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Business owners, politicians discuss First Friday's future

Monday, July 16, 2012 9:05 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Aug 7, 2012 2:00 AM
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In two informal meetings Monday on the future of First Friday, ideas ranged from Mayor Deke Copenhaver’s offering to dig into his wallet to help pay for security to a longtime downtown business owner pitching a plan for two First Fridays – one for families and a late-night event for adults.

Margaret Woodard, the executive director of the Downtown De­vel­opment Authority, said an official public meeting about the monthly festival will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Au­gus­ta-Richmond County Public Library on Telfair Street

Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength said he has been asked to be there and plans to present crime numbers about downtown.

“Downtown is not crime-ridden,” he said.

City Administrator Fred Russell, District 1 Augusta Com­mis­sion member Matt Aitken and Copen­haver plan to attend also, Woodard said.

Discussed in the meeting in Co­pen­haver’s office Monday morning were ideas on how to get positive PR about downtown and a way to fund more security for First Friday. Six people were wounded in a shooting after this month’s festival.

“People started to reach out to me last week to do something positive,” Woodard said. “We wanted to create a positive campaign for downtown.”

Downtown business owners, including Coco Rubio, the owner of Sky City and The Soul Bar, and Caren Bricker, the owner of Vintage Ooollee, talked about how to address the negative image of downtown after the July 6 shootings. Copenhaver said it was just a preliminary meeting in which concerns and ideas were discussed informally.

“(Monday morning’s) discussions were about how we need to quit pointing fingers,” Woodard said. “What are we going to do to move forward?”

The need for security was also addressed at the meeting. Woodard said most people in the meeting agreed to donate their own money, including Copenhaver, who offered to give $5,000. He will also work with the Community Foundation to raise money.

“If money is a challenge, let’s raise it,” Woodard said.

Rubio’s plan, which he also told at an evening meeting at the Ramada Plaza Hotel on Broad Street, would split First Friday into two events, one from 6-10 p.m., focusing on family activities and the arts at Augusta Common. At 10 p.m., police would be brought in on foot and a strict under-21 curfew would be enforced.

“It could be an entertainment district,” he said.

Rubio conceded that money would be needed to pay for security. He said the earlier meeting proved that business owners are willing to put up their own money but said they shouldn’t have to. The Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative program is funded through a tax levied only on for-profit property owners within the business improvement district. He said it is a program he will most likely not vote for again, so that money can be used to pay for deputies.

At the evening meeting, more than a dozen business owners and politicians spoke. Most favored keeping First Friday.

“You have my vow not to shut down First Friday,” Commissioner Joe Bowles said.

Commissioner Bill Lockett agreed.

“We don’t let the criminals take over,” he said. “We gain back control.”

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Jake
32764
Points
Jake 07/16/12 - 09:22 pm
4
4
Good

It is good that people like Mayor Copenhaver are putting their money where their mouth is. I hope the community will support a plan to keep this event going and not let the bad element dicatate what should happen or not happen in Augusta. What if there is a shooting at a Green Jackets game or a RiverHawks game? Or Westabou? Shut it all down? I hope not.

Artgal
5
Points
Artgal 07/16/12 - 10:17 pm
3
1
Keep First Friday!

"At the evening meeting, more than a dozen business owners and politicians spoke. Most favored keeping First Friday." Let's keep this accurate - of the 15 - 20 people who spoke at the evening meeting ALL but one were in favor of keeping the event.

Fools_and_sages
360
Points
Fools_and_sages 07/16/12 - 10:23 pm
1
6
Taxpauers want stuff but won't pay for it. Ridiculous
Unpublished

I think it is ridiculous that business owners and the mayor have to volunteer to dip into their pockets to pay for a festival that the city should be managing and policing. Once again, this is an issue of politically conservative leadership cutting budgets for basic things like community events and public safety instead of raising property taxes because the taxpayers will balk at a tax increase. Since I own an 1100 sq ft house, I currently pay about $1100 per year in property taxes. For me, a 1% increase in property taxes would amount to an extra $11 per year out of my pocket. A 3% increase would cost me an extra $33 per year. A 5% increase would cost me an extra $55 per year. Personally, I'm willing to pay $55 more PER YEAR and have some of that cash go to providing a proper police force so we can have First Friday, Westabou, and other events downtown and throughout the CSRA without forcing businesses to fork over money like they are paying for private security. I'm willing to pay $55 A YEAR out of pocket so some of that money can go towards restoring some work days for teachers and funding schools so they can provide books and supplies to support student learning.

