The fine folks in Sarasota who were mulling over whether to steal Augusta city Administrator Fred Russell were looking at the political contretemps here and were apparently wondering: Is Russell the problem, or is it Augusta politics?
It’s the politics, Russell said.
No doubt put out by that very public slight, several Augusta commissioners became determined this week to only prove him right. So they walked out on yet another commission meeting – just before the entire 2012 budget had to be voted on.
Yep. It’s the politics.
Mr. Russell is hardly perfect; we’ve had our own issues with him. There’s a line between easy going and out to lunch, and he’s crossed it more than once.
But on the whole, he’s been a steadying influence, and much progress has occurred on his watch. And we asked one public official here if the problem is Russell: “No,” the official said. “I’d recommend him (for the Florida job).”
He didn’t get it. Lucky him, he gets to stay on amid the gross dysfunction.
Commissioner Bill Lockett – who fancies himself the “nitpicker in chief” – led a three-commissioner walkout in disgust Tuesday when the agenda included changes to the personnel manual.
Another commissioner we talked to said changes to the personnel manual, an ongoing issue much of the year, can’t be news to Lockett, who has opposed them at every turn and seemed Tuesday mostly to want to delay another of his “no” votes.
“We discussed (the changes) in his d--- workshop!” the commissioner told us. “We held off for three months because he kept canceling the meetings.”
Several officials we talked to privately said they believe some commissioners want mostly to stall progress in an attempt to get District 1 Commissioner Matt Aitken voted out of office next year. The election of the white Aitken last year tilted the racial balance of the commission from 5-5 to 6-4.
We don’t know if all that’s true. We sincerely hope it’s not. Most of us in this town are dog-tired of racial machinations anyway. And any attempt to block progress for short-term political gain only hurts the community these folks are supposedly there to represent.
Constituents of Commissioner Al Mason, for instance, ought to ask why he chose not to attend two budget workshops before walking out on the budget vote Tuesday. Why did they bother sending this guy to City Hall? How are such commissioners representing their constituents, by walking out before the budget vote?
Oh, yes. We forgot. If you don’t vote for the 2012 budget, it’s not your fault and you have an entire year to grouse and gripe about it. What a deal!
It’s just one reason why the city administrator is looking elsewhere, and why competent replacements would be crazy to put their names in the hat.
Yep. It’s the politics.