Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

4 commissioners absent from tax vote

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Suppose you called a meeting to plot the course of Augusta’s future and only six of the 10 members of the governing board showed up?

That’s what happened Friday when the city’s Boy King, Mayor Deke Copenhaver, asked commissioners to approve a new special purpose local option sales tax.

Commissioners Bill Lock­ett, Marion Williams, Corey Johnson and Alvin Mason were conspicuously absent, thereby abdicating their responsibility and disenfranchising the people who voted them into office. I’m sure they all had good excuses, though.

Unbeknownst to us until Fri­­day, there’s a politician amongst us: Bill Fennoy, the only black commissioner to show up. He sold his vote for $10 million and secured a goodly amount of the $194.3 million for his District 1, pending voter approval May 20.

Not only did Fennoy get the promise of $6 million for Paine College’s James Brown Fine Arts and Cultural Center and $4 million for demolition of dilapidated structures, but he also got $5.25 million for the mills project; $750,000 for the Greater Augusta Art Coun­cil’s ART Space and $2 million for its Public Art Implementation; $2.5 million for the Imperial Thea­tre; $4.25 million for the Miller Theater renovation; $500,000 for the Augusta Museum of History; $500,000 for the Phinizy Swamp Nature Park; $2 million for the library; $2.5 million for the Canal Authority; $400,000 for the Boathouse Rowing Center; $400,000 for River­walk Augusta and $1.5 million for the Downtown Develop­ment Authority’s surface parking lot.

Commissioner Wayne Guil­foyle also showed political skill by helping Hephzibah and Blythe get more money in the tax package than they probably got from all other previous SPLOST issues combined.

He also succeeded in getting $10 million more for engineering by cutting two new fire stations, juvenile court and public defender offices, which might have been a mistake. Granted, infrastructure is important, but just how much money can the engineering department successfully spend in six years? There’s $50 million in the tax package, an expected $10 million more a year when the rain tax goes into effect and about $300 million from the transportation tax.

The Boy King got the mills project in the package and probably lifetime tickets to the symphony and theater, along with all the canvas he can paint. He and his sidekick, Matt Kwatinetz, the executive director of the Augusta Regional Colla­bor­a­tive project, i.e. consultant, both won by keeping the arts people happy and the mills project on the table.

Georgia Regents University got money for the cancer center. While there’s been some grumbling about offering to spend money to build a hospital in Columbia County, folks need to realize there’s a big difference between an educational institution and a hospital. The $8 million goes toward cancer research, and that could save your life, provided you live long enough.

That’s what can happen when you show up. You have to wonder about the commissioners who didn’t. Show up, that is.

THE DOG ATE MY SPLOST LIST: Mason wants to be mayor, so it looks like he’d want input on what would happen during his term. Or is it going to be his tactic not to participate and blame other people when things don’t go right?

Johnson wants to be elected state senator and go to Atlanta and vote on statewide issues, but it’s hard to believe he could do that if he’s afraid to vote on the local tax issue.

Lockett, meanwhile, takes his toys and goes home when he can’t get his way. In this case, not participating means his district won’t get any toys.

Then there’s Williams, who said he was out of town Friday and wasn’t going to change his schedule “to come back and fight with folks that weren’t going to do right anyway.”

He said he’s going to do everything he can to defeat the tax at the polls.

“They cut a deal with the newest commissioner (Fen­noy),” Williams said. “For whatever reason, this thing is being pushed. Why was it fast tracked?”

Williams said he’s not against the $8 million match for GRU’s cancer center, but he wants to see “their paperwork.”

“They say it will create jobs,” he said. “It won’t be no six-figure jobs. It will be maids and low-paid workers. I don’t trust them. I think we was ramrodded. The mills project was pushed down our throat. Now the mayor done gone on vacation. He’s done some underhanded things. It was done by design.”

Williams keeps his track record intact by not being for anything or liking anybody.

DO I HEAR $6 MILLION? The mayor had given the board a heads-up on his $187.4 million proposal, and after some horse trading, additions and subtractions – the additions being more than the subtractions – ended up being almost $7 million more, plus $3 million or $4 million for interest for bonded projects.

It was a suspenseful meeting, though you could tell there’d been much discussion beforehand. Fennoy said people in the community felt like the tax package was being pushed down their throats and that he’d much rather give them an opportunity to speak and then come up with a list of projects.

Copenhaver said they were using the same process that had always been used, except that they’d never had a May election.

“We didn’t create the situation,” he said.

