Look in the mirror

Change in city government should start with self-reflection

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I’m starting with the man in the mirror.

I’m asking him to change his ways.

And no message could have been any clearer:

If you wanna make the world a better place,

Take a look at yourself, and then make a change.”

– Michael Jackson,

Man in the Mirror

Given the chance to vent, Chronicle readers recently gave the Augusta Commission the worst reviews imaginable.

Just resign and put us out of our misery, many said – and in many cases, they said it of the whole 10-member body.

We certainly understand the sentiment. The commission’s dysfunctionality and decorum have the community plainly disgusted. Too often they treat people who come before them, including city employees, like lowly serfs.

They seem never to look at themselves in the mirror, either. While degrading others for their work performance, the commission can’t seem to make a coherent decision on the city golf course or the bus service, to name two prickly issues.

But others need to look in the mirror too. Weren’t these 10 folks elected at some point by the voters?

If our elected officials are so beyond rehabilitation that they need to resign, what does that say about the people who put them there?

Are voters really making such bad decisions? If so, how? Are they getting bad information on the candidates? Or any information at all? What are they basing their votes on? The familiarity of names? Write-ups in the paper? Political endorsements?

Voting rates are abysmal in local races nationwide. What sense does it make for so many not to be voting and then to
lament the quality of officeholders?

Don’t free peoples ultimately get the kind of leaders we deserve?

In truth, this page finds it hard to believe our leaders are beyond hope. We wrote Sept. 1 that commissioners ought to consider bringing in a team-building leadership consultant; it’s nothing that highly successful businesses don’t do.

But personality clashes and indecorous behavior isn’t all that’s plaguing the Augusta Commission.

They’re also victims of a clunker of a government. It was set up under city-county consolidation in the 1990s to be maddeningly inefficient, with an even-number 10 commissioners and a six-vote majority required to pass anything, no matter how many members are present and voting. They’re elected from districts designed to produce five white and five black commissioners, lest either race gain an advantage. Presiding is a mayor with few actual powers. Looking on is a city administrator with 11 political bosses and no power to fire and hire department heads.

Other than that, it’s great!

Then you add in the extra toxic ingredient of race. While most Augustans get along fine, the commission chambers seems to be where past racial grievances backflow. Despite the clunky attempt to forestall it, there appears to be a lingering suspicion that one race might try to hoodwink the other, and vice versa.

None of these things is likely to change by merely tossing the current commissioners out on their stumps. Real change is needed, and not just in the form of city government; we’re talking about the kind that starts with each individual.

A deeply spiritual friend reminded us recently that Jesus once asked a sick man if he even wanted to be healed.

Perhaps we should ask that of Augusta – and the person in the mirror.

Comments (21) Add comment
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Riverman1
103674
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Riverman1 09/13/13 - 06:29 am
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Ya Think?

The editorial is preaching to the choir, but that's okay. About that mirror thing, I'll bring up one more aspect you skipped. Some forces in town benefit by keeping a dysfunctional commission. They can control government and spending when inept officials are manipulated. Remember the David Fry episode?

jimmymac
56935
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jimmymac 09/13/13 - 07:25 am
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ELECTIONS
Unpublished

You deserve the government you elect. As we've been seeing on a national stage this statement rings true. "Elections have consequences".

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 09/13/13 - 08:10 am
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any guesses?

Being backed by aristocrats goes a long way in this town. Either that or maybe just simply incompetency and the ability to hide it.

harley_52
29622
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harley_52 09/13/13 - 09:39 am
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No Doubt About It....

...voters are ultimately responsible for the politicians they elect. Every time I see, or hear, our current President my faith in my fellow citizens is diminished. But, as you point out, there's plenty of blame to throw around.

Last evening I attended a meeting at which several candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives showed up to meet, greet, and favorably influence Columbia County voters for the next election. Their message was pretty much the same....'I want to go to Washington to represent the people of District 10 as a hard working, honest servant who will bring common sense and American values back into politics.'

Are they lying? If not, how do we end up with so many self-serving narcissists who will say (or do) anything to remain in office? How do we end up with people who ignore their own constituents to vote the "party line" in critical issues?

And what of the media? They have a role as well. They can make it virtually impossible for a candidate to be heard, or they can twist the candidate's words (or positions) on issues so grotesquely that they don't even resemble the truth.

