Hot air is just one hot topic that bowls us over

How hot was it in Augusta last week?

Not as hot as somewhere else you could go.

At an outdoor health fair at the Neighborhood Health Services Center last week, a woman was overcome by the heat and passed out. She was taken away by ambulance, but center officials said she would be OK. The center was holding the fair in conjunction with National Community Health Center Week and tried to alleviate some of the suffering by handing out fans.

The Rev. Melvin G. Lowry, the pastor of the center's partner, Belle Terrace Presbyterian Church, tried to put the heat in perspective. He looked out at a sea of waving fans underneath a tent and acknowledged that it was hot that day. "You've got to live right," he warned, "unless you want to go where it's hotter."

BUT IT WAS SO HOT ... The plastic shoes Garrett Elementary Principal P.K. Baker left in her car melted, and she was left hopping around on her bare feet.

Ms. Baker had been wearing tennis shoes as she got her school ready for pupils to return, but she rushed to change into something nicer for a school board meeting downtown later that afternoon.

Unfortunately, the plastic shoes she had left in her trunk were near "the point of no return." She tried to put one on. It hit the ground and bounced, but she salvaged the shoes by holding them up to her car's AC as she drove to the meeting.

HOT TOPICS: It was so hot there was actually more hot air outside the Marble Palace than in Augusta Commission chambers. Racing enthusiast Leo Charette was back before commissioners with a new drag strip site off Hephzibah McBean Road, not far from the first one off Mike Padgett Highway and once again in Commissioner Jimmy Smith's District 8.

Mr. Smith, who shudders at the very notion of dragsters noising up his part of the county, said he found it "ironic" that both proposed sites have been in his district. Commissioner Marion Williams said that's because it's the only place left in Augusta with enough undeveloped land to build a drag strip. And the talking went 'round and 'round, more like a NASCAR race than a drag race. The difference was that a NASCAR race eventually ends.

BOWLED OVER: Commissioner Joe Bowles said he found four major flaws in the $25,000 feasibility study the city had done on the drag strip and wrote C.H. Johnson IV, the vice president of the company that did the study, asking for a refund. Mr. Johnson wrote back threatening to have a restraining order taken out against him if Mr. Bowles contacted him again.

HIGH NOON: And then during the hearing on shutting down Super C's nightclub, Mr. Williams and Commissioners Calvin Holland and J.R. Hatney tried to put the onus of lawlessness that culminated in last month's fatal shooting of 18-year-old Stedmund Fryer on Sheriff Ronnie Strength, but the sheriff was there with both barrels loaded.

Sheriff Strength shot down commissioners' comments that if Super C's were closed, the teens would just go somewhere else. They might go, said the sheriff, but the other bar owners won't let them in if they know commissioners aren't going to turn a blind eye to gangs, drugs and violence.

That's just one example.

Mr. Williams asked why, if the problems at Super C's were as bad as the sheriff was saying, he hadn't come to report them before.

Check the record, the sheriff said. Super C's had been before them twice, and they had put the club on probation.

ON THE RISE: That was Commissioner Andy Cheek's blood pressure when Mr. Holland said he saw a conspiracy to close down black-owned clubs.

Mr. Cheek said there was a conspiracy all right, but it was a conspiracy by city leaders not to do the right thing.

In the end, they did, though.

THOSE BIG BAD GUNS AGAIN: During the meeting, Mr. Holland also raised questions the sheriff never got a chance to answer, so City Ink called him afterward. Here are Mr. Holland's questions and the sheriff's answers.

- Mr. Holland: "Has anybody thought about attacking the problem?"

Sheriff: "We are attacking the problem. Our job is to investigate criminal activity and arrest violators. That's the job of law enforcement everywhere. We don't have money for social programs, but that wouldn't be our job anyway."

- Mr. Holland: What is the problem?

Obviously a rhetorical question because Mr. Holland answered himself.

Mr. Holland: "The problem is we got young men with guns in the community."

- Mr. Holland: "Do we have anybody out there trying to stop these young men with these guns?"

See Answer No. 1 above.

- Mr. Holland: "Has anybody arrested the four young men who broke in the pawn shop and stole the 13 guns?"

Sheriff: "It was three instead of four, but they have been arrested, and we recovered 90 percent of the weapons."

- Mr. Holland: "Have we tried to bring any of these young people together to sit down and talk about, 'Why are you doing this?' "

Sheriff: "It's very difficult to sit down with violent gang members and ask them to stop committing crimes."

LET'S SCARE UP A FEW DOLLARS: Despite Mr. Williams' denials that he's eyeing a seat in the state Capitol, Sen. Ed Tarver is taking no chances.

"I'm going to have to start campaigning and fundraising," said Mr. Tarver, who was in Atlanta last week for a committee meeting.

Mr. Tarver said he has not spoken directly with Mr. Williams about whether he plans to run for the 22nd Senate District next year. But he has heard from plenty of supporters claiming to have been contacted by Mr. Williams to get them to switch teams.

Next fall, all 236 seats in the General Assembly will up for re-election.

CONVERSATION 101: Ernie and I have come to an understanding.

We used to preach to each other about local, state and world affairs; what we go through getting to work, being at work and coming home from work; how much we just paid for a tank of gas; and how much we hate to get behind old men in pickups driving 35 mph in a no-passing zone.

"You're preaching to the choir," I would say just as he was getting wound up about the woman who slowed down to 40 mph in 80 mph traffic on Interstate 20 a mile before she reached her intended exit ramp.

"You're preaching to the choir," he would say just as I started mumbling about how much I hate having to tear lunch meat packages open with my teeth.

So finally we worked out a numerical system that saves a lot of time and energy. We assigned numbers to topics we used to spend at least an hour a day ranting about.

For example, here's our current Top 10:

Topic No. 1: The government - federal, state and local.

Topic No. 2: Taxes

Topic No. 3: Democrats

Topic No. 4: Republicans

Topic No. 5: Everything in Wal-Mart is from China

Topic No. 6: Everybody in Wal-Mart is from Mexico

Topic No. 7: The weather (up from No. 15 last week)

Topic No. 8: Bills

Topic No. 9: Overdrafts

Topic No. 10: Gas

So now when he gets home, he just says, "1, 3, 8 and 10," and I say, "1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 10."

Communication is everything.

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

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

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