Activist wants 'trash' to leave

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James R. "Butch" Palmer says he wants to make Harrisburg a better place.

But unifying its population isn't on his agenda.

He calls people riffraff, gutter trash, parasites, crack whores and welfare queens.

He calls Harrisburg's religious leaders enablers, fanatics, shady, opportunists and traitors to the neighborhood.

Confronted with some of the language on his Web site -- "the poor people who have many children and who keep squeezing out more of them do not have cause to bemoan their suffering ... avoid them like the plague ... roaches are very fertile and reproduce readily" -- he doesn't waver.

"I think it's telling it like it is," said Mr. Palmer, the founder of Harrisburg Organization Networking for Gentrification to Keep Our Neighborhood from becoming a Ghetto, or HONGKONG, a splinter group from Harrisburg's neighborhood association. "When they had their first baby, they knew what caused it. I've got cousins who are the same way, pure trash."

Mr. Palmer, a 49-year-old former hairdresser and onetime Augusta City Council candidate, started his group in the summer of 2007. Its stated goal is to gentrify the historic mill village by running out trouble-making renters and attracting upwardly mobile homeowners. He's currently working to boot drug-dealing Section 8 tenants by reporting them to the Augusta Housing Authority.

Earlier this year, Mr. Palmer called for the closing of Mercy Ministries, claiming the day shelter and boardinghouse at Crawford Avenue and Fenwick Street has increased crime and litter. He scoffs at churches and nonprofits, saying they attract undesirables and prop up their destructive lifestyles.

His philosophy and unbridled rhetoric have made him a thorn in the side to some, but also a leader to a number of homeowners frustrated by the neighborhood's decline. Whether he's helping or hurting depends on who you ask.

"Have you read his Web site? Calling people cockroaches?" Harrisburg-West End Neighborhood Association President Iain Crawford said. "If you do things in a hateful fashion, it doesn't work. We don't really have a race problem in Harrisburg, and we don't need one."

MR. PALMER insists his cause has nothing to do with race, and some black residents count themselves as supporters.

Sebrena Muirhead, a Harrisburg property owner who runs a fruit stand on Walton Way, attends HONGKONG meetings but hasn't formally joined. She said Mr. Palmer's language might offend her if she didn't understand the context. She's just as frustrated with drug addicts and drug dealers and thinks it's time for an aggressive neighborhood watch program, she said.

"Once everybody realizes we've got binoculars on them, then they're going to say, 'Man, I need to roll on,' " she said.

Mr. Palmer, who stands about 6 feet 3 inches tall, can often be seen driving Harrisburg's narrow streets in his Cadillac sedan, with magnetic signs on the side advertising www.hongkong augustaga.org.

As he cruised last week, teenagers milling about street corners eyed him suspiciously. He stopped at one house and spoke to a black resident through a car window.

Mr. Palmer asked him whether he's seen any drug activity. The man was silent, but he moved his eyes to a tenement across the street where a man sat on a stairwell.

ELEVEN PEOPLE, not counting Mr. Palmer, attended the most recent HONGKONG meeting Oct. 14. They gathered in Mr. Palmer's den, by the light of a chandelier and two antique lamps.

The group complained of deadbeat landlords, prostitutes and drugs, the homeless at Mercy Ministries and the breakfasts for the homeless at Bible Deliverance Temple.

Mr. Palmer laid out a plan to pore over a Section 8 regulation manual and look for ways tenants could be breaking rules. He said he wants to work with the housing authority to kick out the bad ones. His idea could work, the authority's director of administration, Sirena Rogers, said last week.

The Section 8 program uses federal funds to subsidize low-income families' rent, and tenants agree not to become neighborhood nuisances.

The problem, Ms. Rogers said, is that none of the dozen or so addresses Mr. Palmer has given her are Section 8 properties.

Mr. Palmer has done other things since starting HONGKONG.

When he took aim at Mercy Ministries, the issue so divided the community that on Oct. 2 the Rev. Kelly McKnight tried to broker a peace though a meeting at Bible Deliverance, asking the groups to come together for the good of the neighborhood.

Mr. Palmer attended, but he isn't biting.

"Because of their attitudes," he said. "There's two agendas, totally different ends of the spectrum. Their mission, the preachers, I believe they absolutely want to institutionalize poverty."

A THIRD -GENERATION Harrisburg resident, Mr. Palmer owns 14 houses and three vacant lots in the neighborhood, most of them inherited from his mother, and makes his living as a landlord. He lives on Tuttle Street in the house his grandparents and parents once occupied, with goats and chickens still inhabiting the backyard.

