city. We’re not bragging about anything that they’ve done lately.

Q: What in your opinion is the government doing right?

A: They are managing not to collapse. That’s it. I wish I could say something else.

CHARLES CUMMINGS

AGE: 57

BIRTHPLACE: McDuffie County

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in public administration from Brenau University

WORK: Retired businessman

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: None

FAMILY: Married, three children, two grandchildren

MEET THE CANDIDATES

Through Friday, The Augusta Chronicle will publish Q&As with the five Augusta mayoral candidates on the May 20 ballot. Answers by the candidates were edited for space.

MONDAY: Alvin Mason

TUESDAY: Helen Blocker-Adams

TODAY: Charles Cummings

THURSDAY: Lori Myles

FRIDAY: Hardie Davis

Comments (20) Add comment
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bubbasauce
26090
Points
bubbasauce 04/22/14 - 09:25 pm
3
1
Hmmmm.

Hmmmm.

prov227
3606
Points
prov227 04/22/14 - 09:59 pm
5
0
Whew!!

The word intelligence does not leap to mind.

Riverman1
99356
Points
Riverman1 04/23/14 - 04:21 am
3
1
Different Kind of Candidate

It's interesting that the quotes kept his grammatical mistakes. He's a far wiser person than most give him credit for with lots of friends in the county. Still, in the election he comes in third at best, but more likely fourth. I wonder whom he will support in the run-off?

SRD
475
Points
SRD 04/23/14 - 04:31 am
3
0
Wowzer

Well, that was something "Else". Seems like a nice man, but not up on the facts or clear on direction. I was a little stunned I must say....

Pops
16921
Points
Pops 04/23/14 - 06:04 am
5
1
Bus service on the house.....y'all line up.....

"Making a profit would be just a nice thing, but the transit system in itself is already paid for."

Pretty much sums up his misguided approach to governing.

seenitB4
103730
Points
seenitB4 04/23/14 - 06:54 am
2
1
Lordy Lordy

Dysfunctional. We’ve got the money, but we don’t know where it is.

Yep, that can be a problem.

seenitB4
103730
Points
seenitB4 04/23/14 - 06:55 am
3
1
Bus service

Sorry..I just don't see outsiders jumping on the bus in Augusta...that would be a complete waste of resources.

Pops
16921
Points
Pops 04/23/14 - 07:28 am
2
1
I seriously doubt this statement

"The first voter registration that ever took place in south Augusta took place right in front of my business."

jimmymac
52019
Points
jimmymac 04/23/14 - 07:33 am
0
0
FREE BUSING
Unpublished

Do liberals ever get tired of free stuff? Someone has to pay for it and it won't be the ones using it.

triscuit
3351
Points
triscuit 04/23/14 - 08:46 am
4
2
The only thing more painful

The only thing more painful than hearing him at forums was reading this interview.

dichotomy
39300
Points
dichotomy 04/23/14 - 08:54 am
4
1
He is a one issue

He is a one issue candidate......bus service.

His insistence that hotel (actually most of ours are motels) visitors would give up their cars and ride a bus proves that he is an ideologue on this issue with no sense of reality.....and he is willing to lie to us about it. He wants expanded bus service, has NO WAY TO PAY FOR IT, and lies to us that hotel visitors would ride the bus and spend boatloads of money shopping and dining. He is in la-la land and he does not have ANY plan except "bus service" to campaign on.

He may be a nice enough guy but his single issue bus service campaign, along with some questionable history on dance hall licensing makes him a cull for me.

Riverman1
99356
Points
Riverman1 04/23/14 - 11:18 am
3
1
The county built a parking

The county built a parking garage at the Marriott for some reason. I assume guests are driving in.

Pops
16921
Points
Pops 04/23/14 - 12:10 pm
3
1
Let's take the money and mobilize it..yeah...that's the ticket..

"We generally rent about 5,000 rooms. Those 5,000 rooms generate $1.2 million daily. If we take the $1.2 million and mobilize it throughout the community by way of transit, those folks will go out and buy up our services and goods."

