2009 has been a banner year for bad ideas

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Many bad ideas have come our way this year -- Gov. Mark Sanford not hiking the Appalachian Trail, Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson supporting pro-Atlanta Gas Light legislation and Gov. Sonny Perdue rescinding the state tax credit on county property-tax bills. And everyone has paid for them one way or another.

Gov. Sanford's wife is filing for divorce. Mr. Richardson has resigned. And your property-tax bill increased between $200 and $300. And now, from the geniuses who spent $37,000 for a study on the feasibility of a downtown trolley comes another brilliant idea that could even trump the plan to spend SPLOST money to dredge a lake in front of Regency Mall.

The Downtown Development Authority wants to install parking meters on Broad Street and charge you $1 an hour to park between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays. The intent, they say, is to increase the number of patrons for downtown businesses by forcing the turnover of parking spaces and allowing more customers to park near shops.

No, what they will do is increase the number of patrons for downtown drug dealers by enticing addicts to force the meters open and turn over the proceeds for a fix.

And who's going to write the tickets for people whose meters expire? Sheriff's deputies? Just don't tell the sheriff, whose budget for next year has been cut $1 million -- another bad idea in a list that's so long we must limit ourselves to the most egregious, which we shall call the worst of 2009, not including those in Washington because we don't have enough ink.

FIFTEEN MORE BAD IDEAS OF 2009:

1. Scheduling a social event at the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame gardens.

2. Announcing a groundbreaking for a downtown baseball stadium.

3. CH2MHill firing regional business manager Tony Johnson, which made some commissioners so mad they insisted on re-bidding OMI's contract for managing the city's wastewater treatment plant.

4. Locating the sheriff's office at Southgate Shopping Center to stop prostitution across Gordon Highway, although having the office on Fourth Street hasn't stopped it in Olde Town.

5. David Fry's offer to make Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason and Commissioner Corey Johnson parking deck magnates.

6. Another penny tax proposal, called MOST.

7. An application for a federal grant by Housing Director Chester Wheeler, Administrator Fred Russell and Mayor Deke Copenhaver, which sent the folks at Goshen into a tailspin at the thought of Section 8 housing.

8. Making the four-laning of Windsor Spring Road to Hephzibah the No. 1 road project, which really ticked off folks who drive on Mike Padgett Highway, Augusta's leading die-way.

9. Spending $500,000 on a study of how to get from the Burke County line to downtown Augusta.

10. Authorizing a $50,000 study of Regency Mall by F.A. Johnson Consulting Group, which the Richmond County Board of Health is suing, contending the group ripped SPLOST a new one on Mr. Johnson's contract. The $50,000 study is in addition to a $75,000 study commissioners authorized F.A. Johnson to do on Regency Mall in 2007.

11. A Georgia House proposal for a statewide tax to fund transportation in Atlanta.

12. General Counsel Chiquita Johnson's proposal to limit TV cameras in Augusta Commission chambers and ban media interviews everywhere except in a broom closet. Oh wait! That's not right. It's the committee room, which isn't much bigger, and it wouldn't even be available because that's where commissioners go behind closed doors immediately after the main meetings.

13. Chiquita Johnson's proposal to hire a staff to control city contracts.

14. Chiquita Johnson's proposal to change the city charter to make herself Czarina, chief inquisitor and law enforcement officer with more power than the administrator -- she could hire and fire; he can't -- the mayor and maybe even the commissioners themselves.

15. The mayor turning to Chiquita Johnson during a meeting and saying, "What do you think of this, Chiquita?"

COUP D'ETAT: Columbia County Republican Party Chairman Lawrence Hammond was ousted last week in a coup led by Pat Goodwin, Jim Bartley, Bob Beckham, Deanne Hall, Nita Boeglen, Dick Manion, Mike and YeSun Wiltse, Lee Benedict and George Snelling. They called a meeting and voted him out, just like that. They also commandeered the party's Web site and canceled a meeting Mr. Hammond had called for Jan. 11 to answer ethics complaints.

Mr. Hammond said the first battle of this insurrection erupted in July after the Columbia County Commission approved $12,000 for the Oglethorpe Public Affairs Group to lobby for the county's interests in state water rights issues. Ms. Goodwin and company wrote a resolution, condemning the commission action, and brought the document to a party meeting, where it was discussed and, depending on whom you listen to, either tabled or postponed. Mr. Hammond then proceeded to send it to commissioners because he thought it was going to be used against Chairman Ron Cross . Commissioners, predictably, were not amused by the resolution because they are not used to public criticism, as are their counterparts in Augusta, Mr. Cross being said to be particularly thin-skinned.

