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.

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WW1949
19
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WW1949 10/30/09 - 09:41 am
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I do not know if taking the

I do not know if taking the power of the city from the people with money will help the situation. I do know that they must be smarter than those that do not have any. I don't think I would put any stock in the population that lives in govt. housing, gets SSI checks, welfare or food stamps in their ability to run anything nor would I count them if I were compiling a racial make up of accountable people. They are just slaves to a bad system that is made by the govt. to control by checks. It is a fact that if you push people with money too far they will close down and not give any away and the poor will not be better off. The people with foresight and the money to make it happen should run the city. They sure do pay the most in property taxes because they own the most and in income taxes because the make the most.

concernednative
28
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concernednative 10/30/09 - 09:43 am
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jack, she lost me when she

jack, she lost me when she challenged Quincy and not Deke. One year after running for mayor she acted like she had no interest in the job. It made me think that she was in on it and was for Deke all along. I mean she quickly endorsed him after telling the black community she would support Mays in a runoff. And it was fine for her to support Deke just don't get involved with a plan to sabotage Mays.

Bengal33
0
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Bengal33 10/30/09 - 09:44 am
0
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I left Augusta in 2005.

I left Augusta in 2005. Happiness is Disgusta in the rear view mirror knowing you will never need to come back and your tax dollars will not be wasted by the incompetent, racist government. Go to any public FREE event downtown (fireworks, First Friday) and you better be home by dark because the thugs take over. I never want to hear the sentence "hey Shorty - Can i get those digits?" from a hooptie ever again! You all know what I am saying and know this to be true...

jackfruitpaper833
41
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jackfruitpaper833 10/30/09 - 09:46 am
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0
Looks over at WW1949 and

Looks over at WW1949 and says, spoken like a true 60 year old, one who's mindset about welfare, SSI, food stamps, govt housing etc, who believes that to be a truth. I've always said people 40 and over (like you WW1949) has that mentality seared in their brain. Why is it?

taxedtodeath
0
Points
taxedtodeath 10/30/09 - 09:47 am
0
0
The black community turned on

The black community turned on her because she supported who she believed was the best candidate without regard to the color of their skin. So who exactly should be considered racist?

jackfruitpaper833
41
Points
jackfruitpaper833 10/30/09 - 09:51 am
0
0
Bengal33 I don't know what

Bengal33 I don't know what you are saying sorry, and sometimes in life we have to move on to bigger and better things and that's what you did congrats. Funny I've never even been to first friday, I have however to the 4th fireworks. What part of town you frequented to be called a shorty? And what is a hooptie? I"ver neard heard of it.

jackfruitpaper833
41
Points
jackfruitpaper833 10/30/09 - 09:53 am
0
0
Well it's to bad taxedtodeath

Well it's to bad taxedtodeath her political carreer is OVER. She will only be a mini woody, with a mini voice, with a mini following, and a mini wannabe.

Bengal33
0
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Bengal33 10/30/09 - 09:56 am
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Hi Jack - Thanks for the

Hi Jack - Thanks for the congrats - I highly recommend leaving and then using this site as entertainment! I am talking about downtown after dark. A hooptie is a low rider car equipped with hydraulics so it can "bounce"...It usually has a very bad/loud paint job and has lots of BASS coming from the stereo system that annoys about 98% of the population...

justthefacts
21945
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justthefacts 10/30/09 - 09:57 am
0
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After years of ineptitude

After years of ineptitude many ATL communities such as John's Creek and Dunwoody went to the State legislature for permission to leave Atlanta and form their own cities. I wonder if West Augusta would ever consider that option?

concernednative
28
Points
concernednative 10/30/09 - 10:04 am
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taxed, it is how she went

taxed, it is how she went about it. She made committments about backing Mays. Then why not run for mayor again just a year later after you did so well. No, she challenges another black leader in Q Murphy. It was just fishy to the black community.

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 10/30/09 - 10:04 am
0
0
jcakfruit, I may or may not

jcakfruit, I may or may not be 60 but I do work hard and I do resent the fact that the welfare crowd is getting bigger and thinks that they are owed what they get and I do not care what race they are.For your answer to Why is it? Consertatives have that mindset as you say and liberals do not. In my business I go all over Augusta area and I see what govt. handouts to the entitlement crowd has done to them. It is not good and as a general rule does not produce the type of person I would want to run anything. In my opinion they only take and do not give, they pay no income taxes, property taxes or anything that helps this county so that is why I do not believe they should be counted when making decisions about where to spend the money that the taxpaying citizens produce.

taxedtodeath
0
Points
taxedtodeath 10/30/09 - 10:19 am
0
0
Why should she have run a

Why should she have run a year later? The black community was very vocal in their attacks on her immediately. They did not wait a year later and then attack because of "how she went about it". If she did run again, they likely would not have supported her. So is the "how she went about it" just a cover to avoid having to admit "we won't support her because she supported a white person instead of a black"?

taxedtodeath
0
Points
taxedtodeath 10/30/09 - 10:31 am
0
0
jack - You are right, her

jack - You are right, her political career is most likely over. As I said before, who is racist, the people who got mad because she looked past skin color, or everyone else?

corgimom
32599
Points
corgimom 10/30/09 - 10:34 am
0
0
I receive Social Security

I receive Social Security disability and damn skippy, I pay taxes. I pay property tax, ad valorem tax, Federal income tax, State income tax, and sales tax. Just like everybody else.

butler123
1
Points
butler123 10/30/09 - 11:35 am
0
0
If the population of any city

If the population of any city is more one race than the other, it would just stand to reason that there would be more city officials of that race.

coco rubio
53
Points
coco rubio 10/30/09 - 11:48 am
0
0
i like augusta and love

i like augusta and love living & working here!!!

stillamazed
1488
Points
stillamazed 10/30/09 - 12:37 pm
0
0
If that was the case butler

If that was the case butler then half of the country would be run by hispanics then what would blacks and whites have to complain about? Augusta needs a council that is open minded enough to stop playing the race card everytime something doesn't go their way and I am talking black and white.

