Two leaders deny walkout after vote on TEE center

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Two of the four Augusta commissioners who left Tuesday's meeting before the remaining six commissioners approved a trade, event and exhibit center for Reynolds Street have denied being part of a walkout.

Meanwhile, Mayor Deke Copenhaver called the approval historic.

"I do believe this is the best opportunity this city will ever have to truly revitalize the inner city as well as bring in a first-class entertainment complex that will put us on a footing to be at or above a grade level of competition with other cities of our size," Mr. Copenhaver said.

Commissioners Calvin Holland and Bernard Harper said they had appointments. Mr. Holland said he had to meet his wife.

"She was taking care of some business and needed my signature," he said.

The timing was coincidental, and he's not upset about the final vote, he said.

"I would love to have the TEE center," he said. "I just think it was disrespectful that several of us did not know anything about what they were doing. We had no input in it. Maybe some of the others got some phone calls, but I didn't."

Mr. Holland said he plans to work with the center's development and hopes the inner city gets $750,000 a year left over from a proposed new $1 hotel tax, as promised.

"I just didn't like the way the proposal was presented," he said. "It could have been done more professionally, but I feel good. Just like James Brown, I feel good."

Mr. Harper said he left the meeting for a medical appointment. Besides, he said, he thought all the other commissioners were leaving, too.

"Joe Bowles was in the parking lot," he said. "And Andy Cheek had his bag on his shoulder like he was leaving."

Mr. Harper also said that he sees the need for a TEE center but that all of the commissioners weren't brought into the loop beforehand. He also had a concern about whether the proposed $750,000 a year would materialize.

Commissioner Marion Williams made no bones about why he left the meeting after the first 5-3-2 vote left the TEE center in limbo.

"This was something put together by six commissioners," he said. "If they didn't think no more of the rest of the commissioners, I decided the best thing for me to do is leave. I just think it is a wrong deal, a back-room deal set up by certain people."

Commissioner J.R. Hatney, who also left the meeting early, did not return a phone message Wednesday.

Mayor Pro Tem Betty Beard, who had previously abstained on a vote to approve the Reynolds Street site, said the promise of $750,000 a year for the inner city changed her mind.

"That's a dream of mine for the inner city," she said. "How could I not go with a proposal like this?"

Asked whether she expects criticism for her vote, Mrs. Beard said, "It doesn't matter. I know my husband is happy about this."

Mrs. Beard's husband, Lee, was a commissioner until his death in 2003.

The center will go on a site adjacent to the city-owned convention center and the Augusta Marriott Hotel & Suites on Reynolds Street. The vote also approved a 50-year operating agreement with Augusta Riverfront LLC to cover $350,000 in annual capital and operational costs.

Augusta Riverfront LLC is a subsidiary of Azalea Development Corp., which is headed by William S. Morris III, the chairman and CEO of Morris Communications Co., the parent company of The Augusta Chronicle.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (39)

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bone
23
Points
bone 08/23/07 - 05:40 am
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you have to hand it to

you have to hand it to marion: at least he didn't lie about why he left. holland just looks like a miserable liar. his wife needed his signature for business? he should try and develop better fibs than this for leaving a meeting.

CHIEF
2
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CHIEF 08/23/07 - 05:47 am
0
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who cares, let then never

who cares, let then never show..the city moved forward for the first time in a century.

patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 08/23/07 - 06:18 am
0
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Most knew there would be some

Most knew there would be some weak excuse given for walking out of the meeting, but the fact remains that they walked out. If they weren't always the first to run off after a meeting adjourns then they would know the difference between a recess and an adjournment. Let's hope they continue to leave early, just to show they can.

JimCox
7
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JimCox 08/23/07 - 06:21 am
0
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It will be fun to watch

It will be fun to watch Harper, Holland and Hatney explain why they walked out on a vote that directed millions of dollars to inner city redevelopment. Those three deadweights are gone if they have the guts to run for re-election!

jamesnewsome
38
Points
jamesnewsome 08/23/07 - 06:26 am
0
0

"In terms of economic

"In terms of economic development, there's Atlanta, there's Savannah, and then there's the rest of Georgia.
So said Kenneth C. Stewart, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, at The Rotary Club of Savannah's luncheon Monday." Interesting comment don't you think? Where is Augusta? According to Mr. Stewart, we are "the rest of Georgia." Augusta will not move forward until there are 10 commissioners who put racism and petty personal differences aside and look to the future for a better Augusta. Augusta appears to have an excellent Mayor who is working hard for the city, but some of Augusta's commissioners are living in a 75 year old time warp. It is up to the voters of Augusta to remove these people and replace them with progressive leaders who can think beyond the Jim Crow era.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
16
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/23/07 - 06:35 am
0
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Way to go Big M! Thanks for

Way to go Big M! Thanks for caring about us and getting us the deal! You da' go-to man! With Big M, the important thing is never about who brings the deal, but whether it's good for Augusta. We love you, Bro.