Through it all, one inescapable fact remains. Voters elect candidates. We've got to blame ourselves. We elected our current slate of leaders and it's up to us to elect the next group. If we're worth our salt as citizens, we'll do our level best to learn the truth about the candidates and to help educate our fellow voters however we can.

deestafford
37140
Points
deestafford 09/13/13 - 08:45 am
5
1
Looking at the man in the mirror is a great concept and is

usually helpful in identifying the source of most of one's problems.

The problem is when our commissioners look in the mirror, they don't see themselves they see their constituents and then based on what they perceive their constituents to be is how they act. So, look at who put them there and you will see the commissioners are acting just like their constituents would if they were there.

Couple that with the sorry "organizational" structure of our consolidation and you have brew of toil and trouble.

dichotomy
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dichotomy 09/13/13 - 10:05 am
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Consolidation was designed to

Consolidation was designed to fail and it is performing flawlessly. The structure of the government was designed strictly along racial lines and we were set against each other from day one. The rural and some suburban areas were districted to have zero power on the governing body which would suck their financial resources dry and spend them in the "old city" with profits being divided up between the 2 salt and pepper power brokers who set consolidation in motion after they had agreed on, and divided up, who would control what. Both of them were guilty of long term crooked dealings and profiting from taxpayer money but amazingly one of them was outed and ended up going to jail.......leaving more private profiting from taxpayer money for the other. However the structure that was in place still gave plenty of power to the "missing man's" side and still resulted in ALL monies going to the "old city" areas one way or another.

And I really feel the Chronicle should be the last entity to admonish us to look into a mirror. Think about it.....and how we got here....and who was involved.

The voters have pretty well given up on Augusta/Richmond County and rightfully so. We always expect the worst and we usually get it....especially on the South end.

The structure of Augusta's government was designed to be a Civil War battlefield with taxpayer money being the cannons.....and the South end of the county is the ground caught in the between opposing forces. We take most of the hits and have nothing to shoot back at either side.

I still cannot believe the stupidity of the people who voted for Consolidation. Of course we WERE lied to and led astray by our local politicians and news MEDIA. When POLITICIANS, RICH people, AND POOR people are all in favor of something, those folks in the MIDDLE should grab their wallets and RUN LIKE HELL.

Riverman1
103674
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Riverman1 09/13/13 - 10:19 am
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Charles DeVaney Laid It Out Honestly

The late Augusta Mayor Charles DeVaney was honest about consolidation. He said the city couldn't keep paying its bills with its small population of 44,000. He said they needed the rest of the county to help. Boy, did he get what he wanted. South and West Augusta are now pulling the wagon.

harley_52
29622
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harley_52 09/13/13 - 10:48 am
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"And I really feel the Chronicle should be....

....the last entity to admonish us to look into a mirror. Think about it.....and how we got here....and who was involved."

I was here when the Consolidation vote was taken and to watch as things have simmered and stewed ever since.

I remember how we got here. I remember some of the people involved, but I think the message of this Editorial remains appropriate.

We (the citizens/voters) are responsible for the government we have here and it's we who remain responsible for changing it, if that's what we want.

harley_52
29622
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harley_52 09/13/13 - 10:46 am
5
1
"He said the city couldn't....

....keep paying its bills with its small population of 44,000. He said they needed the rest of the county to help."

I don't remember that precise statement, not to say that he didn't make it. I remember the Consolidation being billed as a win/win situation for both city and non-city residents of Richmond County mainly due to the efficiencies achieved by reducing the size of government. The other driving factor was, of course, the racial discrimination charges that the Justice Department helped us solve by codifying the racial balance on the Commission.

No matter, really. If we want it changed we (the voters)* will have to make it happen.

* ARC voters, not Columbia County voters.

raul
6627
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raul 09/13/13 - 11:14 am
5
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Arrogance and incompetence

Arrogance and incompetence are a deadly combination. Unfortunately, some commissioners display both characteristics. To change you have to admit you have a problem first. With most of these folks, it's always the other guy.

Riverman1
103674
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Riverman1 09/13/13 - 11:39 am
4
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"ARC voters, not Columbia County voters."

"ARC voters, not Columbia County voters."

Heh, heh, heh. Y'all need all the help you can get.

harley_52
29622
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harley_52 09/13/13 - 11:59 am
4
1
"Y'all need all the help you can get."

As I once told a neighbor "there's a fine line between being a "help" and being a "pest."