Still, Fennoy said it was going to be a “hard sell” until the mayor proposed $5 million for dilapidated houses and asked, “Is there any way in there to get Paine up to $5 million?”

And so it went, with the mayor auctioneering.

“Would my colleagues be willing to go $5 million on Paine College? Four million?”

“I would be willing to give $187 million to infrastructure and forget the projects,” Fennoy said.

Donnie Smith called for a recess and after some deal-making in the hall and at the dais, they reconvened and approved the package.

STONE ROCKS CONGRESSIONAL POWER STRUCTURE: Republican congressional candidate John Stone says the Washington establishment has declared war on voters of the 12th Dis­trict by interfering in the U.S. House race.

After Stone reinforced his earlier announcement by signing the Republican Trust Pledge for new House leadership, he said the Wash­ington establishment went into panic mode and recruited new candidates into the race to muddy the water, including state Rep. Delvis Dutton, R-Glenville.

The Augusta Chronicle had an article on Dutton’s past financial troubles Saturday. He did not respond to phone calls and an e-mail asking whether he was recruited by the Na­tion­al Republican Con­gres­­sional Committee.

“This is why I was trying to avoid all of this by calling for the 12th District candidates to decide on one candidate,” Stone said. “But now that it’s out the NRCC is packing the field, I think the voters can see why I made the call for new leadership. This is gross interference in the primary campaign in our district.”

Last week, Augusta’s Eu­gene Yu dropped out of the Republican race for the U.S. Senate and entered the 12th District race.

“Nobody influenced me,” he said.

OOPS! I misidentified the person quoted in last Sun­day’s City Ink concerning her home being damaged by raw sewage. The speaker was Gena Kirkendohl, not Annie Blount. I’m so embarrassed.

Comments (34) Add comment
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Gage Creed
17103
Points
Gage Creed 03/01/14 - 09:09 pm
12
1
New red shag carpet and swag

New red shag carpet and swag lamps for the jazz cafe on Broad....

Riverman1
83470
Points
Riverman1 03/01/14 - 09:23 pm
18
2
A Private College In Your Dreams

Grasp the reality that Paine College is now a Richmond County funded school.

dichotomy
32714
Points
dichotomy 03/01/14 - 09:31 pm
16
4
Mason, Williams, Lockett, and

Mason, Williams, Lockett, and Johnson.......what a useless crew. And Mason wants to be mayor. I wouldn't let him be dog catcher.

I wonder how their constituents feel being left totally off the list for anything because of their commissioner's arrogant, self-serving attitudes. I don't agree with all of the PRIVATE stuff on the list and I don't agree with giving Paine any money, but it is obvious that Fennoy is the only smart black commissioner. The rest of y'all just go off and pout in the corner while we divvy up the money. Marion, glad you could not change your schedule. You are the last thing they need at ANY meeting where they want to get something done.

Butterman
3680
Points
Butterman 03/01/14 - 09:58 pm
12
5
Nice Spin
Unpublished

Good for Lockett, Mason, Williams, and Johnson for boycotting yesterday's UNNECESSARY special called meeting by the mayor. There is absolutely no need for this to be put on the May ballot....PERIOD. Lockett and others have made it quite clear this process is intentionally being rushed. Why? Where are the public hearings? Just because the state moved the mayor & commission races up to May does not mean SPLOST has to be held in May. Referenda can still be held on the November General Election.. where they ought to be. The mayor created a false deadline and tried to yet again manufacture a crisis to ram his SPLOST through.

We know that this government rarely gets things right when they are rushed into making a hasty decision. Did everyone forget the TEE center and the floating parking deck? Why should these four commissioners have shown up and go through the motions lining up to the Splost trough when they have made it clear they believe this should be held off and put on the November ballot? Maybe Sylvia should have asked why the other 5 commissioners were so desperate to get this shoved through yesterday that they were willing to give Fennoy whatever he wanted. Great precedent to set in the future.. see is what happens when you rush a vote like this. $6 million for Paine College? $5.5 for The Mills with no confirmed tenants?

So Wayne Guilfoyle wants to crow about how much bacon he is bringing to Hephzibah and Blythe. I guess principles go out the window as long as you can stick your hand in the cookie jar and get a bigger cookie for your district. That is precisely why these Splosts are always full of fluff and pork because everybody gots to gets theirs. All it would have taken is one more statesman on the commission to have said "No. We are rushing this. Let's take our time and get this right and put it on the November ballot." Instead the six yesterday made it clear their votes are for sale for the right price... We know what Fennoy's price is. And Sylvia wants to admonish the four who did the right thing and stood up for principle. Nice spin.

corgimom
32142
Points
corgimom 03/01/14 - 10:49 pm
20
5
Yeah, after Paine College

Yeah, after Paine College bankrupted themselves with their terrible money management, now the taxpayers get to support this PRIVATE COLLEGE that is not owned by them!

