Originally created 08/21/05

Comments cause a commotion



Call Augusta Commissioner Don Grantham anything. Just don't call him "no gentleman."

Mayor Pro Tem Marion Williams' comments that there are no gentlemen on the Augusta Commission enraged Mr. Grantham so that after the meeting, he cornered Mr. Williams and warned him never to include him in the "no gentlemen" category again, because he is a gentleman and always has been. Those present say Mr. Grantham towered over Mr. Williams, who remained seated during the encounter.

Now they're calling Mr. Grantham Joe Palooka.

But Mr. Williams is incorrigible. The next day, when pressed about whether he included himself in that "no gentlemen" category, he said, "No gentlemen. Noooo gentlemen. What part of 'no' don't you understand?"

Of course, as you all know by now, the whole thing about "no gentlemen" came up because, out of the blue, Commissioner Andy Cheek called for the commission to disavow its long-standing tradition of electing a black mayor pro tem if the mayor is white and vice versa.

When some of Mr. Cheek's colleagues saw he had put the mayor-pro tem issue on the agenda, they thought he planned to ask Mr. Williams to step down because interim Mayor Willie Mays is black. But sly Andy fooled them once again.

ARTS THROUGH THE HEART: The next day, at a meeting on the special purpose local option sales tax, the fireworks started again - this time ignited by Richmond County Democratic Party Chairman Lowell Greenbaum, also a member of the Greater Augusta Arts Council. Dr. Greenbaum said he was "damn mad" because the $160 million sales-tax package commissioners approved included no money for the arts.

After the meeting, Dr. Greenbaum approached Commissioner Tommy Boyles, who was still in his seat, and Commissioner Barbara Sims, who was standing up to leave, and said, "This commission didn't give one dime to the arts. For Barbara and for you and for the others to have shut us out is a disgrace. Let me tell you something. You want to run for mayor. I'm not going to support you. ... I don't think you have the arts in mind." To Mrs. Sims, he said, "You did the wrong thing today, Barbara. You have no right."

"I have every right," she retorted. "I do have a right. Do not argue with me about rights. Do not. I'm to look after this city. I love this city, and I love the arts."

"You had $900,000 to put into the arts," he said.

"No, we could not have put it into the arts because if we had there would have been more people asking for everything," she said.

"That's your job," Dr. Greenbaum said.

"I did my job today," she said.

"No, no you didn't," he replied. "Sorry. You didn't support the arts, and I don't think any of the commissioners aside from Freddie Handy, of all people, supported the arts."

When Mrs. Sims started questioning him about that last remark, he left.

Mr. Boyles watched him depart and said: "He wasn't going to support me anyway. Who gives a damn what he thinks? I just got the city to be a sponsor of the Arts in the Heart festival. If he thinks I don't support the arts, he can go jump in the river."

ARTS IN THE HEART:

Lowell, Oh Lowell, do be consoled

Arts' flame in this city will never grow cold

It will burn brightly, of that there's no doubt

The band will play on with SPLOST or without

Euripides, Sophocles and Aeschylus, too

Put on some good shows at a hillside venue

With no curtain, no spotlight in a theater of stone

Alfresco, au naturel, the sun set the tone

For the eagle to peck at Prometheus' liver

Can we do no less in this town by the river?

Weren't the Canterbury Tales told from the back of a horse?

While the travelers bounced along as the sun ran its course?

Didn't Shakespeare say all the world is a stage?

Long before hors d'oeuvres in the lobby became all the rage?

And didn't our ancestors paint murals in caves

That 40,000 years later are still drawing raves?

Lowell, oh Lowell, come listen, draw nearer.

Ballerinas will twirl anywhere there's a mirror

Musicians will play with bow or with flute,

On horn, tambourine or even a lute,

Yes, they will play on when they can't find a hall

Out on a street corner to the pleasure of all.

Sopranos will sing, and so will the basses

As artists in oils paint smiles on their faces.

Yes, the world is a stage, and we all play a part

And the arts will thrive because art's in the heart.

ONE MAN, ONE SEAT: Richmond County School Board Attorney Pete Fletcher's ruling that board member Johnny Hatney would not have to resign when he qualifies for the District 9 seat on the Augusta Commission was a little premature.

Mr. Fletcher said he made his comment that Mr. Hatney could hold both posts not as an official opinion but based on the school board's 1872 charter and precedent. Then he looked at a 1984 Georgia Constitutional amendment that states that the office of any state, county or municipal elected official is vacated when the official qualifies for another such elective office and a 2000 attorney general's opinion that says local acts don't supersede the constitution. So he changed his mind. So Dr. Hatney will have to choose one board, which apparently he has already done.

NOT A "GAY-LA" AFFAIR: The Richmond County Republican Party gala was held last night at Enterprise Mill. Tickets were $50 per person or $75 per couple.

Mr. Greenbaum wanted to know whether that included "gay couples."

When the question was posed to GOP Chairman Dave Barbee, he just laughed and said he didn't think any gay Republican couples would show up.

"I don't think there are that many gay couple Republicans in our district," he said. "I think most of them were Democrats. Most of them are flaming liberals."

A CHEEKY PROPOSAL: At the last Republican Party breakfast, Mr. Barbee called on all Republicans to make former state Sen. Don Cheeks the write-in candidate for the District 22 state Senate seat in September.

Some Republicans think that's a bad idea because it would be futile. Mr. Cheeks could not be expected to draw enough votes to win as witnessed by last November's loss to Charles Walker in the predominantly black stronghold, and probably would force a runoff between candidate Ed Tarver and one of his two Democrat rivals, Ben Allen or George Brown.

But since the Republicans don't have a candidate in the race (their last great white hope, Donnie Thompson of Windsor Jewelers fame, couldn't be persuaded to enter the lion's den), Mr. Barbee said he's going to write in Mr. Cheeks' name and would like for all Republicans to do the same.

"I'm not going to vote for a Democrat," he said.

Mr. Cheeks said he is not a candidate, and if he had wanted to be one he would have qualified.

"I'm happy," he said.

And why shouldn't he be? He's worked hard, done some good things, has plenty of money, a beautiful home, adorable grandchildren - and, best of all, Betty.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.