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 09/13/13 - 12:58 pm
5
0
True enough,

but thinking that folks in Columbia County don't have a card to play or make any contribution isn't realistic. Although a ballot card won't be punched by a citizen of CC, their perspective and input will affect what it affects, whether it be small or persuade a mob of people. We are bound together in a way that transcends the county line.

Riverman1
103674
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Riverman1 09/13/13 - 01:07 pm
4
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Neighbors

Oh, I can hear it now. "Get off my lawn."

myfather15
59556
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myfather15 09/13/13 - 01:22 pm
4
1
"Are voters really making

"Are voters really making such bad decisions? If so, how? Are they getting bad information on the candidates? Or any information at all? What are they basing their votes on? The familiarity of names? Write-ups in the paper? Political endorsements?"

Yes, to every one of your questions!!

People running for political office have been lying to us for 100's of years! Television just made it FAR worse and more visible!!! They just use television and internet to tell us whey THEY THINK we want to hear to get our vote. It has nothing to do with THEIR TRUE beliefs, it's about getting us to vote for them!!!

harley_52
29622
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harley_52 09/13/13 - 01:30 pm
4
0
"Oh, I can hear it now. "Get off my lawn.""

....nah, that's not it.

Actually, it was on a trash day and I had placed my trash can out by the road before leaving to play golf. When I returned, I found that my trash can was gone. I asked one of my neighbors if she knew where it was? She informed me that another neighbor, seeing that the trash hadn't been picked up by 5:00 PM and me not home, decided to distribute my trash among several other neighbors to hold until the next day. He said he was just trying to "help."

I told him that was a little more "help" than I really needed.

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 09/13/13 - 02:17 pm
2
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agreed harley. some things

agreed harley. some things should be sacred (for lack of a better word)

Riverman1
103674
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Riverman1 09/13/13 - 02:29 pm
4
0
Gotta Make Allowances

Harley, interesting story. I'm not sure how I would have handled it. I would have probably been surprised at the interest he showed in my garbage and would have humored him by thanking him figuring he's not all there.

My Uncle Billy went senile and when the Girl Scouts knocked on his door with cookies for sale, he took the cookies and slammed the door. The parents of the girls called the police and got the cookies back, but he wasn't arrested. No telling what I'll do when I get old and the Girl Scouts come knocking. Sometimes you just gotta make allowances.

harley_52
29622
Points
harley_52 09/13/13 - 04:08 pm
2
0
Riverman...

I'm absolutely certain you will handle it better than I when you get old.

itsanotherday1
51279
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itsanotherday1 09/13/13 - 05:22 pm
3
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Very True

"but thinking that folks in Columbia County don't have a card to play or make any contribution isn't realistic."

If we weren't concerned about Augusta and how it impacts our community, we would not comment. I am a critic because I want Augusta to be better. If ARC is better, so goes the surrounding communities.

harley_52
29622
Points
harley_52 09/13/13 - 07:17 pm
0
2
" Although a ballot card won't be punched by a citizen of CC....

....their perspective and input will affect what it affects, whether it be small or persuade a mob of people."

Huh?

Let me be sure I understand you. I think you're saying that although you don't vote for Richmond County government, or issues, and although you don't pay taxes in Richmond County, we still need (or want) your input on Richmond County issues. Is that right?

And you know this how? Do you consider yourself(ves) so much smarter than Richmond County voters that your input must be needed/wanted?

Personally, I think constructive criticism or helpful suggestions often have a place. But, that's not what I see in here most of the time. Usually the "help" comes in the form of mockery and making fun at the 'stoopid' people from Richmond County from a bunch of self-appointed 'experts' who have no real skin in the game.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 09/16/13 - 10:27 am
0
0
With all due respect, a

With all due respect, a derogatory tone and passive-aggressive disdain for anything west of Scott Nixon Memorial paints one as a hater.

With regard to skin in the game. I've lived in ARC and CC. Started in ARC, went to CC, came back to ARC, and then back to CC. I think I have my head around most ideas about this town. So no need to educate me. I've not met anyone on these boards that can claim expertise on this matter and the sooner that point is acknowledged, the sooner one's own comments deserve merit.

More to the point, it is very shallow and shows lack of intellect to think Augusta is an island and doesn't need influence and information from its surroundings. Maybe look within , see how pompous it sounds? Take that into consideration and maybe the communication can develop into something worthy of further discussion instead of just a shot at your neighbor.

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