How cheap can people be? Everybody wants stuff but nobody wants to pay for it. Then everybody complains when our political leaders take stuff away because people are too cheap to fork over a few extra dollars PER YEAR! Community success comes from community support. Instead of forcing fundraising activities where you will fork over money anyways, just pay higher taxes and spread the burden evenly. Honestly, home-owning folks, $55 per year means you need to set aside and extra $4.60 per month. Even if you have a house twice the size of mine and have twice the property tax bill, we're talking setting aside an extra $9.20 per month. Y'all are cheap, selfish, whiners who want everything from government but won't give the government the resources to give it to you. You can't have what you don't pay for-- so ante up or shut up.

Riverman1
84889
Points
Riverman1 07/16/12 - 10:39 pm
8
1
When I see Deke Copenhaver

When I see Deke Copenhaver walking on Broad St with his family on First Friday, instead of heading to the beach, I'll really be impressed.

crackertroy
540
Points
crackertroy 07/16/12 - 10:40 pm
8
2
DDA needs to go
Unpublished

Margaret Woodard, is there a more useless person, occupying a more useless government position? The DDA conveniently holds their monthly "public" meetings @8:30 on Thursday mornings while most of the taxpaying public is at work. I just went on their website and it appears they have had no meetings since February 2012. And the "Director's Report" from May is all about loans for projects. No matter what the DDA does, no one will invest in downtown Augusta until the Section 8 housing and strip clubs are gone. Those are two major elements that you don't see in metropolitan areas that thrive.

@Fools and sages: The government can take all of our money and put gold buildings and marble streets downtown and no one will want to go there to see people on welfare shoot up the buildings and desecrate the streets.

HighSociety
1840
Points
HighSociety 07/16/12 - 10:46 pm
5
1
"Republicans sign the front

"Republicans sign the front of the check and Democrats sign the back."
I seen this recently, and there is a bit of truth in it.
F and S, I agree completely with your post.

Little Lamb
46367
Points
Little Lamb 07/16/12 - 10:57 pm
2
1
Curfew for adults?

Coco Rubio proposed:

At 10 p.m., police would be brought in on foot and a strict under-21 curfew would be enforced. “It could be an entertainment district,” he said.

Do you mean to tell me that Coco Rubio is proposing that a legal adult in Georgia (18, 19, 20 years old) would be subject to ejection from an outdoor setting in downtown Augusta after 10 p.m.? Perhaps we need to have the General Assembly change the state Constitution to make the age of majority 21 years old, first!

Little Lamb
46367
Points
Little Lamb 07/16/12 - 11:00 pm
5
1
Most Useless?

CrackerToy posted:

Margaret Woodard, is there a more useless person, occupying a more useless government position?

Well, Fred (What, me worry?) Russell is indeed more useless than Woodard, but only by a small margin. Get rid of Russell first, then Woodard.

countyman
20232
Points
countyman 07/16/12 - 11:25 pm
3
4
Deke lives in West Augusta,

Deke lives in West Augusta, but I've seen the mayor with his family at the Saturday Market on the River and First Friday before... I also see Matt Aitken's family out downtown alot, but he lives in the CBD...

Justin4466
43
Points
Justin4466 07/16/12 - 11:38 pm
8
0
I was in Memphis a few years

I was in Memphis a few years ago and was impressed how police on foot wood approach folk who looked out of place or undesirable in the downtown area. They were not rude but had enough conversation to let them know they were on the policeman's radar. After being there several evenings the concept seemed to work because these folk would just move on. Maybe we can think outside the box and not let the few spoil what is good for the city.

countyman
20232
Points
countyman 07/16/12 - 11:48 pm
2
4
Crackertroy.... What section