Where in the world did this guy get these numbers. And who is this "we" and "our" he is referring to??? I personally think he is just pandering to a certain segment of voters with his free public transportation platform. Pretty smart idea.....now all he has to do is motivate them to vote in May instead of November....

countyman
22306
Points
countyman 04/23/14 - 03:00 pm
1
5
Local transportation

Thousands of additional people(visitors included) will use the public transportation system if the system becomes reliable.. Where is the urgency to bring the CSRA into the 21st century(bike lanes, sidewalks, and expanded public transportation)?

The local public transportation system is horrible and must be expanded in the future. The bus system doesn't need to make any profits and only provide the avenue for new construction... How can you attract major companies with inadequate public transportation? The hours should run between 6am to 1 am in the morning and then become 24 hours..

The system must allow for easy access between the Medical District, Augusta mall, Fort Gordon, AGS, Washington road, CBD, Augusta Exchange, GRU Summerville campus, Peach Orchard, Tobacco rd, Gordon Hwy, and Deans Bridge..

Why not listen to the officials from ADP, Starbucks, etc? The local workforce could be even more dynamic if everybody had a chance to succeed instead of those with transportation having the much greater advantage.

The majority of hotels in the city of Augusta are hotels and not motels.. The recently build hotels include the Sheraton, Home2Suites by Hilton, Fairfield Inn by Marriott, Holiday Inn Express, etc.. The Residence Inn(Marriott) and Hampton Inn(Hilton) are both under construction in West Augusta.

seenitB4
103730
Points
seenitB4 04/23/14 - 03:33 pm
2
2
OOOh I get it now

When you bring up Tobacco Rd & Peach orchard--No 1 hy...you are talking about something other than tourists wanting to see the city....now, maybe, you mean some section 8 without a car...maybe.

Most motel/hotel guests come in a car...they won't ditch the car to ride on a stinking hot bus..you know that.

Starbucks & other business will want employees to have their own safe & reliable transportation...I have NEVER been asked if I lived near a bus stop..never-ever....just like marta, a bus can only cover so many miles...rarely does it drop you off in front of your place of work.

seenitB4
103730
Points
seenitB4 04/23/14 - 03:36 pm
3
2
And this

"if everybody had a chance to succeed instead of those with transportation having the much greater advantage."

I had to work for every car I've ever had...none were given to me...the advantage you are talking about doesn't exist.....WORK for MONEY & then buy the car...most in the csra have an advantage with school...few take it.

countyman
22306
Points
countyman 04/23/14 - 04:42 pm
1
6
Public transportation

Hot stinking bus? The buses have air condition and 3,000 people already use the system daily..

Why aren't major companies flocking into the CSRA if the current public transportation is okay? The officials from Starbucks and other large companies have specifically express the dissatisfaction with the current system.. The city must concentrate on connecting the jobs with the local workforce.. Why can't public transportation be safe and reliable?

What's the problem with increased pedestrian activity, less carbon monoxide, new businesses, etc?

The bus system is for the locals and then you can incorporate the visitors.. Many tourist would prefer to ride the bus from Washington road into the CBD. They may want to drink alcohol or stay away from driving through the constant traffic..

I brought up Peach Orchard and Tobacco rd, because the commercial growth is South Augusta is located in both places..

seenitB4
103730
Points
seenitB4 04/23/14 - 05:28 pm
2
1
nooo..don't think so about this..

"Many tourist would prefer to ride the bus from Washington road into the CBD"

No, most will call a cab....anyway, you can have the last word, I'm signing off.
Sweet dreams ctyman...

rebellious
22651
Points
rebellious 04/23/14 - 05:37 pm
1
0
The article

is about a one issue candidate. Bus service is an issue that appeals to a broader subset of out local society, but wasn't Cummings also the owner of Super C's, a nightclub the scene of at least one murder? And didn't he try to continue to run that business under his wife's name?

Just Asking!

rebellious
22651
Points
rebellious 04/23/14 - 05:37 pm
3
0
The article

is about a one issue candidate. Bus service is an issue that appeals to a broader subset of out local society, but wasn't Cummings also the owner of Super C's, a nightclub the scene of at least one murder? And didn't he try to continue to run that business under his wife's name?

Just Asking!

Gage Creed
19909
Points
Gage Creed 04/23/14 - 06:03 pm
2
1
Expanded bus service for

Expanded bus service for tourists.... isn't it illegal to hunt over bait?

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