AUGUSTA IS A place where racial politics, cronyism and incompetence have become institutionalized since the promising start of city-county governmental consolidation.
Granted, there are good men and women who have been elected to public office since 1995 who try rendering good service for the people. Augustans elected a no-nonsense sheriff, enjoy a decent court system and have an average school system (for Georgia). There are hard-working, honest government employees of all races who labor in the trenches. But with increasing frequency there are mudslides that occur which bury good municipal government.
The current mud bath began when a competent city administrator threw up his hands in disgust and found a new job, when the fire department was awash in scandal and when the city finance department basically imploded.
Then there's always the Augusta Commission's racial politics with regard to hiring personnel, taken to a new level when Andy Cheek joined commissioners Lee Beard, Marion Williams, Henry Brigham, Willie Mays and Richard Colclough to form the Gang of Six.
Last week a city administrator was hired. All Augustans should wish George Kolb from Richmond, Va., every success. But - if you assume he is an independent who will try to call 'em as he sees 'em - he'll be entering a lion's den. Ask his burned-out predecessor.
Contrast Kolb's arrival with a sudden exit. The fire chief - on the job merely three months - abruptly quit. The commission wasn't heeding his professional advice concerning public safety.
Meanwhile, the commission last week passed a toothless motion fearlessly proclaiming that commissioners can't "micro-manage" employees. That's akin to old King Canute trying to command the tide not to come in!
Then there's the special grand jury investigating government corruption. Some of its committee work is only half-finished, according to internal sources. There is still a great probability of at least one high-profile criminal indictment before it finishes.
A mayor and a few commissioners, the way the government is currently structured, don't have the power to rid this city of all the mud piling up. Tragically, there is a lasting consequence: People are losing faith in government. When that happens they become apathetic and grow cynical and even angry. Old-timers are moved to say that prominent controversial politicians in the 1970s and '80s - men like former Mayor Lewis Newman and one-time commissioners Frank Albert, Bill Williams, Harold Smith, Travis Barnes and even Bill Hiers and Ed McIntyre - performed far better service than the current elected crop.
Meanwhile, entrepreneurs and young professionals especially wonder if Augusta can become more progressive and improve its overall quality of life.
Look at the latest census figures. Augusta-Richmond County's population barely grew during the past decade. Columba County's populace exploded. Aiken County's is on the rise. So is Burke County's.
If some of the mud can't be cleaned up, if a viable city government charter can't be implemented and if a better caliber of candidates can't be elected to the commission, more and more people in Augusta-Richmond County will move away. It's that simple.
Firing a shot for justice
ON THE LAST day of the Georgia General Assembly, defenders of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms scored a major victory against those who seek to disarm law-abiding citizens.
Rep. Curtis Jenkins, D-Forsyth, secured passage of an amendment allowing persecuted gun manufacturers to pursue an appeal to dismiss the city of Atlanta's lawsuit accusing the industry of "negligence" in the way it makes, markets and sells guns.
Just days after the suit was filed in 1999, the legislature passed a bill granting immunity to gun manufacturers from such frivolous litigation. Unfortunately, the suit went before ultraliberal Fulton County State Court Judge Gino Brogdin. He not only rejected the industry's attempt to have the case thrown out on immunity grounds, he cavalierly denied any right of appeal.
The unanimously-passed Jenkins amendment "is both just and a valuable countermeasure to what appears to be an ingrained prejudice on the part of a supposedly independent jurist," declared a happy Paul Jannuzzo, vice president and counsel for the Marietta-based Glock Inc., one of the defendants.
"By not allowing an appeal, by totally ignoring the law when ruling upon the motion to dismiss, he has told us that his kind of opinion and his alone is important in the state of Georgia," Jannuzzo said in referring to Judge Brogdin. "That kind of ego needs a check to balance it against other equities."
Airheads at UGA
THE LEFT-WING "Politically Correct" virus is afflicting more and more students and faculty at the University of Georgia. The Red and Black reports activists killed a proposal to build a memorial at the university to those Americans who lost their lives in military service because it wouldn't have been inclusive enough for modern tastes.
Laura Chason, a student representative on the University Council's executive committee that voted against the proposal, said: "It's called a peace memorial. (But) it's a war memorial. A war memorial by its nature is going to exclude someone on this campus - females, non-Anglo males, African-Americans, homosexuals and international students."
Gosh, maybe her fellow airheads should've passed a resolution just honoring everybody.