So Mr. Hammond appointed an ethics committee and put his brother Shawn on it, which the group rejected and thereupon appointed their own with Brett McGuire as chairman, according to ousted chairman Hammond, who called it the "Brett McGuire vs. Ron Cross" for commission chairman campaign committee.

The only person in the party who can appoint a committee is the chairman, Mr. Hammond said, but that's debatable now.

"They've chosen to kick me out," he said. "It's another haphazard stunt. It's not fair. It's not the right way for Republicans to act."

Well, at least he wasn't whisked out of the country on a private jet in his pajamas like the recently ousted Honduran president was.

IF YOU KNOW WHAT A FRYING SPIDER IS, ARE YOU AN ANTIQUE? My maternal grandmother referred to what we know as a frying pan as a "spider." I asked Ernie if he'd ever heard of such a thing. He said he hadn't but would like to know the history of the term. So I went on the Internet and came across an article titled There's History in Your Frying Pan in a 2001 edition of the Journal of Antiques and Collectibles.

It was written by Alice Ross, my mother's married name, which I thought was quite a coincidence.

"Surprisingly, the term spider is American in origin, according to both sides of the Atlantic: The Dictionary of Americanisms (1951) and The Oxford Dictionary agree. The earliest reference offered is an American advertisement: The Pa. Packet (1790) announced that 'William Robinson, Junr ... Hath for Sale ... bake pans, spiders, skillets.' Note the distinction between spiders and skillets (long-handled, legged stew pots.) By applying a certain logic to Robinson's advertisement, the spider, being neither a bake pan nor a stew pan, is by default a frying pan. And so it seems to have been, according to clues in the pots themselves and in the recipes."

BACK TO BEDROCK: All the bills were spread out before me, and there was no good news.

"Listen to this," I said. "It's a legal notice about changes to this credit card account. Two pages, back and front. It says, 'Under this method, we calculate finance charges on your account by applying the DPR to the Average Daily Balance (including current transactions) separately for each balance subject to finance charges (as described below.)....

Ernie interrupted to say the banks and credit card companies have changed all the rules to their advantage because the laws are going to change next year, and there's nothing we can do about it.

"It will all go back," he said. "The pendulum will swing once they lose all their customers and nobody will accept what they're doing, and they screw everybody they can screw, and they force everybody into bankruptcy. And then it will all be over. How's that? Does that help?"

"Yes, but just listen to this," I said, reading on. " 'To get an average daily balance for a balance, we (1.) Take the beginning balance for each day (including unpaid finance charges from previous billing periods), (2.) Add any new transactions, debits or fees (3.) Subtract any payments or credits credited as of that day, and (4.) Make any appropriate adjustments. For each day after the first day of the billing period, we also add an amount of interest equal to the previous day's balance multiplied by the previous day's DPR for that balance. This gives us the daily ...' "

Ernie interrupted again to say he didn't want to discuss it.

"Like I said before, they are screwing us, and they are taking advantage, every advantage, and increasing every fee and every interest rate that they can because the law's changing, and when it does, they can't do it. But now, while no regulations exist at all, they can do what they want to do, and they can raise your interest rates up to 400 percent if they want to. If you don't owe anything on that card, don't even try to figure it out."

I was sorry I brought it up.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228.

Comments (40) Add comment
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thewiz0oz
9
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thewiz0oz 12/13/09 - 02:48 am
0
0
Yes -- 2009 has belay been a

Yes -- 2009 has belay been a b___h -- but the District 1 election has made the year outstanding -- to break up the 5-5 color logjam on the Commission is the best news for Augusta in 15 years -- hopefully a year from now we will realize the benefits -- a political system based on anything but competence and focused decisions to solving problems is doomed -- eventually it would have forced the City into receivership --Santa came early this year -- HAPPY NEW YEAR

Brad Owens
4906
Points
Brad Owens 12/13/09 - 06:29 am
0
0
The Dirty Deals Authority

The Dirty Deals Authority (DDA) needs to be defunded and made to admin parking decks they own ONLY. Leave the development to the private sector and other arms of the government that are not completely corrupt.

justus4
113
Points
justus4 12/13/09 - 08:00 am
0
0
Wow! That first paragraph was
Unpublished

Wow! That first paragraph was extremely telling, so where is the daily opinion pieces about these despicable individuals. Where is the daily speculation about their life choices or their personal values? Where is the LTEs voicing the intellectual hypocrisy of a party, whose elected representatives act in such a manner? AWOL. These are local government officials that local taxpayers should attempt to hold accountable, more so than even those in Washington. Because as stated, "everyone has paid for them one way or another" and with that everyone can agree.

roebling
25
Points
roebling 12/13/09 - 08:40 am
0
0
Great column but your third

Great column but your third complaint. Georgia's state tax credit for county taxes disproportionately subsidizes high-tax counties. I moved from a high-tax county to a neighboring low-tax county to reduce my tax bill but, less obviously, to reduce the human tax of compliance with the burdensome bureaucracies engendered by those additional taxes. The counties should compete on value and Perdue's initiative simply levels the field.

apex24
0
Points
apex24 12/13/09 - 08:58 am
0
0
For Gods sake don't let

For Gods sake don't let Chiquita take over!!!!!!

