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Augusta Commission should seek help to improve its performance

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Augusta commissioners have recently agonized over their public image, which is right up there with Congress’ and Miley Cyrus’.

Egged on by a choice few in their midst, they’re combative, rude,
imperious, cantankerous and overly and overtly personal.

They often treat department heads and other city workers like chattel. They humiliate employees in public forums with extreme rhetoric, unsubstantiated insults and undiluted condescension.

“I couldn’t imagine working in that environment,” one commissioner candidly told us.

One city employee told us in confidence that after about 90 days he wanted to jump out a window to escape.

And now one or more of the worst offenders wring their hands about their image and decorum.

Even the commissioners’ furniture cries out high-handedness: Their raised credenza and throne-like seats are a statement that they are above all others in the commission chambers. It doesn’t take long for that to get to a head that’s already full of itself.

The larger problem, of course, is the commission structure: an even-number 10 commissioners from districts drawn to nearly ensure five whites and five blacks – along with a requirement for a six-vote total for anything to pass, regardless of how many commissioners are present and voting.

It’s a structure designed in the 1990s explicitly to prevent one race from obtaining a political advantage over the other. It’s a monument to mistrust.

It works like a charm. It’s impeding everybody!

Some are suggesting a smaller commission, say of seven members. That would be a good start, though such a change requires state legislative approval.

The commission’s role should also be redefined. There’s too much
micromanaging of city employees, and not enough big-picture discussion. To the extent possible, the city charter should be changed to eliminate day-to-day meddling by commissioners. Hiring and firing should be up to professional city managers.

That said, the truth is that most of what needs to be fixed can be done with a simple commitment on the part of each commissioner to treat others with respect and dignity.

The Augusta Commission doesn’t have a public relations problem. It has a human relations one.

When things do get personal or out of hand, the gavel needs to come down swift and sure. Mayor Deke Copenhaver, despite a genteel demeanor and soft touch, has done a remarkable job over the years of keeping a lid on the shenanigans. But at a recent meeting from which he was absent, the monologues and the abuse of city employees was sadly unchecked. Gen­eral Counsel Andrew MacKenzie, in particular, was absolutely savaged by several commissioners and called a liar.

“I’m truly embarrassed to be on the commission at this time,” admitted Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle.

Several concerned citizens have suggested diversity/leadership training, and have even chatted about it with national consultant Omar Neal, a former mayor of Tuskegee, Ala., who helps groups with such things as conflict management, communications and team-building.

There’s already been push-back from those who would prefer local expertise. Why not invite proposals from both local and national experts? Locally, we can recommend one source of diversity/leadership training, and that’s the Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Augusta program. It specializes in team building and, obviously, leadership training.

Whatever course it takes, we’d strongly urge the commission to seek outside help in improving its performance. There’s absolutely no shame in it; the corporate world does it all the time, to great effect.

The first step is to admit you have a problem – and the commission has at least done that.

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Riverman1
94312
Points
Riverman1 09/01/13 - 07:06 am
5
1
What 7 Actually Means

Saying the commission should be reduced to 7 members is really saying a majority of whites or blacks is needed. It's an admission that the problem is the racial divide. What is going to happen eventually is one side is going to gain the 6th commissioner and then things will calm down...a little. The last few county elections have shown the blacks are able to get out the vote. It appears that's the side the majority will fall on.

Pops
14762
Points
Pops 09/01/13 - 07:09 am
10
0
These are not dogs you want to train

Throwing money away to bring in "help" for a few grown men to attempt to bend from their normal obnoxious behavior would be another waste of money.

deestafford
32248
Points
deestafford 09/01/13 - 08:04 am
6
0
Some folks can't get beyond their rasin' and that appears to be

the case of some of the commissioners. The saying "You can't make a purse out of a sow's ear" holds true in this situation except the location on the hog is much further down than its ear.

Diiiiivvvvvveeeerrrrsssiiiittty training ain't what's needed. The push for the politically correct goal of diiiivvvveeerrrrsssiiiiity is one of the problems. It only creates worse situations and creates imagined slights and paranoia.

What is needed is a more educated voting populace which understands issues more than color.

soapy_725
44151
Points
soapy_725 09/01/13 - 08:18 am
0
0
Rome embraced diverse cultures. We know Rome. Did know.
Unpublished

Rome embraced diverse cultures. We know Rome. Did know.

soapy_725
44151
Points
soapy_725 09/01/13 - 08:20 am
0
0
There is a right way. It is neither black, white, yellow, gray
Unpublished

There is a right way. It is neither black, white, yellow, gray

soapy_725
44151
Points
soapy_725 09/01/13 - 08:21 am
0
0
Free at last, free at last. Free to practice chaos and anarchy
Unpublished

Free at last, free at last. Free to practice chaos and anarchy

faithson
5531
Points
faithson 09/01/13 - 09:51 am
4
0
qualifications...

what is needed is for potential candidates for commission to have some sort of base line qualifications. all we have to do is look at the board of education to see our local governments need to have certain qualifications to run for office. speaking the 'kings English' would be a start.

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 09/01/13 - 11:24 am
6
1
It doesn't matter how things

It doesn't matter how things appear (image). It matters how things are.
Character over image.

corgimom
38762
Points
corgimom 09/01/13 - 07:41 pm
3
0
They are GROWN MEN, if they

They are GROWN MEN, if they haven't learned manners by now, they never will.

Diversity training, what a crock!

Little Lamb
49258
Points
Little Lamb 09/01/13 - 09:47 pm
3
0
Management

ACES suggested:

The commission’s role should also be redefined. There’s too much micromanaging of city employees, and not enough big-picture discussion.

The reason they have to micromangage city employees is because city administrator Fred (What, me worry?) Russell does not manage his employees at all. City department heads, supervisors, and worker bees are free agents left to fend for themselves because Russell does not worry about anything but spending his paycheck. They wait for the next crisis, then run around like headless chickens until they drop. Then, like vampires, they wait until the next crisis.

Truth Matters
8097
Points
Truth Matters 09/01/13 - 09:04 pm
2
0
If LL's assessment of Fred

If LL's assessment of Fred Russell is correct (I am not making a claim to the contrary), then why are people mad at Lockett and company for "trying to get rid of Russell?"

Little Lamb
49258
Points
Little Lamb 09/01/13 - 09:43 pm
0
0
Thank you,

Truth Matters. People are not mad at Lockett for trying to get rid of Russell. They are mad at him for pompously attacking city attorney Andrew MacKenzie in open commission session.

In addition, County Commissioner Bill Fennoy is mad at him for criticizing Fennoy's vote in favor of accepting the new bus contract to a Metro Courier reporter. That has nothing to do with Russell.

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