Crackertroy.... What section 8 housing?? Places like Richmond Summit, and the Maxwell house are privately owned buildings.... I do agree it would be nice to get rid of them, but I disagree about people won't invest downtown until the strip clubs and section 8 are gone... I have no problems with the strip clubs especially if we had a more upscale one... Those loans you brought up only cover up to 40% of the project, and the developer must pay for the rest... If you read the Directors Report from May, then you should notice the JB Whites condo expansion & private parking/gated access on Ellis street didn't received any loan... The renovation of Fort Discovery building(Discovery Plaza), Sprint Food & Metro Market at 851 Broad, Regency Inn becoming Holiday Inn Express, Rural Sourcing(100 IT jobs), etc didn't either... When tourist come to Augusta they want to visit downtown, and not the suburbs... There's alot more private construction in the CBD this year compared to previous decades...

Excluding the new residential going at 1225 Greene, 834 Greene, 586 Broad, 220-222 6th street, 556 Broad, 566 Broad, and 307 9th street...

JB Whites = 34 new condos(51 total)
Johnson building= 13 apts
901 Broad= 9 apts
1120 Jones street= 8 apts
920 Greene street= 6 apts
967 Broad street= 4 apts

74 new living spaces in the CBD..

blues550
380
Points
blues550 07/17/12 - 06:48 am
0
0
Missing The Point
Unpublished

EVERYONE is missing the point about WHO is causing the troubles downtown and HOW to handle it. Until we put aside the proverbial race card and figure out how to reduce crime committed by predominantly young black men the issue is not going away.

It is not being racist, it is stating the obvious and we are not talking about just downtown or even Richmond County. This is a pandemic nationwide.

And I for one don't have the answer.

LuvMyTown
2009
Points
LuvMyTown 07/17/12 - 06:58 am
6
1
Riverman1
84889
Points
Riverman1 07/17/12 - 06:59 am
4
1
Easy for Copenhaver to Say Continue FF

The last time Augusta had major violence was the Cherry Tree Crossing riots that went on for days after the Elmore shooting. The press tried to find Mayor Copenhaver for four days to no avail. He later said he had gone to the beach and his phone was turned off.

Riverman1
84889
Points
Riverman1 07/17/12 - 07:01 am
5
1
Curfew for anyone under 21?

LL, I didn't get that comment either about a curfew for anyone under 21. But it's coming from a bar owner who wants to keep FF going. It seems like it would be discrimination to me.

About Countyman saying Augusta needs a more upscale strip club, heh, heh, heh.

jbartley
547
Points
jbartley 07/17/12 - 07:30 am
1
1
Saturday

Move it to Saturday afternoon for families and after dark for adults only over 18.

Little Lamb
46367
Points
Little Lamb 07/17/12 - 07:39 am
5
0
Section 8

Countyman wrote:

Crackertroy.... What section 8 housing?? Places like Richmond Summit, and the Maxwell house are privately owned buildings....

You must not understand what Section 8 is all about. Section 8 is a federal government subsidy given to private housing owners if they rent their housing to people in the Section 8 program. The vouchers go directly to the landlord instead of to the tenant.

Little Lamb
46367
Points
Little Lamb 07/17/12 - 07:46 am
3
1
It never ends

F & S posted:

A 5% increase would cost me an extra $55 per year. Personally, I'm willing to pay $55 more PER YEAR and have some of that cash go to providing a proper police force so we can have First Friday, Westabou, and other events downtown and throughout the CSRA without forcing businesses to fork over money like they are paying for private security.

Yeah, but a 5% increase in property taxes will cost Coco Rubio much more than $55. Did you ask him whether he supports a 5% increase in property taxes?

And yes, the city would gladly take your $55 this year. But they'll be back for another increase next year and the year after that and the year after that. The problem with tax increases is that they're never satisfied.

Little Lamb
46367
Points
Little Lamb 07/17/12 - 07:50 am
3
1
CADI

Coco Rubio said:

The Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative program is funded through a tax levied only on for-profit property owners within the business improvement district. He said it is a program he will most likely not vote for again, so that money can be used to pay for deputies.

Sorry, Coco, but you might never have the opportunity to get rid of CADI and put the money toward deputies. Once a government program gets put in place, it is hard to repeal it.

It's kind of like the parking deck management agreement.

