Denice Traina campaigns for Augusta commission on transit issue

Monday, April 30, 2012 1:46 PM
Last updated 8:23 PM

Augusta’s troubled public transit system was the backdrop Monday for Denice Traina to declare her candidacy for the District 1 City Commission post.

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Denice Traina talks to bus riders about expanding the hours of operation before announcing her candidacy for the District 1 Commission seat Monday.  ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
Denice Traina talks to bus riders about expanding the hours of operation before announcing her candidacy for the District 1 Commission seat Monday.

“Jobs and the means to reach them are two vital components to help working Augustans,” Traina said before a small group of supporters gathered outside Augusta’s Broad Street transfer station.

“At a time when gasoline is almost $4 a gallon and families are struggling, an enhanced and revitalized mass transit system in Augusta will help all Augustans.”

As a city attorney met nearby with the city transit liaison about Augusta’s management contract with Mobility Transit, Traina circulated a petition to a handful of waiting riders asking that the city run its buses until midnight and add a route to Fort Gordon.

Supporter Barbara Wise said she’d known Traina, a former Peace Corps volunteer and antiwar activist, for more than 30 years.

“She’s extremely compassionate and a clear-headed person,” Wise said. “She’s quick to recognize the compassionate choice, and I would trust her to represent me.”

One of four announced candidates seeking the District 1 post, Traina raises a problematic issue for the commission, which last year voted to outsource management of the bus service to Mobility.

Mobility, which promised to shave $400,000 from the $5 million the city was spending annually to run the service, ran into issues from the start and was late paying local vendors for services.

Commissioner Joe Jackson, who plans to raise the topic at a commission committee meeting next week, said there “were several vendors that have not been paid, yet we just had a pizza party for employees. There still are some questions to be answered.”

The party might have been an attempt to assuage former city bus drivers and maintenance workers, hired over by Mobility, who have complained to Commissioner Bill Lockett about being mistreated. Lockett described the complaints at a recent meeting.

Commissioner Alvin Mason has asked that the commission examine holding Mobility in breach of its contract, although it has not voted to do so.

Mobility Augusta General Manager Mike Rosson revealed at the same meeting last month that the firm has a new chief executive, Cullen Meathe.

Meathe, who was not publicly visible during contract negotiations, runs several Florida taxicab operations and has a history of late or non-payment of bills, including a 2011 judgment against his Palm Beach Transportation Group for $881,671, according to court records.

Despite the issues, which Traina did not address in her push to expand the service, Jackson and Commissioner Jerry Brigham said they were reluctant to resume city management of the bus service.

Mobility’s issues aside, Brigham said he thinks a private firm would likely do a better job than the city with transit.

“I don’t think we do a good job of managing it,” he said.

Plan to run?

Official qualifying for a host of local offices up for election this year, including five Augusta Commission and five Richmond County Board of Education seats, starts at 9 a.m. May 23 and ends at noon May 25.

New state laws moved the commission and school board elections from November to July, but their dates have not been set.

Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey said Saturday the ongoing litigation in federal court over commission and school board district lines will likely push the elections to November.

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omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 04/30/12 - 02:45 pm
3
0
....Heyward Johnson, the man

....Heyward Johnson, the man with no prior public transit experience who somehow held onto his job while overseeing the decline of his department for i think nearly a decade, recommended Mobility Transit...

raul
5340
Points
raul 04/30/12 - 03:00 pm
2
1
Mobility wasn't an open bid

Mobility wasn't an open bid contract? Or did they just go with Heyward Johnson's recommendation. Why Johnson recommended Mobility would be an interesting answer, but alas, that would be monday morning quarterbacking.

Ms. Traina states, “At a time when gasoline is almost $4 a gallon and families are struggling, an enhanced and revitalized mass transit system in Augusta will help all Augustans.”
No, the bus system has always served a small number of Augustans at a monetary loss. The rest will continue to drive automobiles as they always have.

Conservative Man
5577
Points
Conservative Man 04/30/12 - 03:19 pm
1
0
Agree with raul. The bus

Agree with raul. The bus system has always served a small number of Augustans. The private sector can do a much better job, provided we have the right company in place.
If Ms. Traina wants to make this a cornerstone of her campaign....fine.
But I think not enough people are affected by this issue to make a difference in this race....

broad street narrow mind
348
Points
broad street narrow mind 04/30/12 - 04:02 pm
1
0
public transit is always
Unpublished

public transit is always important in any study of how to make a city thrive. much of augusta has a hard time understanding this. workers need transportation. old people need it. soldiers need it- they're ripped off by having to take cabs everywhere. that's three big groups. traina seems to understand what district one and augusta need.

broad street narrow mind
348
Points
broad street narrow mind 04/30/12 - 04:14 pm
1
0
p.s. everyone does realize
Unpublished

p.s. everyone does realize that we still pay publicly even with a private operator, right? they supposedly (we'll see) shave off a bit of the cost, but that seems to be just what they save by scrapping the transit employees' benefits and retirements. like how enron saved money for their shareholders. privatization was and is a scam in this case. public transit is not supposed to be a money maker. some things aren't directly profitable but necessary and pay off indirectly a great deal- like cops, firefighters, and transit.

broad street narrow mind
348
Points
broad street narrow mind 04/30/12 - 05:10 pm
1
0
why does jerry brigham say
Unpublished

why does jerry brigham say "we don't do a good job of managing it?" what has he tried as a commissioner to fix the system? i don't remember a thing. maybe brigham is part of the problem and the others who liked seeing it do horribly despite many sensible and doable suggestions from the riders. they never even fired the horrible director. in fact, it looks like they had him arrange the handover. it's a scam. public transit is not rocket science. plan some routes, make some maps, and go. done.

Conservative Man
5577
Points
Conservative Man 04/30/12 - 07:43 pm
0
1
If I remember correctly, the

If I remember correctly, the only other woman in the race, Lori Davis, wrote an opinion piece last year bemoaning this very issue....Good to see other candidates following her lead on this one....

Augusta Gardener
943
Points
Augusta Gardener 05/06/12 - 01:32 pm
0
0
Traina is a long time

Traina is a long time transportation advocate & leader
@Conservative Man: Denice Traina has been working on this issue- and commenting on it- for quite a few years. A quick search of the AC and/or Spirit will give you an overview. Traihnna is good at getting things done & will take it to the mat if necessary, but with far less drama than some of the other candidates.

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