District 6 runoff could change face of Augusta Commission

Friday, July 4, 2014 5:04 PM
Last updated Sunday, July 6, 2014 2:31 PM
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In a closely watched race, local activist Ben Hasan faces former Rich­mond County Re­pub­­lican Chairman Bob Finne­gan in the July 22 runoff to represent District 6 on the Augusta Com­mission.

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If Hasan wins, Augusta will for the first time have a black majority on the 10-member commission.

Finnegan shares a connection with current District 6 Com­mis­­sioner Joe Jackson, who is prevented by term limits from running again. Both have close ties to the Alleluia Com­mu­nity, a community of about 900 mostly evangelical Cath­olics, many of whom live in a District 6 neighborhood known as Faith Village.

“I love Augusta, but the reason I’m here is the community,” said Finnegan, who settled in the village decades ago when he was a Navy seaman assigned to teach a course at Fort Gordon. He and his wife raised nine children there.

Finnegan said he disregards talk about how the election might shift the racial balance on the commission.

“I don’t know where that matters,” he said. “I’d make a decision based on what’s good for all the citizens, not just one particular group based on race or anything else, for that matter.”

Finnegan, who recently retired from Fort Gordon, said he’ll be the commissioner who does his “homework” and studies the complex documents presented for approval.

“I will listen to what other people have to say,” he said. “Everyone can come up with good ideas, workable ideas. I like to hear what’s going on and then think about it and then make a decision.”

Finnegan said he won’t leave his fiscally and socially conservative values behind in making commission decisions.

“Government has certain responsibilities they must fulfill,” he said,, such as police and fire protection, maintaining safe roads and bridges and clean water. If city revenues are tight, as they often are, non-essential services might be where he’d look to cut, he said.

A close look into the backgrounds of both candidates found little besides a bizarre week in November 1986 when Hasan was charged with selling cocaine to an undercover officer at a Laney-Walker store he owned, then with kidnapping a witness against him.

According to the newspaper’s reports of the incident, Hasan did not make the transaction but later was accused of taking another man into custody to make him go to attorney Chris Nicholson’s office. Nicholson was arrested when he refused to let police enter his law office.

A search of court records revealed that authorities did not prosecute Hasan, and Hasan said Thursday that it was a misunderstanding that he’d forgiven.

“It was a misunderstanding and the courts agreed, in less than a month’s time,” said Hasan, who never filed suit or sought relief for the arrest. “When people apologize, I can accept it.”

Hasan has long been in the public eye as host of a Community Connections program on cable and publisher of the Urban Pro Weekly newspaper. He’s studied the city’s consolidation act, attended many commission meetings and spoken out about city decisions that impact the form of government.

Though his newspaper has a decidedly pro-minority stance, “I don’t see the issues as being black and white; I see them as being policy,” he said. “I would never do business with a company just because they are black.”

Hasan, the brother of former Richmond County Board of Education member A.K. Hasan, was the top finisher in the five-candidate May 20 election, taking 1,103 votes to Finnegan’s 948.

The district was redrawn in 2012 from 53 percent black to 54 percent black, the slimmest majority held by any group among the 10 commission districts.

Hasan said his goal on the commission is to “build relationships among my colleagues” and upon that built trust, “the best interests of the taxpayers immediately become front and center.”

Hasan said greater understanding might have prevented the current gridlock over implementing an excise tax on manufacturers to replace revenue lost when the state exempted energy used in manufacturing from a 2 percent local tax.

“The legislators in their wisdom were trying to make the state of Georgia more competitive,” he said. “But when you have a city that’s struggling, if we needed those revenues, we could have asked them to bear with us for a couple of years.”

Hasan said he expects that under Mayor-elect Hardie Davis, the city will gain a better perspective on its financial position and on whether tax increases are truly needed.

“In many ways, we’re shooting in the dark,” he said. “You just have to see where we really are, how bad are we and what is it going to take to stabilize our budget?”

The CSRA chapter of the Police Bene­vo­lent Asso­ciation screened both candidates and, while it was close, selected Hasan for its endorsement, said chapter President Patrick Cullinan.

With Hasan, “we’ve seen him walk the walk, even before he’s run for office,” Cul­li­­nan said. “He is pro-law enforcement.”

The association, which sponsors scholarships for children and helps officers with legal bills, hopes to have Hasan’s support when the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office seeks pay increases to stop the flood of officers quitting to go to other counties, Cullinan said.