TrulyWorried
14024
Points
TrulyWorried 03/01/14 - 10:51 pm
17
1
two words

VOTE NO

Little Lamb
45816
Points
Little Lamb 03/02/14 - 12:07 am
8
1
Quorum

I thought you had to have a quorum of 7 to open the meeting.

Is that correct?

Butterman
3680
Points
Butterman 03/02/14 - 12:09 am
4
2
6
Unpublished

LL, since you can pass anything with six votes I believe the quorum is 6 and they barely had it yesterday.

Little Lamb
45816
Points
Little Lamb 03/02/14 - 12:17 am
12
1
From the Code

Sec. 1-2-13 Rules of Procedure

1.02 Quorum

1.02.1 Seven (7) members of the Commission-Council shall constitute a quorum for any meeting of the Augusta-Richmond County Commission-Council.

Butterman
3680
Points
Butterman 03/02/14 - 12:19 am
4
3
Hmmmm
Unpublished

LL I think the mayor counts as a member of the commission, so there was technically a quorum of 7.

Little Lamb
45816
Points
Little Lamb 03/02/14 - 12:19 am
14
2
Sylvia's got it right

Fennoy was bought off.

Graft and corruption is the order of the day in District One.

Little Lamb
45816
Points
Little Lamb 03/02/14 - 12:20 am
9
0
deestafford
27412
Points
deestafford 03/02/14 - 01:04 am
11
1
I bet every time the commissioners go by a bar-b-que...

I bet every time the commissioners and the mayor go by a bar-b-que joint their eyes tear up because they are each so laden with pork they have sympathy for their fellow pigs on the menu.

dickworth1
954
Points
dickworth1 03/02/14 - 04:43 am
15
1
paine college
Unpublished

I have nothing against Paine College, but why are the taxpayers giving money to a private schoo;? Is this legal to give taxpayers money to private enterprises and the same goes for any other private business.
This needs to be checked out before I agree to vote for this splost. I am
sick and tired of this commission and this city assuming they can add extra month's water bill to the taxpayers. I intend to not pay without a court battle over paying for something I have not received, although this is common practice in Richmond county, i.e; double the cost of trash pickup and paying the commissioners is another debate that could be argued as a waste of taxpayers money. How can you charge people for water they never received? Citizens need to get off their seats and start demanding cost effective government and responsible government, at this time I don't believe we have either.

geecheeriverman
2389
Points
geecheeriverman 03/02/14 - 06:25 am
12
2
Votes

I don't think the votes are there to pass this boondoggle. The money for Imperial, the Miller, and Paine College, will probably kill it.

Truth Matters
6745
Points
Truth Matters 03/02/14 - 07:21 am
5
14
"...Bill Fennoy, the only

"...Bill Fennoy, the only black commissioner to show up."

Well Slyvia, please tell us the race of the other commissioners besides William Fennoy since you think his race is germane to this story. And we wonder why so many people think in black and white. I submit that it is modeled by writers all too often.

Anyone who does not know the race of each commissioner probably didn't vote for one and thus couldn't give a flying flip.

Truth Matters
6745
Points
Truth Matters 03/02/14 - 07:31 am
12
1
@ Butterman. 8:58 PM

"Lockett and others have made it quite clear this process is intentionally being rushed. Why? "

Great question. I believe the mayor was on record saying that GRU needed the $$ requested by July in order to qualify for the match funds they are expecting.

So the mayor is moving heaven and earth to accommodate the people who took their sweet time resolving (questionably) the sign debacle.

nocnoc
42411
Points
nocnoc 03/02/14 - 08:05 am
7
1
$50 Million - towards fixing things

How can anyone driving around ARC, dodging Pot Holes and Craters in the roadway ask the question:

Where can they spend it all?

If this package passes and I still have some doubts as written.

My hope is they address what is broken EQUALLY around ARC and not focus on the West Side or Downtown Corridor areas.

