I am troubled by the specifics of Augusta’s current 3R redistricting plan – specifically the moving of Augusta National Golf Club and all the homes and businesses east of Eisenhower Drive (Precinct 702) from District 7 into District 1.
I own a primary residence and an investment property in Precinct 702. I also own an investment property and a business in District 1. As an engineer and the former chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission, I also am very familiar with the revitalization efforts of District 1’s neighborhoods. For this reason I am well-invested in both districts, and find myself in a unique position to view a broad spectrum of people, attitudes and environments throughout the city and these districts.
District 1 is primarily urban ,and is composed of neighborhoods with all of the character and charm of an urban setting. This also brings with it all of the unique issues (good and bad) that need to be addressed and focused on for those who choose to live in this environment.
District 1 issues I have dealt with include: Where can I buy my groceries? Where can I park my car? What do I do when a homeless person breaks into my house? Is it save to walk here after dark? Who is responsible for cleaning the alley behind my house? Do I need to fear the prostitute who works my corner? Who will repair my sidewalk? Is there Section 8 in my neighborhood? Is that a drug house on the corner?
District 7 is primarily suburban, filled with larger-lotted, single-family homes on its rolling hills, and has the modern comforts and conveniences important to the average everyday working Augustan.
District 7 issues I have dealt with include: Do we need a stop sign on this corner? Will the cell tower be visible from my house? People drive too quickly down my street. Who will pay for the new subdivision signs? Whom do I call when the elderly Alzheimer’s neighbor wanders the street? Should my neighbor have a fence around his pool? Whom do I talk to when I catch the neighbor kid with a beer?
District 7 also is unique in that it is the spotlight of national attention each year as the media marches cameras up and down Washington Road and judges Augusta by the type and appearance of the Washington Road businesses. While all areas of the city benefit from the event, none are so uniquely affected by it as those neighborhoods actually in its shadow.
This bonds Precinct 702 directly to the adjoining precincts up to and beyond Interstate 20. Consider the attitude and importance of the Masters to the homeowners west of Lake Olmstead. Do the tenants east of Lake Olmstead even realize the event is happening? Nowhere is the distinction between districts 7 and 1 more evident than the current west/east Lake Olmstead divide.
Lopping Precinct 702 off District 7 forms an unnatural divide in a currently contiguous and harmonious neighborhood. I have little confidence that the concerns and issues important to and currently addressed in this neighborhood would be adequately viewed by a commissioner who is understandably and necessarily focused on issues unique to District 1.
As evidence to this fact, I note that District 1 currently fingers its way up into the Hill. I was in attendance at an Augusta Commission meeting where a previous (not current) District 1 commissioner’s rant about the “evil affluent Hill folks” had to be interrupted to remind him that his district included a portion of that neighborhood.
I do not want to be represented by a commissioner who has to be reminded that I am in his district; that he represents me; or who views the people in – and issues important to – my neighborhood with disregard.
For this reason, I urge the commission to consider one of the other plans that will not divide contiguous and unique neighborhoods as well as the attention of their elected representatives.