DISTRICT 6

NAME: Bob Finnegan

AGE: 65

BIRTHPLACE: Philadel­phia

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree, Southern Illinois University; associate degree, Georgia Military College

OCCUPATION: Retired Navy electronics technician chief petty officer; retired Fort Gordon senior telecommunications specialist

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Former chairman, Richmond County Republican Party, secretary, 12th Congressional District GOP; GOP state committee; member of Augusta Personnel Board; South Augusta Redevelopment Board; served on Human Relations Commission; founding member of Rocky Creek Neighborhood Association

FAMILY: Married; nine children, 14 grandchildren

NAME: Ben Hasan

AGE: 61

BIRTHPLACE: Aug­usta

EDUCATION: Lucy C. Laney High School

OCCUPA­TION: Publisher of Urban Pro Weekly

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Attending Augusta Commission meetings since 2006; host, Comcast Community Concerns; political commentator, Connect Live

FAMILY: Married; four children, 10 grandchildren

Comments (18) Add comment
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just an opinion
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just an opinion 07/04/14 - 06:25 pm
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Two good candidates to chose from

We (being Augusta) will be fine with either. It's now up to the voters in that district to choose.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 07/04/14 - 08:59 pm
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Ben Hassan has often been

Ben Hassan has often been touted as a conservative. He should win this election and the Commission takes a turn to 6 blacks.

nocnoc
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nocnoc 07/04/14 - 09:14 pm
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Bob Finnegan - may have issues we don't know about

A while back I stated both looked like viable candidates and then I was privately told that the South Side Mafia (South Side political powers) had not given their outright support of Bob Finnegan either.
That was a month ago.

I was told they were lukewarm to him at best.

Having spoken with a few such people they said Hassan was the better choice, but selling the South Side on a black majority ruled commission.

Hey! AUSTIN,
are you sitting on something that might affect a voters decision?

corgimom
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corgimom 07/04/14 - 11:14 pm
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When you give all your

When you give all your paycheck to a "leader", and then the "leader" decides how much money you should get back to support your family- that's my idea of a cult, and I wouldn't vote for anybody from the Alleluia "Community".

And I have a feeling that's why the Southside Mafia isn't too happy with Finnegan, either. Finnegan isn't going to listen to them, he's going to listen to the "leader".

But read this paragraph, this makes absolutely no sense.

“Government has certain responsibilities they must fulfill,” such as police and fire protection, maintaining safe roads and bridges and clean water. If city revenues are tight, as they often are, those non-essential government services might be where Finnegan said he’d look to cut."

WHAT non-essential government services is he referring to? What a terrible quote from the AC to use, in that it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever! Is he saying that police and fire protection are non-essential?

AC, PLEASE clarify this!

specsta
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specsta 07/04/14 - 11:22 pm
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Urban Pro Weekly

Susan McCord wrote - "While his newspaper has a decidedly pro-minority stance, Hasan said he wasn’t concerned about skin tone in commission decision-making."

Susan, while I respect your writing, I have to take you to task with this statement about Urban Pro Weekly. I've read Mr. Hasan's paper on many occasions, and the editorial content is not pro-minority, it is pro-Augusta. This week's issue alone features a cover story on a local artist (who happens to be white), a commentary by former Augusta mayor Bob Young, coverage of the Pride Festival, a story on how the new gun law might affect Augustans - and so on.

I get my copy of the paper at the library and I have seen numerous articles about Augustans, of all races. It is a wonderful alternative to the other media publications around town. Also, the writing and photography is excellent.

Now about Ben Hasan - he has probably attended more Commission meetings than the current sitting Commissioners. He knows Augusta politics in and out is exactly the person we need to help shake things up on Greene Street.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 07/05/14 - 05:00 am
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"Hey! AUSTIN, are you

"Hey! AUSTIN,
are you sitting on something that might affect a voters decision?"

Hasn't Ben Hassan hosted Austin's show when Austin was away?

nocnoc
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nocnoc 07/05/14 - 05:59 am
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Speaking of Austin

We were down yesterday picking up what I call the Junk Loads,
The stuff you really don't want, but don't to burden family with tossing out either.

So we turned on WGAC to listen to the Austin Show (lack there of yesterday) and it was Savage Nation, that had been put on in place of Austin?