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 07/17/12 - 07:59 am
2
0
Interesting how even after

Interesting how even after only a couple of weeks the tone is changing. It is so difficult for people to give up their optimism for lost causes. Even I want to see First Friday to rise like a Phoenix from the powder residue. But to quote a famous line from Hill Street Blues.....y'all be careful out there.

Riverman1
84889
Points
Riverman1 07/17/12 - 08:05 am
2
1
Judge, sometimes you just have to see the reality

I noted before bigger places than us have given up on events like this due to violence. Myrtle Beach and Atlanta come to mind. Don't look at it like it's giving in to violence, but simply being prudent. The army couldn't police it.

itsanotherday1
43688
Points
itsanotherday1 07/17/12 - 09:28 am
4
0
Justin4446, you are playing

Justin4446, you are playing my music. I sound like a broken record I know, but if you work these people "just hanging out" and keep them moving, they will MOVE ALONG somewhere else. From what I see downtown, the cops are either in cars or just standing around. Some of them are so overweight they would probably keel over if they actually had to patrol on foot.
Secondly, throw in a few plainclothes to wander through the streets and I think downtown would see a transformation.

itsanotherday1
43688
Points
itsanotherday1 07/17/12 - 09:37 am
3
0
It isn't about FF, it is

It isn't about FF, it is about the survival and growth of downtown. FF is the only night time event downtown, and is a bellwether for the overall health of downtown night life. Shut it down and the general attitude will be that "downtown is so dangerous, FF had to be shut down". That is not a message that needs to be sent.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 07/17/12 - 09:59 am
2
0
Justin4466 07/16/12 - 11:38 pm YES

This is the mentality that is going to save it and make it better. Get the police out of their cars and onto the streets and then train them to engage folks. They get to know who is down there and why. I still like the idea of 2-3 mounted police riding around on horses. That would command my respect.

Day1 has it in perspective properly as well.

allhans
23759
Points
allhans 07/17/12 - 11:04 am
0
1
If the city has to go that

If the city has to go that far to hold a FF then by all means close it down.
At least until the next generation. By then the freebies will be gone and these troublemakers might be tired at night.

Little Lamb
46367
Points
Little Lamb 07/17/12 - 11:19 am
3
0
Mounted Patrols

Maintaining a stable of horses is expensive. Let's not start that program up again.

Little Lamb
46367
Points
Little Lamb 07/17/12 - 11:55 am
1
0
Money

Summer Moore reported:

The need for security was also addressed at the meeting. Woodard said most people in the meeting agreed to donate their own money, including Copenhaver, who offered to give $5,000.

Yeah, hizzonor will write a check for $5,000 one time. But the business owners will be stuck with ponying up for sheriff ‘specials’ month after month and year after year.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 07/17/12 - 12:22 pm
1
0
Deke's 5K would cover renting

Deke's 5K would cover renting three stalls in an existing stable for many years.

countyman
20232
Points
countyman 07/17/12 - 12:36 pm
1
1
I know what the definition of

I know what the definition of Section 8 is... Where exactly is the section 8 housing in the CBD??? It should be easy to point out since you responded so quickly... The real estate prices in the CBD are higher than several areas in the metro.... Do you really believe section 8 lives in the expensive lofts or condos on Broad?? If the CBD was full of section 8 then Cal Ripken and Jim Jacoby wouldn't want to invest millions into the area..

You guys must be calling East Augusta, Bethlehem, Harrisburg, etc downtown then...

If Augusta had an upscale strip club, and a nice casino on the riverwalk... The downtown area would attract even more people daily... I think it's time to plan ahead, because once the GGHF property is developed the growth will speed up tremendously...

Cities/counties give tax breaks, etc to companies/developers all the time... I don't see why it's considered a big deal when it happens downtown... How many cities our size can attract high paying IT jobs downtown?? The new trend across the US is moving white collar office jobs to the suburbs(i.e West Augusta)...

blues550
380
Points
blues550 07/17/12 - 01:17 pm
0
0
Margaret Woodward
Unpublished

Boy you folks have it in for Margaret Woodward. Seems to me that group is doing a pretty darn dood job and she puts her heart into it.

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