Originally created 10/12/03

Hopeful toots his military horn

IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING: The military career of retired Army Lt. Col and District 10 candidate Sonny Pittman is beyond reproach.

Too bad he can't stop talking about it.

The 57-year-old candidate has spent the past week proclaiming how "excited" and "honored" he is about the possibility of being called out of miliary retirement.

Mr. Pittman, retired from the Army Corps of Engineers, volunteered for and received notice that he could be recalled to active duty to serve in the Iraq recovery effort.

And he has spent the past week telling anyone who would listen about it, including the Richmond County Committee for Good Government and apparently everyone in his personal and professional e-mail address book.

"This is a case of being torn between service to my country and (hopefully) service to my community in elected office," he has written.

"It's quite an honor to even be considered."

These sentiments - while admirable - ring a little hollow when they come one month before the election. Why would someone vote for or financially support a candidate who might not be around to serve in office, asks Richard Isdell, of the Good Government committee.

Mr. Pittman's heroics sound especially suspect when he's the one singing his own praises. This from a well-known Republican executive committee member, who also attended last week's Good Government endorsement meeting: "It's a shameless ploy."

Mr. Pittman says he has no plans to bow out of the race, in which he is opposed by south Augusta businessman Bobby Cheeks and former west Augusta Commissioner Don Grantham.

Mr. Pittman sent an e-mail to sitting District 10 Commissioner Bill Kuhlke last week saying that if he wins and if he is recalled, the city attorney has ruled that Mr. Kuhlke would have to serve until he returns from active duty.

Mr. Kuhlke - a Grantham supporter - replied succinctly, paying Mr. Pittman respect for his service and wishing him luck in his campaign.

But after signing his name, the commissioner penned a one-line postscript that, it is hoped, Mr. Pittman won't take as seriously as he takes himself: "P.S. Resign from the reserves."

TALK ABOUT THE POT: Mr. Cheeks' comments at the Good Government meeting about the lack of fiscal accountability in city government seemed a wee bit ironic.

Mr. Cheeks sits on the county tax assessors' board, which oversees an office whose boss, Sonny Reece, didn't foresee a 0.4 percent drop in the tax digest this year, blaming it on Y2K and computer problems.

The office his board oversees also neglected to publish the digest in accordance with state law, so it had to be done all over again.

And Mr. Reece, who answers to the assessors board, balked last week when word got out that homestead exemptions had been dropped from some of this year's tax bills. Since the errors became public, Mr. Reece has groused about "the mole" in his office who leaked the information.

A herd of moles is more like it, Mr. Reece.

We say, too bad it takes undercover operatives to expose what's happening in the tax office while the people in charge of accountability - Mr. Cheeks included - have apparently fallen asleep at the wheel.

WHOSE PARTY IS THIS?: At the risk of hacking off Republicans again by mentioning a Democrat in connection with a Don Grantham function, City Ink was surprised to hear that Sheriff Ronnie Strength helped play host to Mr. Grantham's city commission District 10 campaign kickoff party at Mayor Bob and Gwen Fulcher Young's Port Royal penthouse Monday.

Local Republicans were outraged that only Democrats, such as Mr. Strength, were named in the newspaper account of Mr. Grantham's pre-qualifying news conference. Mr. Grantham said the phone calls among angry Republicans started at 7 a.m.

"Do we have to wear flashing lights and bells?" asked Republican Party Vice Chairman Barbara Sims.

Not on Monday, they didn't. The penthouse was thick with GOP poobahs, including Richmond County Republican Party Chairman Dave Barbee, Augusta Tomorrow's Braye Boardman and Monty Osteen and more conservative city bankers than you could shake a stick at.

We only mention Mr. Strength now because he was the only Democrat on the 12-member host list.

Anyway, it's a nonpartisan race.

Reach Sylvia Cooper or Heidi Williams at (706) 724-0851.


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