Originally created 01/07/01

Kent: Cheek opts for Mays; a pivotal census



AUGUSTA COMMISSIONER Andy Cheek did it again - which means the Commission Gang of Six rides again.

The renegade south Augustan opted to keep his unholy alliance intact with five black commissioners by refusing to vote for District 3 Commissioner Steve Shepard for the high-profile mayor pro tem position. Cheek provided the winning vote to District 9's motormouth commissioner, Willie Mays.

It was obvious, when talking with Shepard, that he was surprised and hurt by Cheek's choice. The low-key attorney is one of the most conscientious, hard-working public servants in this community. Steve Shepard doesn't showboat. He always tries to be optimistic and to present Augusta in a positive light to those he comes in contact with.

You would think a choice between Shepard and Mays for the pro tem slot would be a no-brainer. But not in the surreal game of Augusta politics, where the rumor and race cards are often played.

If Cheek had voted for Shepard, Mayor Bob Young was poised to cast the tie-breaking ballot on his behalf. But it wasn't meant to be.

What does Shepard think? All he would say is, "I prefer my brand of leadership that is consensus-seeking rather than sound-bite seeking." Ouch.

Our two-state legislatures

Georgia's General Assembly starts tomorrow in Atlanta and South Carolina's legislative session kicks off Tuesday in Columbia.

Bipartisan talk of tax cuts are in the air in both capitals, which nicely dovetails with bipartisan tax cut talk (finally) in the U.S. Congress.

The economic times are a changin'. George Benson, who heads the University of Georgia's business school, says Georgia now has a one-in-three chance of entering a recession in 2001. As for South Carolina, it faces a possible $500 million deficit. So state legislators are learning it will be a leaner budget year for both the Peach and Palmetto states.

The big question in South Carolina: Will its legislature adopt a carbon copy of Georgia's law that constitutionally establishes a state lottery while banning all other forms of gambling?

Heed Andy Young

Radical black leaders are preparing to launch a campaign to change the Georgia state flag, which includes the historic Confederate battle emblem. Some white corporate trucklers want to go along. But no less than former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, a civil rights pioneer with the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has a reasoned response: "This isn't something to be emotional over."

Don't worry about it, Young says, because there are far more pressing issues like education reform.

The state's black leadership is divided on the issue, and white Democrats are nervous. But watch out. If a deal is struck between black and white Democrats, the leadership in both chambers could lay low now and later sneak in a last-minute flag change bill.

Republicans are prudently saying that a floor vote on the flag is a must. Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, notes that a Democrat-dominated legislature changed the flag to the present one, so if a Democrat-led legislature wants to change it again it ought to be honest enough to allow debate and then an up-or-down floor vote.

Hopefully, though, Andy Young's advice will be heeded and the state flag will keep flying.

Census stirrings

Politicians and pundits are still analyzing the just-released 2000 census numbers for Georgia. "A demographic juggernaut" is what one politician exclaims. That's because Georgia's gain comes at the expense of the Northeast - New York and Pennsylvania each lost two congressional seats; Georgia picks up two.

Overall, states carried by George W. Bush are gaining population faster than states won by Al Gore. That means they get more electoral votes - and that should spell good news for conservatives and Republicans as 2004 rolls around. (The only caveat is that the U.S. must limit out-of-control illegal immigration from Mexico and the Third World, since our loose policies allow many to become permanent residents and then citizens - and they tend to vote for Democrats en masse.)

Meanwhile, President-elect Bush must decide whether to let his Commerce Department release the "sampling" figures of the 2000 census for determining congressional redistricting.

The Clintonites wasted money doing two sets of figures. One is the raw door-to-door head count in all 50 states. The other, to be released in March, involve population projections based on statistical sampling that have been manipulated for the Democrats' political agenda.

The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled once against the use of sampling, so the new president ought to save himself eyestrain and simply tell his Commerce secretary to throw the statistical sampling in the wastebasket.

Democrats and their media allies will weep and wail, but they are doing that anyway over many Bush cabinet appointees.

The Bush cabinet

Have you noticed that the overall Bush cabinet selections appear more politically conservative - and seem more competent - than even Ronald "Mr. Conservative" Reagan's cabinet during his second presidential term?

I hope I'm proven wrong, but the weakest Bush cabinet appointee appears to be Spencer Abraham for Energy secretary. The one-term Michigan senator has special policy expertise in key areas, but energy, nuclear and security issues don't seem to be among them.