Originally created 02/19/03

Mayor resolves deadlock with vote for amendment

By way of a tie, the Augusta Commission broke a monthlong gridlock Tuesday - voting narrowly to amend city laws governing public protest and demonstration.

The updated law is effective immediately and - more important to local officials - is ready in plenty of time for the Masters Tournament, during which demonstrators are expected to protest Augusta National Golf Club's male membership.

Six votes are needed for any measure to pass, and the 10-member commission is divided evenly along racial lines and over whether to amend the protest ordinance.

Although the mayor is authorized to break a 5-5 tie, the commissioners had used abstentions to prevent him from casting that vote.

Until Tuesday.

"I abstained last time, but I'm holding to my conviction (today)," said Commissioner Marion Williams, who voted "no" to the amendment.

The tie vote was cast with no discussion, and Mayor Bob Young, who has publicly supported an amended ordinance, was able to cast the needed sixth vote for the changes.

"It took awhile," said Commissioner Bill Kuhlke, who placed the item on Tuesday's commission agenda for the third time in two months.

He said the successful vote was the result of "a lot of hard work" off the commission floor.

Immediately before the protest ordinance was considered, the commission voted to approve a three-year lease that places the city's fire department in an inner-city office building. Mr. Kuhlke said that successful vote was swapped for the tied protest ordinance vote, allowing the mayor to break the gridlock.

"It was as close to a win-win situation as we could possibly have," he said. "We needed to get the amendment for the ordinance in place."

Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215 or heidi.williams@augustachronicle.com.

The city's newly amended protest ordinance requires protesters to apply for a permit from the Richmond County Sheriff's Office 20 days in advance. If the permit is denied, the applicant can appeal, and the city has seven days to take the case before a judge or forfeit denial.


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