Boogaloo
1
Points
Boogaloo 10/30/09 - 01:26 pm
0
0
Watch out coco, there you go

Watch out coco, there you go "self promoting" again. LOL.

Pickett
67
Points
Pickett 10/30/09 - 01:37 pm
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0
I've only lived here a couple

I've only lived here a couple of years. I live in Columbia County and work in downtown Augusta. So, like many of you, I see the good and the bad. The bad? Augusta/Richmond County and its government. It is the most backwards thinking government I have ever encountered. Augusta itself is a stale and almost stagnant place to visit. There is obviously no updated infrastructure to speak of. I keep wondering why anyone outside the CSRA would visit this place at any given time other than Masters week. We need projects like the Tee center, Kroc center, and a new downtown baseball stadium. Those are things that bring people in and bring in revenue $$$. However, I'm of the opinion that the current leadership (Aug. commission) is not a worthy group to manage the money needed for these types of projects. They have a lot of other problems they need to get past before even thinking about that kind of thing. So, that leads us back to what Mr. Merry is saying. This collective is abysmal and there needs to be a change. I'm almost of the opinion that Augusta/Richmond Co. should be abandoned altogether and just start over in Columbia County. They seem to have their act together.

eachoneteachone
0
Points
eachoneteachone 10/30/09 - 01:46 pm
0
0
jackfruitpaper833 Why do you

jackfruitpaper833 Why do you class votes white and black? Isn't it more a fact of porperty owners and generational welfare? Inform me.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 10/30/09 - 02:08 pm
0
0
We have a community activist

We have a community activist who is actually stepping up to the plate to run for office to change things.. not be a shadow.. that man is Butch Palmer.

concernednative
28
Points
concernednative 10/30/09 - 02:10 pm
0
0
Taxedto, The AC, Morris and

Taxedto, The AC, Morris and many whites supported her the first time. That was her coalition. So why wouldn't she start with them to run the second time. Oh, they had gotten what they needed from her Deke was in office. Those people wouldn't touch her with a ten foot poll. The black community supported Mays the first time anyway. But if she would have handled thing better they would have come to her the second time. Instead she was used to try to take down Murphy. Now she is used up.

concernednative
28
Points
concernednative 10/30/09 - 02:11 pm
0
0
But you are right she should

But you are right she should endorse who she felt was the best candidate. The problem was she told the black community it was Mays until the last minute. It was the betrayal as much as anything.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 10/30/09 - 02:13 pm
0
0
For the record.. I voted for

For the record.. I voted for HBA the mayoral election. I still think she would have been a far more effective mayor than who we have now.

catfish201
0
Points
catfish201 10/30/09 - 02:14 pm
0
0
Helen has a problem balancing

Helen has a problem balancing her checkbook and this will forever be aproblem when asking voters to manage their money.

concernednative
28
Points
concernednative 10/30/09 - 02:31 pm
0
0
emerydan, I agree. I think

emerydan, I agree. I think she would have gotten in the community more. I think Deke can only deal with the west side of town. I just can't see him going out and talking in the streets to citizens in East and South Augusta.

CarlA
114
Points
CarlA 10/30/09 - 02:34 pm
0
0
I moved here to take a job.

I moved here to take a job. But all I can say is Augusta has the most potential but is also the most backwards. Just WOW! I'm moving back to Charleston. Can't wait!

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 10/30/09 - 02:48 pm
0
0
Maybe Mr Merry, Butch Palmer,

Maybe Mr Merry, Butch Palmer, and Lori davis can team up to take on the waste and corruption in Augusta's Government.

harrisburgwillrise
0
Points
harrisburgwillrise 10/30/09 - 04:03 pm
0
0
Pickett, I can appreciate

Pickett, I can appreciate your comments, because I feel the same way except one thing. None of these big projects will work until the area is free of crime. The surrounding neighborhoods must be revitalized before the the people will come. I live in Harrisburg, and my sister is in Westlake. I love the downtown area, but I have no children to be concerned about. If we clean up these areas (Chronic Nuisance Property Ordinance), we will be able to bring tax payers like myself, back to the Augusta area. Then and only then will we be able to afford and enjoy everything you are speaking of. The Kroc Center is on it's way, but has not been financed by one dime of tax payers money, and never will. This will be a great thing for the Harrisburg neighborhood, and just might start the overhaul that the city needs in order to succeed.

harrisburgwillrise
0
Points
harrisburgwillrise 10/30/09 - 04:06 pm
0
0
Emerydan, We have a new group

Emerydan,

We have a new group of energetic volunteers/activists whom I believe are up to the challenge. It is going to take more people like Lori Davis, Butch Palmer, and Woody Merry to get involved. Randy Potter would be another good one. I think Joe Neal would agree to help. It's time!

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