Originally created 12/17/00

Kent: Mayor/elector on the move 121700 - The Augusta Chronicle



AUGUSTA MAYOR Bob Young is pushing initiatives on two fronts:

Respected banker William Thompson has been named by the mayor to chair the recently-created city charter committee. Young wants the 11-member panel "to review the consolidated government's first five years of operation and recommend a charter that clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of government."

Each commissioner gets one appointee, and former Mayor Larry Sconyers is already one choice.

When asked if the panel's work would be for naught if the local delegation to the General Assembly doesn't want to vote any of its proposals into law, the mayor had a ready retort: "I've asked (city attorney) Jim Wall to look into the commission simply adopting a charter under home rule. We wouldn't need the legislative delegation."

If Wall comes back with the answer Young wants to hear, that will make the panel's work very important. Its final recommendations could emerge as summer begins - perfect timing for a full public debate before the 2001 Augusta Commission elections.

Last week the mayor turned down a request from unnamed commissioners to call a special commission meeting to consider higher franchise fees, liquor license hikes and other user tax boosts. He said that if six commissioners want a special meeting, they should identify themselves and call it.

In the meantime, Young says he opposes all the fee hikes that have been on the table at regular commission meetings. He hopes commissioners focus on cutting spending and governmental fat during the budget process.

For the first time in memory, even Commissioner Lee Beard (perhaps with an eye toward a possible 2002 mayoral run) is talking about trimming government - even questioning the amount of the city's allocation to University Hospital for indigent care.

The mayor/elector

The office of Augusta's mayor is officially non-partisan. But Bob Young was nevertheless listed on the Nov. 7 Georgia ballot as an elector for George W. Bush. By noon tomorrow, he and 12 other electors will be transported to a room at the state Capitol where they'll vote for Bush. They won't have to deal with any hanging chads on a punch ballot; they'll write on a piece of paper. (Young has been deluged with messages from Democrats across the country begging him to switch his vote to Al Gore.)

The mayor was also a Georgia delegate to the GOP national convention in Philadelphia. That, coupled with his elector job, fuels speculation he wants to polish his GOP credentials if he ever wants to run for a partisan office.

Ready with a quote

Last Wednesday a surprising press release arrived at 6:09 p.m. - a little less than three hours before Bill Clinton's vice president conceded the 2000 presidential election. It read:

"U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., today commended in advance Vice President Al Gore for his anticipated formal concession in the race for the presidency. `The vice president should be congratulated for making the right choice,' Norwood says. `The decision is belated beyond the pale of respectability, but welcome nevertheless."'

Al Gore's lament

Terry Toole is a staunch conservative who happens to be editor and publisher of The Miller County (Ga.) Liberal. It's an unfortunate name for a newspaper. Anyhow, Toole had some fun the other day with his "quote of the week": "I'm sorry I ever invented the Electoral College."

- Al Gore 11/08/00

Zell's class act

Augustans - and supporters of the late Sen. Paul Coverdell, R-Ga. - should be gratified that native son Alex Albert has been named by Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga., as his chief of staff. Miller was elected on Nov. 7 to fill Coverdell's remaining term.

Albert - who learned politics at the knee of his father, former Richmond County Commission chairman and ex-state senator Frank Albert - served as senior policy adviser to the Republican senator.

The Richmond Academy graduate will be of invaluable assistance to his boss when it comes to area issues ranging from the Savannah River Site to upkeep of the Savannah River Lock and Dam. (Miller has already signaled to SRS bigwigs he is far more receptive to helping secure new SRS missions than when he served as governor.)

It is a class act on the part of the senator not just to retain Albert, but to elevate him to be his top aide. This is rare on highly-partisan Capitol Hill - and you can bet several Democrat whiz kids applied for this plum job.

Another Miller appointment: Joan Kirchner, once a Chronicle reporter in the 1980s, serves as his press secretary.

Phil Kent is political columnist and senior editorial writer for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3327 or philkent@augustachronicle.com