Riverman1
93452
Points
Riverman1 12/13/09 - 09:24 am
0
0
The city is going to "study"

The city is going to "study" its way to the poorhouse while a few go to the penthouse.

fred1217
4
Points
fred1217 12/13/09 - 09:59 am
0
0
Justus4, have not thou

Justus4, have not thou forgotten Ronald Wilson Reagan's 11th Commandment that shalt not be broken? &#0133'Thou shalt not speak ill of any other republican.' No matter whether they start a fake war based on false intelligence; fly down to Argentina to mess around with their soul mate; or drive drunk into a telephone pole; Thou shalt ignore Republican transgressions and print as much dirt as you can on Democrats. Sylvia's probably bound by this by her contract.

corgimom
38314
Points
corgimom 12/13/09 - 10:27 am
0
0
Squash the Banana!

Squash the Banana!

jbartley
619
Points
jbartley 12/13/09 - 11:36 am
0
0
I thank Brett McGuire was

I thank Brett McGuire was Hammond's campain manager when he ran for the chairman of the school board in 08, I wander what Hammond did to Brett McGuire to open his eye's to how EVIL Hammond is! I have also have been told Hammond was VOTED off the Board of director's of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce!

FoxRox
13
Points
FoxRox 12/13/09 - 01:18 pm
0
0
Sylvia, I'm not an antique

Sylvia, I'm not an antique (yet), but having received from my loving mom the entire set of Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I know exactly what a 'spider' is. Out on the prairie, Ma fried slices of fat salt pork in the iron spider, which had short legs to stand in the coals, and that's why it was called a spider. If it had no legs, it would be only a frying pan. Just a bit of history for you.

Riverman1
93452
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Riverman1 12/13/09 - 01:45 pm
0
0
848654, I just saw your post

848654, I just saw your post on the News Times thread. Explain it to me. Was Hammond a supporter of the Oglethorpe contract or was it the other guys?

jbartley
619
Points
jbartley 12/13/09 - 02:14 pm
0
0
I would guess he was a

I would guess he was a supporter of Oglethorpe since this all started when the board questioned the hiring of Oglethorpe.

blues550
380
Points
blues550 12/13/09 - 02:20 pm
0
0
One REALLY good idea -
Unpublished

One REALLY good idea - Disband the totalliy worthless Downtown Development Authority.

brookslaw
0
Points
brookslaw 12/13/09 - 03:28 pm
0
0
Columbia County Republican

Columbia County Republican Party is such an incestuous group. Pat Goodwin and Jim Bartley live together without the benefit of marriage. Mike and Ye Sun Wiltse at least are married. Dick Manion and Bob Beckham have been acting badly together since prior to electricity was brought to the county.
I would have expected better from Pat Goodwin, she is a community leader with positions in the Chamber, Economic Development and Leadership Columbia County. She even employed by the State of Georgia! Jim Bartley's asinine behavior is well known. Bartley has slandered Hammond to the point that court action is necessary to stop this blowhard. Nita Boeglan is a realtor, and I am not sure she has the mental acuity to force a coup, but her boyfriend Senator Bill Jackson does. He might be worried about Hammond's so-called political aspirations. George Snelling has money and is willing to write checks. The CCRP will not wipe their own behind without asking his permission. Poor Lee Benedict is a sweet guy, but plays 'follow the leader' a bit too well. As a campaign staffer for Austin Scott, he should be careful which side he picks. Blowback is tough for an under-funded candidate.

brookslaw
0
Points
brookslaw 12/13/09 - 03:37 pm
0
0
I hope that the GaGOP will

I hope that the GaGOP will see this coup for what it is a witch hunt with no merit. A good house cleaning is needed for the CCRP to move forward.

