Activist says shooters sought him out

James "Butch" Palmer was using some angry rhetoric last week.

Even more so than usual.

The founder of HONGKONG -- Harrisburg Organization Networking for Gentrification to Keep Our Neighborhood from becoming a Ghetto -- says two hooded teenagers fired pistols at his house early Jan. 18 after the candlelight vigil for shooting victim Daniel McGee , and he believes they targeted him because of his stated goal of running "trash" out of the neighborhood.

"This wasn't randomly. This was selectively," Mr. Palmer said. "People like that, even if they are minors, need to die, and it needs to be bloody."

He said he watched through a window as the teens took aim and fired at his Tuttle Street home. He said he heard three or four shots while crouching low and trying to find the shotgun he usually keeps by the front door.

Mr. Palmer said he heard a thud during the shooting, but he didn't realize his house had been struck until the next morning, when he saw that a bullet had gone through an outside wall, striking a piece of furniture and box with a Cadillac tail fin part in it.

According to a police report, a deputy found bullet tips on the floor of the house and on the hood of an undamaged vehicle, and across the street he collected six .25- caliber shell casings and one 9 mm shell casing.

Mr. Palmer, a 49-year-old ex-hairdresser, formed his splinter group from the neighborhood association in 2007. On his Web site and in interviews, he's called people roaches, riffraff, parasites, crack whores and welfare queens, causing him to be both loved and loathed in Harrisburg.

Later on the day of the shooting, Harrisburg-West End Neighborhood Association President Iain Crawford said, a homeowner who's active in his and Mr. Palmer's groups asked him to hold a news conference declaring that Harrisburg isn't going to tolerate this stuff anymore. Mr. Crawford declined, opting to let the sheriff's office investigate first.

"I think it would just edge people on more," he said, though he did send out a mass e-mail alerting people to what happened.

AND SO IT BEGINS: Since seven Augusta Commission members gave Limelight Cafe back its Sunday alcohol sales licence -- through a circulated letter, not a vote in an open meeting -- three bars have contacted the Licence and Inspection Department asking if they can sell on Sundays, too, Director Rob Sherman said.

Two have called, and another, Finish Line Cafe, wrote a letter and is on Monday's Public Services committee meeting agenda.

Finish Line lost its Sunday license because only 35 percent of its revenue came from food, and now its owner, Robert Prescott III , wants the same treatment Limelite Cafe got.

Under state law, 50 percent or more of a business's sales must come from food if it wants to serve alcohol on Sundays. Limelight had only 23 percent, but its attorney, Ben Allen , got commissioners to sign a letter authorizing a probationary license in time for the NFL playoffs.

TAKE THIS HANDOUT AND SHOVE IT: Mayor Deke Copenhaver has been trying to proceed with refined dignity in his efforts to route some of President Obama's proposed $825 billion in economic stimulus funds to Augusta. But how he's going about it is drawing heat from commissioners at both ends of the ideological spectrum.

Commissioner Betty Beard has asked why projects cut from the current special purpose local option sales tax list aren't being compiled into a request for stimulus funds. Mr. Copenhaver points to the bloated, poorly received document by the U.S. Conference of Mayors that included $4.8 million for a polar bear exhibit.

At Thursday's meeting, the mayor asked commissioners to get behind the National League of Cities' and the Georgia Municipal Association's lobbying efforts to have the stimulus money sent directly to cities.

Joe Bowles told him it's a mistake for the board to support borrowing from future generations.

"I think by voting for this, we're saying to the federal government, go ahead and print money," Mr. Bowles said.

A WARM-UP PITCH: On Thursday, Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority member Johnny Hensley gave what might have been his most fervent pitch yet to spend $39,000 on ads in Atlanta and Nashville, Tenn., newspapers geared directly to megastar artists.

Speaking at an Entertainment/Marketing Committee meeting that didn't have a quorum, Mr. Hensley said that by his calculations, the civic center complex loses about $39,000 every 12 days. If that same amount draws even one of the names on his ads to the James Brown Arena, "the floodgates will open," he said.

Mr. Hensley plans to ask the full authority Tuesday to authorize him to spend the money. Some feedback he got Thursday might indicate what he's up against.

Member Booker Roberson said he's concerned the artists listed on the Nashville ad might cause people to think Augusta only wants to see white country artists.

Mr. Hensley said black Nashville residents understand those are the top acts in their city.

Kayla Ott , the marketing director for civic center complex management company Global Spectrum, said that though Widespread Panic would likely sell out in Augusta, some of the other names on the Atlanta ad play 20,000-seat arenas with ticket prices that this market can't bear.

"It's just a very different way of thinking," Ms. Ott said.

"Bingo!" Mr. Hensley replied.

GOODBYE, FRAN: Fran Stewart , a community activist in Augusta for more than two decades and an advocate for beautification, is leaving for Lake Oconee later this week.

Mrs. Stewart said she and her husband, Charles , wanted to be closer to their two sons and five grandchildren in Atlanta. They found a house in Del Webb, a 55-and-older resort community in Greene County.

A retired nurse, Mrs. Stewart became president of the Brookfield Neighborhood Association in 1988, was appointed to the Augusta Canal Authority in 1999 and formed the West Augusta Alliance -- neighborhoods banded together to lobby the Augusta Commission -- in 2004.

Her lasting mark on the city is the popular Brookfield Park, where a playground is named for her.

She spent 15 years petitioning the Richmond County Commission and then the consolidated government until the park got built with $1.13 million in sales-tax funds and opened in 2003.

"What impressed me about Fran," former Mayor Bob Young said in an e-mail, "was that every time she brought you a problem -- and she brought many -- she would bring a potential solution. Sorry to hear she's leaving."

 
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