VinnMann
0
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VinnMann 08/23/07 - 07:23 am
0
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Ms Beard says that she was

Ms Beard says that she was thinking about the inner city which will receive 750,000.00 for improvement. Well let us see where if ever this money is used or funded. There has been a pack made with one commissioner and the others are left out. Does this sound like something good for Augusta. No, now there is a commission of 6 not 10. The other 4 have been neutralized. Which means that those 4 districts have no voice and it is just coincidental that they happen to be majority african american areas. What really makes me mad is they do not try to hide it. If they meant well then they could have involved the others in the discussion and still voted to do this but 6 commissioners have decided that they know what is good for the rest of us.I hope that Mr Beard is happy with what is happening here.

john
784
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john 08/23/07 - 07:34 am
0
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Those districts dont have a

Those districts dont have a voice when their representative commissioners walk out. Not only do they not represent their consituents, some appear to have problems with the truth. Sad.

Little Lamb
40309
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Little Lamb 08/23/07 - 07:40 am
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The headline is inaccurate.

The headline is inaccurate. They may be commissioners, but they are certainly not leaders.

concernednative
28
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concernednative 08/23/07 - 07:41 am
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Good point VinnMann the

Good point VinnMann the problem is that Mrs. Beard is their pawn. So they feel they don't have to interact with the other commissioners which simply promotes the mistrust among the blacks in Augusta.

karmakills123
8
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karmakills123 08/23/07 - 07:59 am
0
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vinnman...those "neutralized"

vinnman...those "neutralized" commissioners walked out of a meeting....THEY and not anyone else did that...put the blame on the jerks who did the deed not Ms. Beard or anyone else.If those four districts have no voice it is because of their representatives..(you know the one's they voted for).So please quit trying to blame everyone else for the actions of these mean-spirited and childish so called men.

ThurstonHowell
0
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ThurstonHowell 08/23/07 - 08:01 am
0
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Some will forever feel that

Some will forever feel that they are victims and that there is a conspiracy against them even in the face of undeniable fact. Don't flatter yourselves. You may call it mistrust but I call it paranoia.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
6426
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ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 08/23/07 - 08:01 am
0
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I see the four that walked

I see the four that walked out at the ones promoting the mistrust. If you have an obstacle you go around it and that is what happened this time and will continue to happen until all the children decide to play together for the common good of Augusta, rather than try to line their pockets!

karmakills123
8
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karmakills123 08/23/07 - 08:03 am
0
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and furtyher more how can

and furtyher more how can they stand up and lie like that?????It shows you the character of a man who knows he's lying and everyone around knows he's lying....and he does it anyway.

Wow it's really too early to be reading this stuff.....need more coffee.

cparker
42
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cparker 08/23/07 - 08:20 am
0
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It is concerning that many of

It is concerning that many of the commissioners had no idea about this vote.....We can complain about some of them walked out early, but it seems insignificant that they were never told about the proposal from the beginning. How does one vote on undiscussed city business? Afterall, this is Augusta and I think blacks understand. When black commissioners walk out early from a meeting they were obviously left out of, they are promoting mistrust. If they stay and vote against the proposal they are incompetent....Is there any scenario that black commissioners would be right even when they are left out of important discussions?

WhiskyDick
0
Points
WhiskyDick 08/23/07 - 08:23 am
0
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"It depends on what your

"It depends on what your definition of 'walkout' is."

FormerAugustaResident
76
Points
FormerAugustaResident 08/23/07 - 08:25 am
0
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Little Lamb.....kudos to your

Little Lamb.....kudos to your comments. Leaders? Hardly!

J.W.
2
Points
J.W. 08/23/07 - 08:25 am
0
0

Marion will be a pain in the

Marion will be a pain in the !@# until his term is over. He can't be re-elected, so he has nothing to lose! So just continue to plan on working around him. Let him scream, yell, walk-out, and throw his fits...the entire community sees him for what he is...a weight around everyone's neck.

BUTTACHE
0
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BUTTACHE 08/23/07 - 08:35 am
0
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they are all liars!!

they are all liars!!

cparker
42
Points
cparker 08/23/07 - 09:03 am
0
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Is anyone concerned why the

Is anyone concerned why the black commissioners were not informed there was going to be a vote?

Newsreader
11
Points
Newsreader 08/23/07 - 09:04 am
0
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How could any of the

How could any of the commissioners not know? This has been discussed at previous commission meetings. Did any of them think the Riverfront people would give up? It would not surprize me to know that the four left just to keep from voting. They knew they would not be on the majority and hoped to either stall the vote or at least not be there when the measure passed. I will bet $100 that the issue is revisited just like the censure has been rehashed. It is a shame that these four districts were not represented. I can not speak for the people of those districts, but I hope that they will have representation in the future.