He said his annoyance with the neighborhood started about five years ago, while he was taking care of his dying mother and rebuilding her house after a 2003 fire.

Watching people come and go, he realized Harrisburg was becoming a ghetto, he said.

Mr. Palmer was part of Mr. Crawford's fold until the two clashed bitterly over the use of treasury funds and a mass mailing to property owners, which Mr. Crawford said Mr. Palmer undertook without authorization.

MR. CRAWFORD gets noticeably frustrated talking about Mr. Palmer.

Unlike the neighborhood association, HONGKONG isn't a nonprofit registered with the Georgia secretary of state's office. Mr. Palmer said he has 59 members who paid $25 apiece to join.

Harrisburg should have one voice, Mr. Crawford said, and the association has the credibility to work with the Downtown Development Authority and Habitat for Humanity.

Harrisburg homeowners James and Runetta Rigdon, members of the neighborhood association and Bible Deliverance, have been attending HONGKONG meetings but haven't decided whether they'll join. The association's meetings are "dead" compared with HONGKONG's, and people seem to be gravitating to the latter, Mrs. Rigdon said.

"Sometimes he says some harsh things, but when you think about it, it's the truth," she said. "That's Butch."

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

A sampling, with errors and typos included:

"Attention preachers: If you think that you are beyond reproach, you are wronge. Also you are more so part of the neighborhood problems than you are a part of the solution ... While you try are trying to save the world you are bringing down the neighborhood. Your attempts to bring heaven to some is keeping the majority of us in Hell."

"Next time you spray for roaches..think miracle ... Human fertility and reproduction is not a miracle. The miracle happens when children are raised in auspicious environments. Create a glorious environment in Harrisburg for quality children."

"Religious fanaticism coupled with George Bushes 'faith based initiative' have worked together to keep trashy dope attics, crack whores and the like dewilling in Harrisburg ... Our Koran too has much to say about the poor ... I sincerely wish that something catastrophic would occur in your neighborhoods that would keep you fanatics home."


(Credited to "Abdul-Haqq")

Source: www.hongkongaugustaga.org

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SargentMidTown
8
Points
SargentMidTown 10/26/08 - 03:21 am
0
0
The very last thing that

The very last thing that Harrisburg needs is a Jimmy Carter house! How absurd. Who wants a Habitat for Humanity house next door to them ? What an Idiot. Talk about poverty.

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 10/26/08 - 03:40 am
0
0
Butch Palmer has the right

Butch Palmer has the right idea. Enabling poverty and sloth does nothing to clean up a deteriorating neighborhood. However, it would behoove Butch to get a spokesperson to espouse his approach. Someone capable of putting a carrot on the end of his stick. Butch's approach alienates as many as it attracts while encouraging the sideline sitters to stay sitting. Having a good idea and good intentions isn't enough. You also have to know how to present your idea in an attractive manner.

SargentMidTown
8
Points
SargentMidTown 10/26/08 - 03:48 am
0
0
Jake Oglesby and Sirena

Jake Oglesby and Sirena Rogers need to be removed from their positions. They are part of the Section 8 problem.

As It Is
2
Points
As It Is 10/26/08 - 04:44 am
0
0
You can certainly see the

You can certainly see the frustration from the persons attending the event and the 60 in the group. The founder and leader of the group should use better wordage to describe those to whom he is referring however, that doesn't mean what he is saying isn't 100% the truth. Those who have children and can barely afford to live because they won't find employment (their really is no such thing as can't) should't continue to have children born into poverty but yet they do and then expect the government and others to support them. Drug dealers living in Section 8 housing is deplorable. First of all, if there is going to be sectiong 8 housing, it should be inspected monthly and drug testing should be administered and no one with criminal records may live there - these houses are paid with our tax dollars so yes, they should come with very strict rules. This man and many others want nothing but to clean up their neighborhood and rid if of criminals and do-nothings - what homeowner wouldn't 100% agree unless your home is being paid by the government. And, he is also right on many of the churches as well as govt. programs - they enable individuals to be criminals and do nothing.

happythoughts
25
Points
happythoughts 10/26/08 - 06:35 am
0
0
I have no problem with the

I have no problem with the wordage, it got my attention, I'm sure it would get other peoples attention. If everyone involved in the condition of these properties would do their job including law enforcement this man who chooses words to discribe low life individuals wouldn't have to do all of their jobs. The people he is talking about need to be in rehab or jail and the others need to get off their a-- and get a job.

eryvine
0
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eryvine 10/26/08 - 06:52 am
0
0
"As It is" I agree with