Less they forget,
* the promised South Side Economic Boom by Countyman.
* the Windsor Spring/I-520/US-25 interchange area could use a BIG HUNK of this $$$$$ just to fix that poorly designed mess that inhabits grown and traffic flow.
* The Shopping Mall & Movie Theater going up at US-25 & Hwy 88 ;-)

nocnoc
42411
Points
nocnoc 03/02/14 - 08:07 am
9
1
nocnoc
42411
Points
nocnoc 03/02/14 - 08:11 am
3
1
LL - Quorum Question

Does the Mayor count as the 7th person?

Sec. 1-2-13 Rules of Procedure
1.02 Quorum
1.02.1 Seven (7) members of the Commission-Council shall constitute a quorum for any meeting of the Augusta-Richmond County Commission-Council.

seenitB4
86692
Points
seenitB4 03/02/14 - 08:58 am
3
2
I hope they get that..

* The Shopping Mall & Movie Theater going up at US-25 & Hwy 88 ;-)

Little Lamb
45816
Points
Little Lamb 03/02/14 - 10:30 am
2
1
Quorum

Sadly, NocNoc, I believe he does.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
ETA:

Yeah, here it is. Section 1-28, paragraph (c) says that the Mayor shall be a member of the Commission.

story1
802
Points
story1 03/02/14 - 10:30 am
9
2
Parking Lot ReSurface

The DDA is getting 1.5M to resurface a parking lot? Must be a heck of a parking space. This community is much smarter than the credit our leaders give. Everyone is mad and spreading the word. Just vote No on this one, it will come back around at a more reasonable and responsible way of spending tax payer money.

MrClen1944
230
Points
MrClen1944 03/02/14 - 11:20 am
5
2
Moving

After 40 years in South Augusta, these hacks have made me move to CashCounty.

jimmymac
39070
Points
jimmymac 03/02/14 - 11:22 am
0
0
POLITICIANS
Unpublished

Sadly once elected politicians never get tired of spending other peoples money. It must be some kind of disease that afflicts them shortly after the election. Once a tax is passed it will never be repealed without every elected person gnashing their teeth.

internationallyunknown
4166
Points
internationallyunknown 03/02/14 - 12:05 pm
2
8
smh

Seems tht only white people can bring up race and not be called out as a race-baiter.

"The only black commissioner..."

pitcher
47
Points
pitcher 03/02/14 - 12:38 pm
5
1
Why Rush?

I'm sure that part of the reason this proposal is being rushed is so GRU can get the $. Another reason might be that few folks will vote in May. Another reason is perhaps the mayor wants this before he leaves. If it passes will the tax payers have part ownership in all of these nonprofits, and will MCG continue to balance bill us all for the building funds?

Esctab
891
Points
Esctab 03/02/14 - 01:12 pm
1
0
Answer to NocNoc's question:

It means you will get tasered till the wires melt.

countyman
20015
Points
countyman 03/02/14 - 01:32 pm
1
5
Splost

The majority of people will vote yes, because they want progress and not decay... They don't agree with every single item, but realize the city of Augusta has to do something.

TSplost is already funding many new road projects throughout the county. The local splost must include projects that help foster new growth(Diamond Lakes, city of Hephzibah & Blythe, Mills, etc).. There's acres of land in Hephzibah, Blythe, and South Augusta waiting to be developed. The Starbucks plant, Plant Vogtle, Rockwood plant, Augusta Regional, and Fort Gordon all provide the opportunity for major growth.. The Mills are near the Kroc Center, Medical District, CBD, Summerville, Broad street bus terminal(should be demolished and built in the CBD), and the 25 acre commercial development.. The Imperial and Miller will help create a true entertainment district(tourist, foot traffic, businesses,) in the CBD and provide the ability to attract the best and the brightest.. The best and the brightest will result in new high paying manufacturing/aviation/defense jobs coming to South Augusta, defense/office jobs coming to Southwest Augusta, and white collar office jobs popping up in West Augusta/North Richmond/CBD...

The article says the 1.5 million is for a new 'surface' parking lot and not 'resurface' parking lot.. Where do you expect for all the new people coming downtown to park( 500-800 jobs on the way)?

Why does anybody have a problem helping GRU/Paine when they educate locals and employ them? The city of Augusta should have already entice Augusta Tech to help renovate part of the Regency mall property.

gargoyle
16749
Points
gargoyle 03/02/14 - 01:49 pm
2
1
The reason for the rush?

The reason for the rush? Could the GRU 8 million be a red herring for the Mayor's final push to fund his unpopular initiatives. Getting the SPLOST vote packed full of pork and fluff camouflages his pet projects. This should revolve around public works and infrastructure projects not "New red shag carpet and swag lamps for the jazz café on Broad". Could this be the last gasp of a lame duck ?

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