Question: How much power should the mayor have on breaking ties on commission votes and why?
The mayor is currently allowed to vote to break ties, as I have done five times this year. Ultimately, the mayor's vote to break ties should not be obstructed, but rather the commission should trust the mayor, as the chair and representative of the entire community, to use his or her vote wisely.
Absolute power in any situation is always a danger; more important is the mayor's ability to lead and form a consensus among all the commissioners and to gain their respect. This, I believe, is true leadership; the commissioners will be more inclined to execute the visions of the citizens.
The key to the effective and efficient commission votes is to provide strong, positive leadership that pro-actively works through issues prior to the actual vote in commission chambers. I will provide the necessary leadership that encourages and drives commission decisions that are in the best interest of all of Augusta.
I believe that we must transcend the ideology of voting along racial lines and embrace the opportunities to frame and build voting consensus that will promote innovative strategies and agendas that will move Augusta ahead.
I am currently satisfied with the powers of the mayor when it comes to breaking ties. A recent court decision suggested that the mayor can decide to count an abstention by a commissioner as a "yes or no" vote. I think the ruling left too much room for interpretation and possibly, manipulation.
I do not think that the mayor should have the power to arbitrarily decide commissioners' intentions, especially if he can make that decision to force or avoid a tie. If we intend to use the mayor's power to decide to make an abstention a "yes or no," then the criteria should be uniform and used in all situations.
Question: What needs to be done to get Augusta out of its budget crisis and keep it on good economic footing?
We need to continue to grow the economy, and the tax base, through recruiting new businesses and encouraging local businesses to expand.
First, policies and procedures must be put in place to make each department head accountable for staying within its budget. Prime real estate ought to be put on the open market so that it can command the highest bidders. Local property should be accessed fairly throughout the county; appropriate penalties are needed for tax collections but it can be done in a manner that is sensitive to individuals' particular circumstances. Lastly, implement benchmarks in to detect when our government is not operating at optimum.
We must grow our tax base as well as practice fiscal constraint and accountability in our government's operations. We have not devoted appropriate energies, time and attention to growing the economy and making certain that government operations are performed in the most efficient and effective manner. We need to make sure there is some form of permanency in the tax relief and incentives, so people can plan with confidence.
The first thing we need to do is develop strategies to increase the revenue flow into our city coffers. More specifically, we should look to increase our resident population and number of homeowners so that our property tax revenues will improve, we should make certain that our property tax assessments are accurate and fair and collections are timely, and we must recruit and retain corporations that pay fees and taxes by providing a more business friendly climate. Looking to control costs is also a key component of stabilizing our budget crisis. We should look to have better management of personnel.
Question: What needs to be done to reinvigorate Augusta and change its image of being a community in decline?
Large-scale economic development announcements, such as ADP coming to town, have already gone a long way toward changing Augusta's image for the better at the state and national levels.
There needs to be tangible evidence of economic development throughout the county. We need to promote and support the arts and good entertainment. All Richmond County needs to look like west Augusta during the Masters throughout the year. South Augusta needs to see new and safe roads. East Augusta needs to have the proper drainage system to prevent flooding, and other amenities that a community must have to thrive. Entertainment, stores, restaurants, and beautiful landscaping should become an integral part of the aesthetic quality.
We must create a bold new Augusta with one shared vision. This boldness of vision must ensure that our streets are safe day and night to introduce more people at all hours. We must clean up our blighted areas and improve the landscape of the entire city. Through the comprehensive planning process, we must value and encourage small, medium and large business developments in underutilized and underdeveloped areas. On the other hand, we must evaluate and transform utilized and developed areas to make them more vibrant.
Reinvigorating and energizing local government and helping heal our racial divide are large factors in changing Augusta's image. Many of our citizens look at our government as ineffective and inefficient. We need to restore the faith in government by electing leaders who can easily recognize where there are problems, be able to develop a plan to solve those problems and have the actual ability to execute their plan. We also must find a solution to the racial divisiveness and rhetoric that seems to be so dominant today.
Deke CopenhaverAge: 38
Birthplace: Montreal; grew up in Columbia County
Family: Wife, Malisa
Education: Graduate, Augusta College, 1991, with a political science degree
Employment history: Principal in Huffines, Dukes & Copenhaver Real Estate in Beaufort, S.C.; agent at Blanchard and Calhoun Real Estate; executive director of Central Savannah River Land Trust
Accomplishments: Board member of The Family Y of Metro Augusta, the Augusta Symphony, the Georgia Alliance of Land Trusts, the Community Foundation for the Central Savannah River Area and the Georgia Conservancy
Ronnie FewAge: 54
Born: East Point, Ga.
Family: Wife, Brenda; daughter, Kourtney
Education: Graduated from DeKalb College with an associate degree in fire-response technology
Employment history: Fire chief, East Point, Ga.; fire chief, Augusta; fire chief, Washington, D.C.
Accomplishments: State vice president for the Southeastern Association of Fire Chiefs; appointed to the Commission for Fire Safe Georgia; served as instructor for the Carl Holmes Executive Development Institute
William GilyardAge: 61
Born: Orangeburg, S.C.; has lived in Augusta more than 30 years
Family: Wife, Dianne; children, Juli, Jai and Jamylle
Education: Bachelor's degree in math from South Carolina State College; master's degree from Pepperdine University
Employment history: Procter & Gamble Co. in Albany, Ga., Cape Girardeau, Mo.; team leader contractor industrial relations specialist at Savannah River Site; owns real estate company Wright-Gilyard & Associates; insurance agent for JLM Risk Management
Military background: Signal officer, Army helicopter pilot
Steven KendrickAge: 38
Family: Wife, Christina; twin daughters Alexandria and Leigha, 11
Education: Bachelor of science in business administration from Florida A&M (graduated magna cum laude); MBA from Florida A&M
Employment history: Vice president of Augusta Blueprint and president of Creative Colors Inc.; part-time professor of business for Augusta State University
Accomplishments: Heads Youth Leadership Richmond County and Jenkins-White Charter Elementary School Council; executive committees of the Boys & Girls Clubs