"As It is" I agree with almost everything you said except for the part about people with criminal records. There are people that have made mistakes in their past but are doing their best to go teh right route. Blocking people with records just makes it harder, and near impossible, for them to be upward mobile, which is what Butch wants. Being a former Harrisburg resident,and one that would love to go back to the 'Burg, I agree with Butch and think that the passiveness of the faith based groups and the churches isn't working. They have their place but they are too worried about coddling people and don't push people enough to better themselves

streetwatcher
0
Points
streetwatcher 10/26/08 - 10:03 am
0
0
Butch Palmer needs to clean

Butch Palmer needs to clean up his own yard, if he and others worried about their own blocks, the neighborhood would soon be better, I feel fine with walking on my block, But I would not dare walk on any block of Tuttle street alone, Even riding on the street in front of Butch Palmers house gives me the butterflys in my stomach. He should get his street/block clean and safe then he can start helping with the other parts of the neighborhood. as for quality residents in Harrisburg, If he is the only example given, there never was any. "People who live in glass houses should not throw rocks".

PTHS2
0
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PTHS2 10/26/08 - 10:21 am
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SargentMidTown - Keep up the

SargentMidTown - Keep up the good fight!

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 10/26/08 - 12:19 pm
0
0
Streetwatcher, a neighborhood

Streetwatcher, a neighborhood covers several streets. Claiming one street has more influence then another is just silly. If you think Harrisburg is fine, just keep sitting on the sidelines.

Captain Awesome
0
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Captain Awesome 10/26/08 - 01:41 pm
0
0
Habitat for Humanity is

Habitat for Humanity is different than section 8. HH has the owners participate, pay for materials etc and help with the next building projects. Or at least that's their model.

happythoughts
25
Points
happythoughts 10/26/08 - 03:15 pm
0
0
streetwatcher, You should

streetwatcher, You should attend one of the meetings so you can voice your opinion on how the whole neighbor can clean up. Butch might have a few words for you too.

patel99
0
Points
patel99 10/26/08 - 03:28 pm
0
0
I think Butch is right on

I think Butch is right on cue, the problem is his wording. Mr. Palmer, if you want to draw attention to the good, good people of Harrisburg, please try the same approach, without using the word roach. I think you are right with the churches too. Go in Harrisburg, and there is a church on every block, but so is the drugs. In order to clean up this place, you must be a good steward, and the home-owners are not. Section 8 has not ran right since it started in Augusta, and we want it to change. You got people that could really use that boost of section 8 to get on their feet, but then you got Pam and her four kids, Boo, C-J, Tee-Tee, Killer, and Sha- Sha, who by the time their section 8 ends will be out of school, two tours of the department of corrections and no jobs. Did I say anything wrong?

HillGuy
7
Points
HillGuy 10/26/08 - 03:55 pm
0
0
Apparently this official

Apparently this official neighborhood organization that Ms Crawford heads is not doing a very good job in stopping the deterioration of Harrisburg. People have a right to get angry when the neighborhood they have lived in all of their lives in which they take great pride in is allowed to turn into a slum.

CorporalGripweed
0
Points
CorporalGripweed 10/26/08 - 04:18 pm
0
0
All the Harrisburg residents

All the Harrisburg residents I know agree with Butch 100%. He may not be the most tactful of spokesmen but what he says, needs to be said.
And to all the "do-good" types who would put homeless shelters and the like in the midst of our neighborhood. You obviously have an idealized view of the problem. Most homeless in this area are not abused women and hungry children longing for a "living wage" or "affordable housing" but by and large they are middle aged men who would rather drink than work.
And as a taxpayer I am fed up with supporting their sorriness.

GGpap
491
Points
GGpap 10/26/08 - 04:21 pm
0
0
Just think about how quickly

Just think about how quickly things in Mr. Palmer's neighborhood might be bettered if they only had a super-dooper "community organizer!" LOL!

jack
10
Points
jack 10/26/08 - 04:35 pm
0
0
happythoughts, the cops could

happythoughts, the cops could do a better job if RC would fund and hire more of them.

CorporalGripweed
0
Points
CorporalGripweed 10/26/08 - 04:35 pm
0
0
I find it interesting that

I find it interesting that there are many black churches in the Harrisburg neighborhood who do not offer soup kitchens and clothes closets to the poor, yet the majority of those who roam the streets for a hand out, are black. Seems to me that all of the,"do nothings," in society should all live together in one neighborhood, and,"do nothing," then hard working people would not have their neighborhoods disrupted by those, who want to,"disrupt." The churches could set up their ministries in these neighborhoods without complaint from those of us who go to work everyday while we grow weary and become hostile to the Section 8 porch sitters and their boyfriends.

