Augusta's 'going nowhere,' activist says

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Woody Merry's town hall meeting Thursday night found him in full-fledged motivational speaker mode, standing alone on the Fort Discovery auditorium stage and whipping up an audience of 35 with tales of corruption, graft, hypocrisy and fiscal waste in Augusta's government.

Woody Merry  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Woody Merry

The city activist spoke with the fury of a fire-and-brimstone evangelist, with the theatrics of a desperate football coach in a halftime pep talk.

"I am sick and tired of being lied to, being cheated," he said. "I won't run for office, but somebody has got to stand up and say enough is enough."

He told the group he didn't want to be there, that he shut his government reform group, CSRA Help, in early 2008 because he thought the city had a working government.

But he's back now because he's been convinced otherwise, and he went through a litany of reasons why, usually prefacing each topic with, "Good God!"

He described a government that blows hundreds of thousands of dollars on useless feasibility studies and loses millions through a Procurement department that doesn't pick lowest bidders, yet pays its police and firefighters paltry wages and is about to lose Fort Discovery and the Augusta Municipal Golf Course.

"We're going nowhere, except $8 million in the hole," he said, referring to the $8.6 million shortfall in the working 2010 budget.

He said elected officials -- whom he didn't name -- are hooking up friends and relatives with city contracts. He lamented that the city's water consulting firm, CH2M Hill, has gone above and beyond in fixing problems in the Utilities Department, yet commissioners have shaken them down, told them what subcontractors to hire, and now want the company fired.

"Oh my God!" he said. "If anybody should be suing anybody, CH2M Hill should be suing us."

In the end, he laid out a plan of action: He said he wants to form a "shadow government" -- a group of 10 people, perhaps people interested in someday running for office -- to represent each commission district and open dialogues with the 10 commissioners.

He asked that community meetings be held to select the members.

"The method to my madness is the shadow government," Mr. Merry said. "Let me tell you right now, it's probably going to fail, but I've failed for 10 years, and I'm still trying."

Lori Davis, leader of the "concerned citizens of Harrisburg" group, which she's renamed "concerned citizens of Richmond County," said she's taking him up on it.

"I think it was great," she said of Thursday's meeting. "I say he was on the pulse of what new Augustans -- people new to politics, age 40 to 50 -- are wanting in this town."

Former Commissioner Andy Cheek was also in attendance, and said he wonders if Mr. Merry is like himself -- having cried wolf so many times that he's lost credibility.

But he said he supports him.

"People have got to get involved, or Augusta's going to end up like East St. Louis," Mr. Cheek said. "At least Woody is willing to stand up and make something happen."

Mr. Merry said his past efforts -- which include a string of lawsuits against the city -- have put him at risk.

"Yes, I have been shot at," he said. "Yes, my mailbox has been torn up. Yes, I have received threats. Yes, yes, yes, yes. These people play for keeps."

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

Comments (78) Add comment
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dasgaslo
0
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dasgaslo 10/30/09 - 05:47 am
0
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I agree with Woody completey.

I agree with Woody completey. Although I no longer live in the area I read the paper on line because I still have family and friends in NA. It really saddens me to see a once proud, vibrant city go down the tubes because of exactly the reasons listed above.

Don Sloan
Hendersonville, NC

bettyboop
7
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bettyboop 10/30/09 - 05:49 am
0
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What we have hrer with a few

What we have hrer with a few exceptions a bunch of thugs running the city and destroying it....change the charter...change Augusta into what it should have been before consolidation.

justus4
101
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justus4 10/30/09 - 05:50 am
0
0
Blah, Blah, Blah, is the
Unpublished

Blah, Blah, Blah, is the sound heard because this guy is the "front man" for some operation, who probably is losing something like gov't contracts. Wonder about his thoughts on the attempted bribe of two elected officials and if that is something that worries ol' Woody - probably not. Seems like he's all animated about the wrong things...decoy maybe?

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
7928
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ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 10/30/09 - 06:21 am
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Justus, are you off your meds

Justus, are you off your meds again? It seems your optical rectitus has returned!

cleanup
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cleanup 10/30/09 - 06:22 am
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0
justus4, what have you done

justus4, what have you done for Augusta? Nothing. Now, you are a boring one trick pony. Or, maybe just a trick.

concernednative
28
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concernednative 10/30/09 - 06:32 am
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Woody is like global warming

Woody is like global warming to me. I don't know if I really believe in him or his motives but the end result of a better govt is a common goal.

