Originally created 10/03/04

Mayor must take reins for strong government



As someone who has supported our mayor, and is still grasping for signs of encouragement within the Augusta/Richmond County government, I am a bit numb over the mayor's admitted irrelevance as a political leader.

As someone who has been reluctant to speak up regarding the errors of those in whom he placed faith, the acute reaction among so many regarding his recent actions - or inactions - and his comments to this newspaper compel me to speak.

Any concerned citizen of this community knows of our city government's structural flaws. This issue has been debated and lamented to extremes since well before the most recent mayoral election.

ONE OF THE primary issues, of course, has been the weakness of the mayor's position. With this flaw well established, the mayor's last campaign implied a commitment to this community that he would provide political and motivational leadership to a political body woefully in need of a compass. Simply put, we entrusted him to lead.

Regardless of the mayor's political or personal position on the special-purpose local option sales tax issue, his presence during the tense negotiations was required. As the presiding officer of the Augusta Commission, the mayor has a responsibility to maintain order and protect the gathered assembly from frivolous motions and issues, and other time-wasting devices.

His duty is to expedite the business at hand in a responsible and effective manner. He should provide leadership and insight into the debate wherever possible.

Regardless of the mayor's opinion of his ability to influence decisions, he was obliged to at least serve in this capacity which could have saved a great deal of time and embarrassment to both the city and the commissioners themselves. In the case of the SPLOST hearings, the lack of leadership, order and endless chest-beating reflects as much on the mayor's willingness to perform his duties as it does on the behavior of individual commissioners.

Is this not the job for which he is paid? It just does not seem that complicated. The mayor accepted a job - and, indeed, took an oath - that demands a higher level of commitment. If the position itself does not provide a great deal of actual authority, the person in the position should exert his influence by other means (i.e.: defining a common vision, developing a consensus, mediating disputes and maintaining order). A certain degree of apathy can probably be expected of anyone who is regularly forced to deal with such a tough crowd as the Augusta commission.

But, in this case, he wasn't even in the ring.

The really sad part is the transparency of the mayor's motives to skip out on the most recent SPLOST hearings. His photo-op in hurricane-affected areas of Florida and a subsequent week-long jaunt to the Republican National Convention serve as fairly clear signs that he is motivated not by the task at hand, but by personal ambition beyond this community.

AS A KID, I was taught that 90 percent of succeeding in anything was simply to show up. On this issue, it appears that the odds may be against us. If others give any credence to this proverb, however, the mayor's future beyond this community is also on shaky ground.

Despite it all, I still maintain a great degree of faith in our community. I must maintain faith that the mayor will turn it around - he does have two more years to go. There is too much good happening here to give up.

Anyone attending Russell Joel Brown's performance at the Imperial Theatre recently recognizes the great opportunities ahead and the great personal camaraderie shared by so many from so many parts of the CSRA. Listening to the Burke County High School chorus singing the words to We Can Make a Difference in perfect harmony at this event, one must believe that we all can make a difference. Let's just all pray that our government leaders hear these words the same way.

(Editor's note: The writer is a board member of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, and a board member and past chairman of the Augusta Canal Authority.)