Seashells
0
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Seashells 10/26/08 - 05:42 pm
0
0
The neighborhood I grew up in

The neighborhood I grew up in is getting bad too. My mother grew up in the Harrisburg area. I say way to go Butch

happythoughts
25
Points
happythoughts 10/26/08 - 05:57 pm
0
0
jack, Are there enough beds

jack, Are there enough beds in the jail for the crackwhores, drug dealers and buyers or whoever is disrupting this neighborhood? Please excuse my language!

Justthefacts please
0
Points
Justthefacts please 10/26/08 - 06:01 pm
0
0
Jimmy Carter should be forced

Jimmy Carter should be forced to live in Harrisburg. Come to think of it, I know a dozen more liberal Democrats who should be forced to move to Harrisburg. That would give them a totally new look on life.

SargentMidTown
8
Points
SargentMidTown 10/26/08 - 06:35 pm
0
0
Due to the drop in the

Due to the drop in the housing market many people are downsizing. This is a prime opportunity to buy into Harrisburg and displace the riff raff It is a shame that young up starts don't have the guts to come in and make Harrisburg a wonderful place.

SargentMidTown
8
Points
SargentMidTown 10/26/08 - 07:18 pm
0
0
streetwatcher I agree with

streetwatcher I agree with you all the way. You shouldn't throw stones. You talk big but you lack visibility. You should be the high profile person that is Butch Palmer to allow your block to be viewed and judged. Until that time ...I say that there is nothing to you. You have a lot in common with the riff raff roaming around Harrisburg....another shadow figure. I have known Mr. Palmer a long time and he is a solid, honest and plain spoken. He is sort of like a revised Jimmy Stewart . He came from decent hard working people. Good stock.

CorporalGripweed
0
Points
CorporalGripweed 10/26/08 - 08:04 pm
0
0
The "left" is killing

The "left" is killing initiative. You should work for what you have. Not have it "given" to you because it was confiscated from those who DO work.This country still has more opportunities than any other and again........I'm sick and tired of subsidizing the lifestyles of those who refuse to work for what they have.

imdstuf
10
Points
imdstuf 10/26/08 - 09:35 pm
0
0
If he is a landlord he is an

If he is a landlord he is an enabler. I want to live in a neighborhood where people own their homes, not rent them. Tell him to sell his houses.

SargentMidTown
8
Points
SargentMidTown 10/26/08 - 09:36 pm
0
0
Not only do we subsidize a

Not only do we subsidize a population of welfare people, a big number of them are troublemakers, thieves and criminals. I have watched them litter until it is making me sick. Consider this there is no incentive to lock these people up. They have nothing for the courts to take and they can't garnish a welfare check. When these people destroy property or steal it is no use to sue them. You cannot milk a cabbage. People who do not have a pot to pee in or a window to throw it out will they take greater risks with lawbreaking too. The only way that any community will become better is for the people to be upwardly mobile. It is sickening to think how so many others put effort into building Harrisburg to have low life spit on it. Curse them and their evil linage. They are more diabolical than the South Pacific Butt Pirates

SargentMidTown
8
Points
SargentMidTown 10/26/08 - 10:03 pm
0
0
patriciathomas There is not a

patriciathomas There is not a way to candy coat this information. The path is starlight and the gate is narrow. That is all that there is to it. A spade is a spade. What you are saying is to try to manipulate people. That is sick. People are tried of being manipulated. They don't want any more spin. Since you have the answers why don't' you approach Mr. Palmer. He is quiet warm and friendly when you get to know him. Come out of the shadows.

current bdt member
0
Points
current bdt member 10/26/08 - 10:31 pm
0
0
Its so funny that Butch

Its so funny that Butch Palmer (sargent midtown) is upholding himself he makes himself look very dumb

current bdt member
0
Points
current bdt member 10/26/08 - 10:36 pm
0
0
Also its amazing how Palmer

Also its amazing how Palmer is more considerate for the farm animals on his property that are a code violation than he is for human beings.

FallingLeaves
27
Points
FallingLeaves 10/26/08 - 11:44 pm
0
0
patriciathomas I just read

patriciathomas I just read your first post on this article. I couldn't have said it better myself. If he really wants to see total "gentrification" of the neighborhood, maybe he should consider moving elsewhere. No true member of gentry speaks of others in the manner he does. Trash talk out of his own mouth reflects worse on him than those he is insulting. Someone that talks like that doesn't belong in a gentrified neighborhood.

darktall
0
Points
darktall 10/26/08 - 11:53 pm
0
0
boy, palmer sure was EXCITED

boy, palmer sure was EXCITED about this article, can almost hear him gasping for breath after reading all his comments.

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