Riverman1
84272
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Riverman1 10/30/09 - 06:59 am
0
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We have documented

We have documented frustration with the city government. We realize there is a problem and we have demonstrations. Let’s not get hung up on step one. The natural progression of government should be Augusta moving to black leadership. The slowing of that progression is what causes most conflicts along racial lines. Why is the progression being slowed artificially? Because certain people in government benefit financially by being in power

Aliyah
1
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Aliyah 10/30/09 - 07:00 am
0
0
If Woody is so concerned

If Woody is so concerned about Augusta,he should get off his tail end and shut his mouth up.Run for office.Because he is wasting my time and the time of others.When he has his lawsuits the taxpapers money too.So if he really wantted change he would something more convincing.

concernednative
28
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concernednative 10/30/09 - 07:09 am
0
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I agree Aliyah. But, I think

I agree Aliyah. But, I think he knows he couldn't get elected dog catcher. So he is doing what he thinks is best.

apex24
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apex24 10/30/09 - 07:13 am
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Concerned, make up your mind.

Concerned, make up your mind. You can't be the Leftist Liberal you claimed to be and not believe in global warming. Just like you not to tell the truth. We no all about that on these posts.

stillamazed
1488
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stillamazed 10/30/09 - 07:39 am
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Riverman, who says Augusta

Riverman, who says Augusta has to have black leadership, just because Obama is the president doesn't mean that every town and state in this nation has to be run by a black for it to operate. Take a look at Wadley if you really want to see what black leadership does for a town.........also when you look at the counsel in Augusta you see plenty of blacks in office so I really don't get your remark. These officials are elected by the people so apparently the people are voting for who they think will do a better job. Race is an excuse used way to often it's really getting boring.

xanadu
0
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xanadu 10/30/09 - 07:49 am
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tout bruit et de fureur, qui

tout bruit et de fureur, qui ne signifie rien

justthefacts
22082
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justthefacts 10/30/09 - 08:01 am
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apex, concerned, in my

apex, concerned, in my opinion, does not fit the 'leftist liberal" definition. BTW, lots of democrats don't believe in global warming (as I think you are defining it).

Riverman1
84272
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Riverman1 10/30/09 - 08:04 am
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5:00, don't feel bad, few get

5:00, don't feel bad, few get my views on this issue. Sure it's all racial and maybe not right, but that's how it is. Whites only make up about 44% of Richmond Cty. We are coming from an apartheid system in the south and that creates conflict. Until we have a black mayor and majority commission in this predominantly black county, the strife will continue. I believe a majority black goverment COULD work using the expertise of the whites and undertake a conservative fiscally sound and responsible goverment.

lifelongresidient
0
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lifelongresidient 10/30/09 - 08:16 am
0
0
backwards thinking augusta

backwards thinking augusta again....spent thousands on feasibility studies in the past but now willing to just "accept the word of just anybody" that the TEE CENTER WILL make a profit, and obilgate the citizens with 40-50 million in additional debt obligations..good thinking. so why if a feasibility was not requested for the TEE CENTER then someone please tell me the need for feasibility studies on past projects that were projected to cost far less

eachoneteachone
0
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eachoneteachone 10/30/09 - 08:17 am
0
0
Becky Shealy proved that Deke

Becky Shealy proved that Deke and Russell were trying to rail road a HUD funded building project through Goshen. I read the documents that Ms. Shealy f-i-n-a-l-l-y got. Yes, this city has corruption. The most hurtful corruption is coming from the mayor and the commissioners who represent wealthy Augustans. Those people are out to make money at the cost of Augustas' future. Commissioner Grantham is shady. He needs to go.

justthefacts
22082
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justthefacts 10/30/09 - 08:22 am
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0
Riverman, sorry man, that is

Riverman, sorry man, that is not necessarily the answer. Let me introduce you to the ATL.

ggaston743
0
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ggaston743 10/30/09 - 08:28 am
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This decaying community needs

This decaying community needs more people like Woody to stand up and work for Augusta, not their personal interest. People are saying Woody should run for office; if he did, the people he is calling for accountability would still win; because they are so deeply in the pockets of a corrupt few. Let’s face it; the exodus from Richmond County has striped Augusta of a vibrant downtown, even old church congregations have built their new cathedrals further out and those left behind are not interested in civic causes, they are just trying to stay above the decay around them. The history of Augusta has always been the ‘haves and the have not’s’. Years ago, The Hill folks would not think of going to South Augusta and those serving at Fort Gordon were never really viewed as Augustans. Now look at what has happen south of Gordon Highway… it is a waste land; with Columbia County’s tax revenues thriving. Some say Woody may have a bit of a credibility problem, but at least he is willing to try again and speak out for Augusta, not just sit back and do nothing. The city/county government is broken and its time to get it back to working for all of Augusta, not just the pockets of a few.

Riverman1
84272
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Riverman1 10/30/09 - 08:28 am
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Justthefacts, the way I see

Justthefacts, the way I see it we have to try something and this really is the issue that both sides won't admit. Whites don't want to admit the majority should govern and blacks don't want to admit, until they can catch up, they need the abilities of the whites to run the county.

