Originally created 08/22/06

A gesture with meaning



Think you know a little something about leadership? Take this quick quiz to find out:

Q: Which elected official is showing true leadership during times of tight budgets:

(a) one who spends $10,000 on a convention in Chicago - after having little to show for the $14,000 spent on the convention in Hawaii last year, or

(b) one who not only doesn't go on the trip, but who pledges to take a 15 percent pay cut?

Leadership, and the lack of it, is on full display at the Augusta Commission these days.

Mayor Pro Tem Marion Williams and commissioners Betty Beard, Calvin Holland, Keith Brown and Johnny Hatney all went to Chicago earlier this month for the National Association of County Officials conference. It cost taxpayers about $10,550.

Meanwhile, commissioners are debating making up to $7 million in cuts to the city's budget.

On the other end of the leadership spectrum is Commissioner Joe Bowles, who announced Friday that he is voluntarily taking a 15 percent pay cut.

State law may require him to take his full salary, which is just ludicrous. But he can return the 15 percent as a donation after taxes, according to City Attorney Stephen Shepard.

It won't amount to much: Commissioners make $12,000 a year. But every $1,800 helps when the ship is sinking. And it is sinking.

Moreover, Bowles' gesture is powerful in its symbolism and the example it sets. Commissioners should set the tone for the sacrifices that will be necessary to fix the city's finances - rather than jetting off to conferences when the budget is treading water.

And why in the world would the city send interim Commissioner Keith Brown to Chicago when it's not even certain that he's (1) on the commission legally or (2) going to be around after November? Or Mayor Pro Tem Marion Williams, who is months away from ending his last term?

What kind of leadership is that?