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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Riverman1
84926
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Riverman1 10/30/09 - 04:06 pm
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CarlA, I don't think we'll

CarlA, I don't think we'll bump into you south of Broad when we go to Charleston. Rivers Ave. probably.

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 10/30/09 - 04:17 pm
0
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Harrisburgwillrise... is that

Harrisburgwillrise... is that the Randy Potter who wrote the letter to the editor in today's paper? That was awesome, and he sounds like a great advocate and spokesperson for this movement. Joe Neal is very much respected in the community and I am sure could draw more attention to this movement. If Butch Palmer could get elected to the commission then that would really shake things up. Hopefully Mr Merry is supporting him.

jojo55
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jojo55 10/30/09 - 04:34 pm
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Riverman, Augusta has had a

Riverman, Augusta has had a black mayor with black commissioners, where were you??????

lifelongresidient
0
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lifelongresidient 10/30/09 - 04:56 pm
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jack you better watch out

jack you better watch out andy cheek, i believe he is still working behind the scenes w/various commissioners (1 poss joe bowles) to keep the ellis street option proposal alive and well until next splost time in an attempt to get another possible 50-100 million dollar bond issue to flood ellis street. if that happens look for him to MOVE BACK TO AUGUSTA FROM N. AUGUSTA AND RUN FOR A SEAT ON THE COMMISSION AGAIN

jojo55
0
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jojo55 10/30/09 - 04:58 pm
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Riverman1, we have had a

Riverman1, we have had a black mayor in Augusta with black comissioners, where were you????

jojo55
0
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jojo55 10/30/09 - 06:09 pm
0
0
Riverman1 has left the

Riverman1 has left the building : ( Someone didn't do his homework on the history of Augusta.

Boogaloo
1
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Boogaloo 10/30/09 - 06:18 pm
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0
Augusta is not going

Augusta is not going "nowhere", Augusta is "nowhere".

Riverman1
84926
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Riverman1 10/30/09 - 06:33 pm
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Jojo, I heard you, I heard

Jojo, I heard you, I heard you. :). Yeah, I know and some say Ed kept things running smoothly. Yep, I know he was a crook, too. But do y'all see what I mean? If we had a good black mayor and maybe the super district Commissioner were black, possibly they would be more ready to accept suggestions from the whites to keep the city running in a beneficial manner. I can promise you one thing, it ain't going the other way with whites gaining more Commission seats. The county continues to increase in black residents and decrease in whites.

concernednative
28
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concernednative 10/30/09 - 06:35 pm
0
0
To Riverman's defense that

To Riverman's defense that was before consolidation and before Augusta was majority black. It is a totally different animal now.

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 10/30/09 - 06:43 pm
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One thing is for certain..

One thing is for certain.. the city charter will not be amended to end the gridlock by giving the mayor more power and ending the abstention mess until Augusta has a black mayor under consolidation. The way the demographics are shifting and if ppl vote purely based on race, then that is VERY likely in the next election. But who are these black leaders? So far I just don't see any transformative leaders emerging. The thing is, the black community needs to move away from the walker machine just like the whites need to move away from the likes of Don Grantham and Billy Morris running the show on the westside.

corgimom
33199
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corgimom 10/30/09 - 07:03 pm
0
0
"We need projects like the

"We need projects like the Tee center, Kroc center, and a new downtown baseball stadium." Help me out here, the Kroc center will bring in tourists? What? Homeless tourists, maybe?

eachoneteachone
0
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eachoneteachone 10/30/09 - 09:03 pm
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The downtown development

The downtown development authority and the canal authority heads earn over two hundred thousand dollars of hard earned tax payer money. This is simply too much money for the return. Their are qualified people will happily do both jobs for less than half of that amount. What other authorities and boards need shaving?

jojo55
0
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jojo55 10/30/09 - 09:08 pm
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If you want a good and honest

If you want a good and honest black man for mayor, Bobby Hankerson fits that bill. He would do a lot for Augusta and he does not see color. You do not see Mr. Hankerson in color, only as a good hard working intelligent man.

concernednative
28
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concernednative 10/30/09 - 09:48 pm
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emerydan, you are correct.

emerydan, you are correct. My main problem with the black leadership in Augusta is they believe in the way your turn system. By then the person is old and has been groomed by the older people too much. We will see with Mason and Johnson. I think Mason will go to the state level or make a push for mayor. I think Kendrick is probably the best choice however. He has some understanding us business along with a non divisive approach. The Walker machine is almost dead unless it is Johnson's aim to hold it until Charles is a free man. No one has his charisma, smarts, and drive so I doubt if they can hold it for him unless he is released early and cleared of wrongdoing. But, I can easily see another white mayor with the non partisan way they do things. Get to a run off and the black vote won't show up twice is the logic.

concernednative
28
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concernednative 10/30/09 - 09:55 pm
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0
Bobby Hankerson, LOL.

Bobby Hankerson, LOL. Augusta needs someone that understand economic development and crime prevention. Bobby is well suited for other things to help the community but not mayor.

spartan22
0
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spartan22 10/31/09 - 01:24 am
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I agree with Woody

I agree with Woody completely. 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 history-making, potentially futuristic vibrant city go down the tubes because of exactly the reasons listed above and the town has no future of jobs which is why I left. Corruption and good ol boy network for decades.Not proud of where I am from, so I made a start of somewhere else. And its the city--was the city has always been the city - now looking over and seeing all the stumbling and falling down like no other Southern city I have witnessed. Dave Hansen, Dallas, TX

jb5365
0
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jb5365 10/31/09 - 05:47 am
0
0
If Disgusta is such a

If Disgusta is such a wonderful place why can`t I sell my property and get the hell out? I am disgusted with the whole kit and kaboodle.

WW1949
19
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WW1949 10/31/09 - 10:06 am
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jb5365, haven't you heard

jb5365, haven't you heard that real estate values are down and sales are off. There are over 6100 homes for sale in Richmond County. Augusta is better off than most places because of the military, hospitals, SRS and manufacturing. Think twice.

gooddaysunshine
0
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gooddaysunshine 11/03/09 - 09:50 am
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(Commissioner Grantham is

(Commissioner Grantham is shady. He needs to go.) We tried but the Chronicle and Austin Rhodes smeared John Butler! There is no way real caring people want to get involved in this TOXIC mess we call our government. I don't really even want to vote today..it is so hopeless & sad.

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