Fight or move forward

Unless one of the four disgruntled commissioners spots lightning shooting out of Augusta administrator Fred Russell’s fingertips sometime soon, maybe it’s time we all tried to get along and work with each other.

For most of this year, four Augusta commissioners have waged a kooky jihad against
the streamlining of Augusta’s government, being dragged kicking and screaming toward a more efficient and sensible operation. Meanwhile, a consortium of Baptist ministers and activists went to court to block the commission’s decision to give the city administrator more power to hire and fire, which has been needed since city-county consolidation in the mid-1990s.

Mercifully, the lawsuit was tossed out Thursday by Superior Court Judge David Roper, who rightly found that the commission majority’s understanding of the consolidation charter’s award of powers was correct – and that the commission was perfectly within its rights to add to Russell’s authority.

Now the plaintiffs, as well as the four commissioners, have a choice: Keep waging battle in the courts and commission chambers, or move forward and work together with their colleagues to make Augusta all it can be.

In a classic tug of war, the only thing that gets done is that one team is pulled into the mud. When you’re a hammer, you see every problem as a nail.

There are other tools one must pick up if one is to build anything. Like a community.

Some folks do seem to seek a fount of power from fighting “the man” or the establishment. Problem is, when they’re elected, guess what: They are the man. It’s kind of silly, and very counterproductive, to carry on like a protester or agitator at that point. It’s time to govern. That means working together, even when you disagree – or especially when you disagree.

And if you don’t get your way, you don’t just stomp out or run to a judge to make it right.

Not only has the goofy bickering made the city look awful, but it’s also likely slowed progress.

“In economic development,” says Mayor Deke Copenhaver, “with all things being equal (incentives, cost of living, quality of life, etc.) when Augusta is competing directly with other cities to recruit a business, a stable local governmental situation can be the deciding factor. Thus all of the infighting and grandstanding is ultimately taking food off of people’s tables and money out of their pockets. We are doing well with our economic development efforts, but I believe we could be doing better if our local elected officials would realize that we don’t operate in a vacuum, as I have been asked directly about their actions by businesses looking to locate here.”

In a world in which political liberties vary drastically, we are all equal in our ultimate freedom to choose our own attitude no matter what the circumstances.

It will be fascinating, and telling, to see what choices are made from here.

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