Leaders, check your vision

Bickering over city reorganization misses the big, important picture

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There's a tidal wave that may be coming -- and some Augusta commissioners want to bicker about whether the city administrator should have the power to dig a shallow trench around City Hall.

An increasing number of experts and politicians are warning that federal government spending could cause the dollar, and therefore the national economy, to collapse. At the very least, inflation could ramp up significantly -- and already seems to be in food and commodities.

We can't do things the way we always have. The money just isn't there. The smart thing to do -- in business, at home, in government -- is to prepare for yet leaner times.

A majority of Augusta commissioners do see the need to find the slightest efficiencies now in the city government -- after the private sector had long ago done so -- and have authorized Administrator Fred Russell to move forward with a modest reorganization that will save money and trim the workforce by a couple dozen.

And yet, some commissioners -- enter Al Mason -- want to fight it tooth and nail.

Mason, despite missing several key meetings on the topic, went on a tirade about the reorganization Monday, complaining it changes the city charter and thus needs eight votes from the commission, not just six.

The city attorney disagrees, as do six commissioners.

Leaving aside how disrespectful Mason was toward Russell Monday -- rudely interrupting him, talking about the administrator having gone on "ad nauseam" in explaining the reorganization, and more -- you have to wonder what's really behind the opposition. Some see the area's legislative delegation's fingerprints on it, as the largely Democratic group scratches for relevance -- if not in Atlanta, then in Augusta.

They seem ready to fight a battle royal over giving the administrator more power to fire ineffective or wayward employees, and more influence in recommending department heads.

For this we're going to war?

It's pathetic. And it's getting in the way of Augusta government girding itself for what may be a more difficult economic time than we saw in the fearful aftermath of the 2008 collapse.

In truth, if the worst happens, today's shortsighted squabbles, best represented by Mason's ill-advised diatribe, will be seen as the fiddling-while-Rome-burns trivialities they are. Mason, and whoever he's listening to, is fiddling while his constituents' economic futures are at greater risk of burning than at any time since the Great Depression.

True leaders are more visionary than that.

In the short run, Mason has abandoned any pretense of being a transcendent figure in Augusta politics. He is clearly representing a bygone era of divisive, nobody-gets-ahead stagecraft. It's sad. We had higher hopes for him.

In the long run, he and his cohorts are trying to stand in the way of doing what's necessary to protect the city and its citizens in the "new normal" of a more austere America.

Thankfully, the majority of the commission gets it -- and from everything we hear, so does the public.

Augusta Commissioner Bill Lockett rightfully released the city attorney's written opinion Tuesday that the reorganization is lawful -- an opinion that has been proffered to the 10 commissioners and mayor, and is therefore subject to open records laws. We don't know why the city had withheld the document and given the reorganization's opponents unwarranted call to question it.

It's a good bet harder times still are on the horizon.

Our leaders at City Hall had better learn to play well with others.

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omnomnom 02/09/11 - 12:33 am
hehe we threw millions away

hehe we threw millions away to a private company to lure them here. i'm all for government being ran more like a business but when it comes to bribery thats a bit much.

fd1962 02/09/11 - 07:00 am
More lecturing about 'the

More lecturing about 'the smart thing to do,' coming from the expertise of a Chronicle management which chose bankruptcy? OK.

ColCo 02/09/11 - 07:48 am
As I recall, practicing

As I recall, practicing attorney David Hudson, one of the authors of the Augusta City Charter, agreed with the county attorney that only 6 votes were needed. Al wants to be mayor and is showboating for his constituency.

Fundamental_Arminian 02/09/11 - 08:01 am
Yesterday's story about Al

Yesterday's story about Al Mason concerns me because the city attorney, citing attorney-client privilege, has declined to explain his interpretation that Fred Russell's proposed changes don't require our charter to be amended.

As a taxpayer, I don't want to be on the hook for fines from lost lawsuits about personnel cuts that are found to be illegal or unauthorized. Surely taxpayers deserve some legal explanation as to why the interpretations of Mr. Mason and other critics are wrong.

Austin Rhodes
Austin Rhodes 02/09/11 - 08:36 am
Fundie...the Charter is

Fundie...the Charter is CLEAR...the Commission can allow the Administrator virtually ANY municipal authority AS LONG as they retain the ultimate final decision making power by up or down vote...which is exactly what they have done.

What you should worry about is the repeated occurrence of a city attorney who doesn't know Georgia's Open Meetings Law from a hole in the ground.

seenitB4 02/09/11 - 09:15 am
fd....about that bankruptcy

fd....about that bankruptcy thingie.....many people still have JOBS at the Chronicle.....enough said!

Riverman1 02/09/11 - 10:43 am
Some Commissioners who run in

Some Commissioners who run in certain crowds fancy themselves as Chicago ward bosses, riding around using county gas and getting the boys at the club jobs where they can ride around in trucks doing THEIR thing. The power of the Commissioner with what amounts to hiring and firing authority represents importance on the streets. A Commissioner can pull up in front of a club and someone will run out to wipe off his windows. They are no more going to give up THEIR "territory" voluntarily than Tony Soprano would.

chascush 02/09/11 - 10:47 am
Politics as usual in good

Politics as usual in good liberal/progressive Augusta. Keep-up the good work and you soon will catch up with the wonderful cites like Philly, Newark & Detroit, all run by liberal/progressives.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Albert Einstein.

socks99 02/09/11 - 02:52 pm
A very nice editorial that

A very nice editorial that recognizes that government must do its part to respond to the financial crisis.

dani 02/09/11 - 10:12 pm

Riverman1, dichotomy..WOW!

Well said.

Crime Reports and Rewards TV
Crime Reports and Rewards TV 02/09/11 - 11:40 pm
It wouldn't hurt to sell some

It wouldn't hurt to sell some of Augusta's over 1 BILLION $$$$$ in assets so free enterprise can make some money with it and pay more taxes.

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