1980reader
1
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1980reader 08/23/07 - 09:11 am
0
0

I am concerned the walk-outs

I am concerned the walk-outs said they didn't hear about it. I am not sure I believe it, though. If there was a procedural problem with the vote, it should be addressed. If not, they should have stayed until the meeting was over. Then, they wouldn't miss a vote. Wasn't this a regularly scheduled meeting? This doesn't look like a "surprise vote" to me. I could be wrong.

ONLY THE TRUTH
2
Points
ONLY THE TRUTH 08/23/07 - 09:16 am
0
0

The TEE center was discussed

The TEE center was discussed at the previous meeting. If any commissioner didn't know about it---it is either ignorance or an outright lie!!!

KingJames
10
Points
KingJames 08/23/07 - 09:22 am
0
0

Informing commissioners of

Informing commissioners of meeting issues in a timely manner raises a good point; but not voting for something that would be beneficial to the black community, and then walking out of a meeting just because you feel left out is crazy. If Williams would have stayed at the meeting, he probably would have had time to review some of the facts and see some of the benefits to the community. Instead, he decided to leave. $750K is a lot of money to vote against. Does Williams need a personal briefing on every item up for discussion at a meeting? If he wanted more time to review the proposal, why didn't he just motion to table the discussion until a later date? That would have given him time to read the proposal. I think he would have probably still been against it even if he had had time to thoroughly read it. The commissioners need to put all of their personal feelings aside and do what's right.

Native Augustan
12
Points
Native Augustan 08/23/07 - 09:24 am
0
0

The TEE Center was on the

The TEE Center was on the last SPLOST list for $20 million and as with other projects lay dormant (check the court house) and the cost to build the TEE Center has risen. We will not get $20 million worth of center now as shown by the cost of the proposed Court House which continues to go up and the Court House continues to shrink. ANY Commissioner who fails to do his elected duty should not have a chance to even run for relection again. All the comments about the four poor Commissioners being left out of the loop is hog wash. This issue has been before the Commission numerous times and the only reason it passed was the addition of the $1 hotel/motel tax to pay for the upkeep and send money to the inner city for needed improvements. The four losers who left must not have gotten their piece of the pie and saw it coming and left. If they wanted to move Augusta forward the first vote would have told the tale.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
16
Points
WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/23/07 - 09:28 am
0
0

They knew this issue was up

They knew this issue was up for a vote. If they didn't know, they either weren't paying attention or they don't have enough IQ points to understand the procedings. It's just more of the same old thing. THERE IS NO CONSPIRACY to disenfranchise Afr-Americans in Augusta even if there still are plenty of racist citizens, white and black. Once we start focusing on how to deal with the real issues and problems of running our city instead of constantly throwing a wrench in the works over the smallest possiblility of a slight, then we will start to see some progress. A little more courtesy, a little more patience and lot less ego and pride would go a very long way toward making that happen.

Brad Owens
3676
Points
Brad Owens 08/23/07 - 09:58 am
0
0

It was not the TEE center

It was not the TEE center that made the guys mad or the proposed money for developement, it was being left out of the conversations that put the deal together, not the deal. Can't yall read and rite plain english? Look, these guys (African-American Commissioners) pulled six votes for many years counting Andy Cheek as the 'sellout' and now the tables have turned. Its NOT racial, its politics. As they say in the Marble Palace, "Can you count to six?" Well vinnman, concernedcitizen, and the like, CAN YOU?

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
6426
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 08/23/07 - 10:04 am
0
0

The purpose of the commission

The purpose of the commission meetings is to go over everything and ask questions then. Premeetings aren't exactly legal, and this issue in question was publicized in the AC prior to the meeting. Lack of knowledge of the agenda I believe to be a moot point. cparker had they attended all of the meeting without walking out they would have known. I believe the walkout was orchestrated in an attempt to further dissension within the commission, rather than them being uninformed!

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 08/23/07 - 10:14 am
0
0

Go around the commissioners

Go around the commissioners who want status quo and get things to better this area done. Way to go commissioners. AS far as the inner city goes, I'm glad they will get the money. Make the streets pretty, get rid of the run down houses where crackheads live and make it better for the good people in those areas.

Told ya
1
Points
Told ya 08/23/07 - 11:33 am
0
0

Has anyone done the math on a

Has anyone done the math on a contract with a automatic inflation clause? Assume a 4% increase compounded annually for 50 years using the future value money formula comes to $19,485,191.00 payment in the 50th year.

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