Originally created 11/12/06

Landslide win won't help Deke with commissioners



Mayor Deke Copenhaver's in for four more years on a landslide that had some folks clamoring to know whether that would give him clout in dealing with Augusta commissioners.

Personally, I didn't think so, but what do I know? So I called Richmond County Republican Party Chairman Dave Barbee to ask what he thought.

When he quit laughing, he said, "No. That body is so independent you can put Moses in there, and it wouldn't make any difference. Last year, he got in a runoff with Willie Mays and beat him by 3,500 votes. We felt that was a mandate, and it didn't change anything."

Mayor Pro Tem Marion Williams confirmed it.

"I'm going to stand up and speak my mind, and the mayor or no commissioner is going to stop me from speaking out about what I think is wrong."

And he thinks just about everything is wrong except that he's pushing and voting for the city to spend $6 million to develop a drag strip across the road from where his son-in-law's corporation bought property last fall.

So much for that.

POLITICAL APTITUDE TEST: After attending numerous political forums this fall, I've decided candidates for public office in Augusta should have to pass this test to see if they're fit to run:

1. Will a 10-gallon hat fit on your head?

2. Do you know where you live?

3. Have more than 20 people outside your immediate family ever heard your name?

4. Do you know the difference between a bald-faced lie and a bald eagle?

5. If you found a $1,000 bill under your plate of barbecue at a fundraiser, would you jump up and say, "Hot dang!"

6. Can you find Butt Bridge with both hands?

7. Are you a man of few words who does not enjoy arguing for hours on end on topics such as how many taxpayers can dance on the head of a pin?

8. If someone offered to grease your palm, would you ask, "What with?"

9. Can you say your ABCs without getting tripped up?

10. Do you know the Augusta National is not a bank?

If you answered No to at least seven of these questions, you are qualified. If you answered No to all 10, you are qualified to run for the school board.

BIRDS NOT OF A FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER: One of the funniest scenes of the election season developed when two fly-ins coalesced at Daniel Field last week.

Republican 12th Congressional District candidate Max Burns' supporters found themselves amidst a group waiting on Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor and other statewide Democrats, who were supposed to fly in 15 minutes later.

"Here's Barrow," said Trey Allen, the campaign coordinator for Superior Court Judge candidate David Roper, as the congressman passed by. "We've got an interesting little event here."

The conclusion of the Burns rally, and the arrival of more Democrats, led to some good-natured jousting. Mr. Barbee spotted his Democratic Party counterpart, Lowell Greenbaum, walking up with a Jim Martin for Lieutenant Governor yard sign. Mr. Barbee snatched up an oversized Burns sign and yelled, "My sign is bigger than yours."

Mr. Burns and Mr. Barbee proceeded to hoot at state Sen. J.B. Powell, who looked surprised but nonetheless came over to shake hands.

TAYLOR TRAILER: Mr. Taylor was pushing a get-out-the-vote slogan in an election eve appearance at Augusta.

"Take 10 of your kin and put the Big Guy in," said the rotund lieutenant governor.

Considering how things turned out Tuesday, maybe he should have aimed for more than 10.

The new slogan is, "The 10 couldn't be found, so he's not around."

WHAT, NO JOURNEY?: Evidently, all they had was an 8-track tape player down at Richmond County Democratic Party headquarters. At a rally this week for U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., Mr. Barrow was greeted with the strains of Kool & The Gang's Celebration (circa 1980). After he spoke, Mr. Barrow chatted with supporters while being serenaded by Survivor's Eye of the Tiger (circa 1982).

BACK TO THE TRACK: Last week's vote to spend $6 million to develop a drag strip off Mike Padgett Highway has riled more folks than just those who would have to live with it in their backyard and has brought into question the validity of the $25,000 feasibility study.

Commissioner Joe Bowles, a CPA, said there are some major assumptions in the financial predictions that are not included in the construction budget, which would mislead anyone using them.

"The construction cost does not include construction of suites or sky boxes," he said. "Yet the financial projections include rental for those sky boxes. How can you include revenue projections for something you don't build?"

Mr. Bowles said there seems to be an agenda to push the race track through. Yet after $100,000 has been spent on two site selection surveys for a trade and exhibition center voters approved building with special purpose local option sales tax dollars, commissioners are no closer to building it than they were five years ago.

"And we have the money in hand for that," he said.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Do you know of any other government entities in the U.S. involved in this type of business? And if so, I'd like to see what type of financial position they have in that business and see who invested in it. If it's that good, then I want to invest in it as a private citizen. So I'd like to know about that prior to me voting to put government money into it. I'd rather put my own into it if it's that good."

- Commissioner Don Grantham, before Thursday's commission's vote to go ahead with plans to build the drag racing track with proceeds from the sale of bonds

IT'S ONLY MONEY: Six commissioners were as good as their written word last week when they voted to pay J&B Construction of Columbia County $692,892 to tear down the candy factory building on Telfair Street to make way for a new library.

Thompson Wrecking Co. owner Hiram Thompson took the city to court over the demolition bid because his bid was $260,000 less than J&B's. The judge ruled last month that Thompson's error in its bid package was only a technicality that city officials could overlook in awarding the bid.

Mr. Williams led the push to award the bid to J&B and passed around a letter for commissioners to sign to go ahead and award him the contract and ratify it later.

The city's Purchasing Director Geri Sams disagreed that the omission of bond insurance documents from the bid packet was only a technicality.

Mr. Williams and Commissioners Betty Beard, J.B. Hatney, Calvin Stevenson, Andy Cheek and Calvin Holland voted to award the contract to J&B.

Commissioners Jerry Brigham, Jimmy Smith, Mr. Bowles and Mr. Grantham voted against it.

So what else is new?

UNEXCUSED ABSENCES: James Thompson may be interim superintendent in Richmond County, but school board President Marion Barnes made sure to remind him he's not the boss.

When Mr. Barnes looked out into a nearly empty boardroom Thursday, he asked where everyone was. He hadn't excused them from attending, and neither had the board.

Because of the holiday Friday, Mr. Thompson said he was the one who said they could skip.

The school board usually pads the attendance of meetings by requiring everyone from principal on up to attend.

The public squabble was the first between the two since former Superintendent Charles Larke stepped down. It wasn't until earlier this week that Dr. Larke's smiling face was removed from the school board's Web site.

City Ink thanks Staff Writers Tom Corwin and Greg Gelpi for their contributions to this week's column.

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