UrbanMeyerHater
2
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UrbanMeyerHater 10/30/09 - 08:33 am
0
0
Givem hell woody! Rest of ya

Givem hell woody! Rest of ya get up or shut up.

concernednative
28
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concernednative 10/30/09 - 09:02 am
0
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Apex, I have not deciphered

Apex, I have not deciphered global warming. I imagine it you tried hard enough you could pollute and cause some problems. However, I just don't have the background nor the time not the intellectual curiosity to figure it all out. Science has always bored me. I imagine the answer is somewhere in the middle it is not as simple as blaming man for everything as the left does nor is it as simple as saying global warming is a hoax when we have a cold day in the spring.

502.5
0
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502.5 10/30/09 - 09:04 am
0
0
Woody for President

Woody for President

jackfruitpaper833
41
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jackfruitpaper833 10/30/09 - 09:16 am
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35 people LOL.... he's the

35 people LOL.... he's the local beckan a looney. I was wondering why I saw the three ring circus tent, it was being set up for the main clown to perform, Woody. And he did it in front of a multitude of people (35) under the big top in disgusta LOL.

jackfruitpaper833
41
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jackfruitpaper833 10/30/09 - 09:21 am
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0
LOL @ Andy Cheeks all in

LOL @ Andy Cheeks all in Disgusta's business, stay over in North Augusta, SC, WAIT, they don't even want you as a councilman. Andy, Andy, Andy, wow you are trying to stay in the limelight I see. I had forgotten all about you until the election and for that matter the other nut, Marion Williams *SHRUGS*

thewiz0oz
9
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thewiz0oz 10/30/09 - 09:21 am
0
0
Interesting that the Charles

Interesting that the Charles Walker Consolidation Bill which he carried through the Georgia Senate & Robin Williams took through the Georgia House of Representatives has been so troublesome for Augusta -- with Walker & Williams both serving time in the Estill, S.C. federal prison Augusta is left to pick up the pieces -- Augusta needs to do two things to bring itself into the 21st Century -- The first is to amend the Consolidation Charter to eliminate the need for a super-majority of the Commissioners (6 of 10) to approve anything -- a simple majority of a quorum present would change the dynamics completely -- the second is to get rid of the U.S. Justice Department having veto power over city voters -- this was instituted in the 1960's for forced integration when the city/county had a significant white population -- now the white's are the minority race -- these two changes would help to solve 80% of our problems

taxedtodeath
0
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taxedtodeath 10/30/09 - 09:28 am
0
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I don't care what color the

I don't care what color the supposed leaders are. If the blacks continue with the entitlement mentality and the whites continue to be a bunch of corrupt rednecks, everything will continue to be split down racial lines. They should be working together to better the entire community, not just one group or their friends. Until everyone in every community decides to throw all the bums out and start over, AUG will be what AUG is, which is not much.

concernednative
28
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concernednative 10/30/09 - 09:29 am
0
0
Riverman, we have had the

Riverman, we have had the convo about the racial politics of Augusta before. You are right. But, a transformational leader of either race could chance those mindsets. Augusta just doesn't have that type of leadership. A strong leader could make sure everyone got a fair shake and communicate that. I don't know of anyone in the pipeline that could do that. Helen Blocker-Adams was on to something but she didn't wait her turn so to speak with the Willie Mays situation. But someone with her approach could work but they would have to get the black community behind them first. She didn't she was told by several black leaders not to go against Mays & she did. I know this because I know one commissioner pretty well. Then she came back and didn't run against Deke and chose to run against another black state rep. If she wanted to be mayor she should have run against Deke after Mays was out the 2nd time that is who the black establishment wanted they didn't care about Few, Kendrick and certainly not Gilchrist. That made my parents livid. It just played into the conspiracy that Morris and the whites supported her to split the black vote and beat Mays.

harrisburgwillrise
0
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harrisburgwillrise 10/30/09 - 09:30 am
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Last night was the first time

Last night was the first time that I ever heard Woody speak, and I was impressed with his passion. A lot of us are becoming passionate about our city and its ineptitude. We want changes and not excuses. I will be happy to get involved to a greater degree to put pressure on our Commissioners to clean up their act. Our government is a disgrace to those of us who are still living in Richmond County and paying taxes. If raising property taxes is the only answer that the Commission and Fred Russell can come up with, they all need to go.

concernednative
28
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concernednative 10/30/09 - 09:30 am
0
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When she didn't run the 2nd

When she didn't run the 2nd time and the AC and others went silent on it.

jackfruitpaper833
41
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jackfruitpaper833 10/30/09 - 09:36 am
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CN I think Helen has no

CN I think Helen has no chance with the black vote, she has turned off MANY a people. I wouldn't vote for her now if she ran for corner store president, what's funny I worked on her campaign some years back and use to support her, but never again.

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