You know I enjoyed Savage for about 5 minutes then Savage started repeating himself over and over . I finally switched Savage off after about 15-20 mins. wishing for a BEST Of RUSH OR AUSTIN for the week.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 07/05/14 - 07:36 am
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Finnegan

Looks like a long shot, but he seems like a fine fellow. Hope he wins.

hoptoad
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hoptoad 07/05/14 - 08:11 am
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I worked with Mr. Finnegan

I worked with Mr. Finnegan many years ago at Ft. Gordon and always thought he was a decent and hard working individual. We never discussed politics though so have no idea which way he would bend on any given issue. He appears to have more experience and education than Mr. Hasan, but sometimes that doesn't always mean a lot. It appears they both have an equal shot as far as respect and support from the community.

I usually try to listen to Austin during local election times as he sometimes has a little more info than most and is very knowledgeable about goings-on in Augusta. But I do have a hard time listening to him otherwise. He's okay for a local talk show host, but I can understand why he never went any further.

Conservative Man
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Conservative Man 07/05/14 - 11:34 am
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Not living in District 6….

…..I won't have a vote in this race…

But they both sound like fine candidates..

Scuttlebutt from those I know who are "in the know", say Finnegan has the edge with behind the scenes support, but my instinct tells me, with his long time activism and high profile within the community, Hasan has the advantage….

One thing that is encouraging is to hear both men say that they are NOT interested in racial politics..That the issues facing the county are based in right vs. wrong….

I'm quite sure the ruling elites in ARC don't like hearing that…it suits them just fine for the county to be divided racially. While we argue about race they are busy running the county as the see fit….

Whichever man wins the seat, and IF they abide by their statements made in this article the county will be better off...

AutumnLeaves
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AutumnLeaves 07/05/14 - 11:47 am
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Corgimom, I hope someone from

Corgimom, I hope someone from the Alleluia Community confirms the following or not, for us, but I was told several years ago, that what you described is no longer the way of the Alleluia Community. Can someone check into this for us? I'm not, nor have I ever been, a member of the community, btw.

Sweet son
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Sweet son 07/05/14 - 01:49 pm
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Hey nocnoc if you need daily doses of Austin then just listen to

him on WGAC's website. You probably could listen to him on one of these smarter phones.

corgimom
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corgimom 07/05/14 - 02:00 pm
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"One thing that is

"One thing that is encouraging is to hear both men say that they are NOT interested in racial politics..That the issues facing the county are based in right vs. wrong…."

Every single flippin' one of them- EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM- say that, and have for years.

And then they get voted into office, and then----guess what? It's where the rubber meets the road, and fantasy changes into reality.

hoptoad
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hoptoad 07/05/14 - 03:27 pm
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3
Race always seems to rear its head some how

Can someone please explain why black politicians say they will address black issues? Politicians, no matter what color, should only take care of matters that pertain to everyone.

The black issues are births to single mothers, no father figure in the home - no good role model, and absent mothers who are working two jobs to take care of her family, school drop-out rates, young males' gang affiliation.

These are not issues for the government to cure, government has failed miserably to solve these problems. These are issues that should be taken care of by the black churches, and the black communities, big brother and big sister programs to mentor and guide the youngsters. Villifying white people and listening to the likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Louis Farracon (sic) does nothing but keep the hate and entitlement feeling alive.

Maybe the kindest thing government could do to help black people succeed in life would be to get out of their lives.

corgimom
32599
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corgimom 07/06/14 - 06:43 am
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"The black issues are births

"The black issues are births to single mothers, no father figure in the home - no good role model, and absent mothers who are working two jobs to take care of her family, school drop-out rates, young males' gang affiliation."

These are white issues, too, and it's getting worse by the year.

Pops
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Pops 07/06/14 - 05:35 pm
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The white guy should

win according to the local Democratic Party. You see, they say that blacks aren't capable of going to the polls unless it is a major election held in November. Not my words......

Truth Matters
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Truth Matters 07/06/14 - 05:58 pm
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"The white guy should win

"The white guy should win according to the local Democratic Party. You see, they say that blacks aren't capable of going to the polls unless it is a major election held in November. "

Yep. Just ask Thad Cochran if Blacks only go to the polls in November.
McDaniel is still throwing a hissy fit over that election.

rational thought trumps emotion
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rational thought trumps emotion 07/06/14 - 10:08 pm
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Two Good Candidates

Both are good, may the best man win!

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