It's appalling that most of the people's pressing business failed to be conducted at Tuesday's sorry Augusta Commission meeting. There appear to be just two reasons why:
Most commissioners were ill-prepared to confront hot topics ranging from implementing the 1-cent hotel-motel tax to ending the unconscionable harassment of the upscale Le Cafe De Teau on Central Avenue. And Commissioner Freddie Handy (see our related editorial below) was absent due to "a business problem," thus thwarting action on awarding a bid for city telephone service. (It is believed that Handy's extra vote would have tipped the 5-4 votes in BellSouth's favor.)
Most commissioners seemed more interested in leaving by 4 p.m. to meet with the visiting U.S. secretary of Energy.
The panel's only major action was to accept the $2.69 million low bid for vehicle maintenance from Tecom Fleet Services. It bested MLS Ryder, the firm commissioners hired more than two years ago to oversee the county's scandal-wracked vehicle repair shops. (The Fleet manager still says he's unable to locate "53 or 54 cars" -- something hardly reassuring to taxpayers.)
With regard to the 1-cent hotel-motel tax hike, a visitors' tax vitally needed to fund tourist-generating entities, a last minute compromise OK'd by the Convention and Visitors Bureau was reached on receiving and dispersing the revenues.
Granted, commissioners needed some time to digest and debate this revised arrangement. Yet Commissioner Bill Kuhlke sarcastically threw cold water on the effort by Paul Simon, chairman of Fort Discovery's executive committee.
Kuhlke mused: "We are ... very dumb people in some instances, so if you don't put it before us in the right format you're going to get exactly what you've got right now." (Which was nothing.)
The articulate Simon could have cleared up any confusion had he been given a chance, but the "dumb" commissioner cut him off at the pass.
As for the Cafe flap, Commissioner Willie Mays made a well-reasoned, impassioned plea to leave the restaurant alone and to simply let police handle complaints about any after-hours parking lot problems. Mays rightly asked if the Commission was going to be bothered every time a few "nitpicking" malcontents had problems with any Augusta restaurant. He asked "where are the criminal charges?" -- and there are no criminal charges against the Cafe De Teau!
Unfortunately, when a strong hand was needed by the Commission, a limp wrist was displayed. Commissioner Rob Zetterberg motioned to give "the two sides" time to "work something out." What a joke. That's precisely why the liquor license/zoning dispute is before the Commission. The two sides haven't been able to "work it out" for years. Talk about "dumb."
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