Originally created 05/02/04

Chairman objects to Craig's switch



The political season - and the fireworks - began in earnest last week with qualifying for the July elections.

The biggest news around Augusta was District Attorney Danny Craig's defection to the Republican Party and former Augusta Commissioner J.B. Powell's qualifying as a Democrat to run against incumbent Republican state Sen. Randy Hall.

And of course there was Augusta attorney Chuck Pardue qualifying as a Democrat for state Republican Sen. Joey Brush's seat.

Wonder why Richmond County Democratic Party Chairman Lowell Greenbaum couldn't persuade Mr. Pardue to run against Mr. Craig, who Dr. Greenbaum says "stabbed Richmond County Democrats in the back."

Dr. Greenbaum said Mr. Craig told him a month ago he planned to run as a Democrat if he did not have a primary opponent.

"As a political leader I've learned a lot, but I must say that not being able to trust the word of the district attorney is a pretty sorry situation," Dr. Greenbaum said.

And what does Mr. Craig have to say about this?

He says Dr. Greenbaum's recall is not total.

He said he met with Dr. Greenbaum in January, not a month ago, and discussed his changing parties.

"And he is well aware of what developed from that point forward that caused me to switch parties," Mr. Craig said. "This was certainly no surprise to him."

A LADY WILDCAT: More than 600 people attended District 1 incumbent Augusta Commissioner Betty Beard's barbecue at the Julian Smith pit last week.

In her short time on the commission, Mrs. Beard, like the schoolmarm she used to be, is able to stop her male colleagues' bickering in mid-sentence with just a look, a gesture and a "Gentlemen, please ... "

She's a lady, but she's tough.

In 1956, she was the captain of the Lucy C. Laney High women's basketball team that won the state championship.

Among those attending her fund-raiser was store owner J.R. Riles with his shirttail hanging out, which prompted Commissioner Willie Mays to say, "J.R.'s got a Lexus shirt on wearing it like a Chevrolet."

"I'm not going to vote for him no more," Mr. Riles pouted.

INSPECT THIS: Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor joined the fray over the Senior Center Council's nutrition program contract in remarks to the Richmond County Democratic Party appreciation breakfast Friday. After being introduced by Ron Schoeffler, the director of the senior center, Mr. Taylor thanked him for his work with the state party.

"And I want you to know that I'm here to help you in the fight to make sure that the contract that provides the services to our badly needed and very effective senior center stays here in Augusta, Ga., rather than get exported by the Republican Mayor of Augusta to a Jacksonville, Fla., firm," Mr. Taylor said. "It's an outrage."

Dr. Schoeffler and members of the senior center board of directors contend Mayor Bob Young is behind the CSRA Regional Development Center board's move to rebid the contract that was awarded to the Florida company.

The day after the regional development board denied the center's petition to rescind the contract, two internal auditors from the city showed up and began auditing the books.

The day after being told the center would go to court over the issue, a health inspector showed up.

"We scored 100," Dr. Schoeffler said. "And he wrote 'very nice' on the form. But he said he was sent to do an inspection. I want to know who sent him."

Hmmm. Could it possibly be the mayor?

When asked, Mr. Young said he was "very disappointed the center's leadership has stooped so low as to engage in personal attacks."

"But I'm not surprised by it at all," he said. "Those people are nuts."

SALES TAX: Augusta commissioners have met three times to pare down the list of proposed Phase 5 sales tax projects, but the public works list - the only area they've dealt with - keeps growing. Commissioner Andy Cheek brought a two-page addendum to Thursday's meeting, where he once again sounded the alarm over the serious deterioration of the Augusta Canal towpath and dam.

A real potential exists with a major rainfall or earthquake for Augusta to lose 60 percent of its water supply, he said.

Mr. Cheek said he's been warning everyone for three years that the canal has been undermined, but nobody wants to deal with it.

"We're going to look real stupid, all of us, sitting around here not having done something when that thing takes a left turn to that river," he said.

Is Mr. Cheek the Hans Brinker of Augusta or just an alarmist?

It seems worthy of finding out.

YES YOU CAN. NO YOU CAN'T. YES YOU ... : The Richmond County Coliseum Authority voted last week to post authority members' phone numbers so civic center employees may contact them without first going through manager Larry Rogers. Then they voted to require employees to consult Mr. Rogers before contacting them.

Authority member Billy Holden argued that encouraging employees to go around Mr. Rogers to speak to them would be micromanaging, but he voted for Wayne Frazier's motion to post members' phone numbers so employees could call them directly.

Mr. Frazier, who said workers don't always feel comfortable talking to the boss about everything, voted for his own motion and for Bonnie Ruben's motion against circumventing the civic center's chain of command.

Ms. Ruben said she had no idea how two conflicting motions got passed.

"It's crazy," she said. "It was just another of those off-the-wall things we do."

City Ink thanks Staff Writer Preston Sparks for his contribution to this week's column.