Originally created 01/18/01

Kent: Grand jury bombshell; band's Inaugural trip threatened; Beard odd man out



ISN'T IT APPARENT that the collective knowledge of 23 conscientious Augusta grand jurors from all walks of life is far superior to that of Augusta-Richmond County's 10 commissioners?

Every Augusta taxpayer ought to reflect upon key segments of last week's hard-hitting special grand jury committee report on mismanagement in municipal government. Consider:

"Unfortunately, there appear to be gaping holes in some commissioners' knowledge. When questioned by the grand jury, one commissioner was unclear about the duties of the committees on which he serves and was unsure of the departments they oversee. ... It is disheartening when a commissioner states in an open meeting, `just put a body in there,' in discussing an important vacancy in the Finance Department. Examples like these are numerous."

"Race was the tool used not to entitle the disenfranchised but to empower a faction. ... Supervisors have become paralyzed when giving yearly evaluations and in their use of progressive discipline when dealing with a subordinate of another race, for fear of being accused of being racially motivated in their actions. ... A minority department head was approached by a commissioner and was told, essentially, not to do his/her job because it would cast another minority department head in a bad light."

"Racial double standards should never be tolerated," the jurors concluded. To this end, it is heartening that commissioners on Tuesday approved Brenda Byrd-Palaez to be the new human resources director. She has a fine record of striving to be fair and colorblind in her interactions. Let's just hope she resists any pressure to change.

Finally, the jurors exposed a dirty secret about Augusta government. It has been operating for over four years since city-county consolidation without a charter. Jurors recommend that the new charter commission examine the Athens, Ga., charter or Augusta's defunct city charter as a guide for crafting a new governing document specifying various powers and checks and balances.

Send band to D.C.

THE MARCHING band at Cedar Grove High School in metro Atlanta is the only group selected to represent Georgia in the 2001 Inaugural parade on Saturday. It is a great honor, especially since these kids would be televised and their representation on display to the entire world.

Just like almost any other student trip, this is financed through community fund-raisers and individual donations. But Jill Chambers, a DeKalb County friend, says "unfortunately Sore Loserman strikes again."

She says county Democratic activists are attempting to thwart the kids' plans by badgering corporate sponsors to withdraw. Several parents tell Chambers that a few students have even been pressured to boycott the event since it is for a "Republican president."

How sad children and parents are seeing first-hand how uncompassionate liberals play politics with the lives of people. Why in the blazes would some cranks refuse to help kids travel to play at a presidential event? Students go to such events in the name of pride and patriotism, not politics.

Let's hope the machinations of a few mean people don't thwart the dreams of these young musicians. If you'd like to help with a small donation, it should go to:

Cedar Grove High School

Marching Band

2360 River Road

Ellenwood, GA 30049

The politics of hate

SPEAKING OF mean-spirited politics, listen to Hilary Shelton of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "We will fight (John Ashcroft's) nomination for (U.S. attorney general) tooth and nail. We have taken the position of: By all means necessary."

What kind of talk is that? It obviously doesn't rule out violence as a "means." Such hateful rhetoric should be publicly condemned by all people of goodwill regardless of color.

In this same vein, at Monday's Dr. Martin Luther King obervance at Good Shepherd Baptist Church, speakers stressed themes of reconciliation and unity. One exception was Augusta Commissioner Lee Beard. He shamelessly politicized the event by attacking the 23 special grand jurors who, by law, must serve as a government watchdog and report their investigations without fear or favor.