LBenedict
2
Points
LBenedict 12/13/09 - 07:13 pm
0
0
brookslaw, I have first hand

brookslaw, I have first hand knowledge of the situation, and this "article" is about 180 degrees in the wrong direction. You DID notice that Sylvia was just writing words about a situation she knows nothing about since she neglected to ask the CCRP Executive Board for comment???

brookslaw
0
Points
brookslaw 12/13/09 - 07:29 pm
0
0
I too have 'first hand

I too have 'first hand knowledge" Sylvia has been doing this column longer than you have been involved in politics, I doubt she would write anything without having sources.

brookslaw
0
Points
brookslaw 12/13/09 - 07:34 pm
0
0
Also, if the CCRP was

Also, if the CCRP was following the rules and had sufficient evidence for removal, why was this ouster done in such a hurried fashion? Why not allow Hammond to present his case and then kick him out? Who's going to run the party? Bartley? Goodwin? You? The only way anyone will be allowed to take the role of Chairman is if the 'powers that be' think the candidate has puppet strings. Lee, you want to be Chairman?

LBenedict
2
Points
LBenedict 12/13/09 - 07:40 pm
0
0
So, Sylvia has been doing

So, Sylvia has been doing this column, the piece on the CCRP, longer than I have been involved in politics? I doubt that one very much. What does the duration of this column have to do with facts of THIS particular situation? NOTHING. She was not at any called meeting. She put some names in bold letters, but failed to get comments from them. Hmmn. She is so far off base about what happened it is pathetic and textbook irresponsible journalism. She may have sources, and probably does. But she needs a few credible ones. I can assure you that this is not a coup or a witch hunt. I trust that the process will work, and until this is over, I have nothing further to say.

LBenedict
2
Points
LBenedict 12/13/09 - 07:44 pm
0
0
This was not done in a

This was not done in a hurried fashion...unless you find 3 months to be hurried. Things were done by the book, and, Hammond refused to answer within 30 days of receiving the documentation. No, I do not want to be Chairman, but thanks for asking. By the way, why do you hide behind a pseudonym?

Riverman1
93452
Points
Riverman1 12/13/09 - 10:43 pm
0
0
I finally got it. I'm on the

I finally got it. I'm on the side of Pat Goodwin, Jim Bartley, Bob Beckham, Deanne Hall, Nita Boeglen, Dick Manion, Mike and YeSun Wiltse, Lee Benedict and George Snelling. So now the reason given for paying Oglethrope is to represent Columbia Cty in water rights issues? When they were first hired that was not given as a reason. Are they trying to come up with justification for the money?

brookslaw
0
Points
brookslaw 12/13/09 - 11:18 pm
0
0
Oglethorpe Consulting is not

Oglethorpe Consulting is not the issue. The issue is Brett McGuire vs. Ron Cross. Hammond is really not the issue. The issue is who is controlling the party and in turn who is controlling the purse strings. I truly hope that who ever gets the chairmanship will no longer let the Manion/Beckham/Boeglen/Bartley/Goodwin run the party from the background, and will allow new people to join and contribute. Maybe the 'Super Secret Ex. Board meeting" on Sunday will help move things along.

augustalawyer
0
Points
augustalawyer 12/13/09 - 11:42 pm
0
0
The CCRP became more than

The CCRP became more than irrevalent when Bob Beckham and his mob tried to take it over the first time around 10 years ago. Bob and his cronies at the time met at a local lawyers office until the lawyer kicked them out. The recent takeover by Bob and his mob is their most recent attempt to set up a shadow government like Woody Merry in Richmond County. Besides, if the CCRP actually had any real influence then explain why almost all of the elected officials boycott their meetings.

FormerAugustaResident
116
Points
FormerAugustaResident 12/14/09 - 07:25 am
0
0
irrevalent?

irrevalent?

jegreencreek
0
Points
jegreencreek 12/14/09 - 08:00 am
0
0
The parking meters create

The parking meters create more problems than they could possibly solve. There is no enforcement of the current rules so why think there would be enforcement of the new suggestions?If the answer is that the new will be enforced then why not enforce what exists and eliminate the need for meters, thus saving the million dollars and the additional cost associated with maintenance and operation?

Riverman1
93452
Points
Riverman1 12/14/09 - 09:27 am
0
0
FormerAugustaResident,

FormerAugustaResident, realize you can't correct typos now since the edit function doesn't work. We all spell a word wrong now and then and if you can't edit, you are stuck. Lighten up.

jbartley
619
Points
jbartley 12/14/09 - 09:44 am
0
0
Bob Beckham was appointed to

Bob Beckham was appointed to the board by Hammond.Beckham had a meeting at his home to get support for Hammond to be Chairman. Hammond could have removed Beckham at any time he wanted because he appointed HIM!!!!!!!!!!!

jbartley
619
Points
jbartley 12/14/09 - 10:37 am
0
0
augustalawyer Beckham is a

augustalawyer Beckham is a 75+ year old man who's hand shake like a leaf and has other health problems!!!!! He is no threat to any one, you attack women and cripples just like Hammond.

m.seda
0
Points
m.seda 01/30/10 - 08:28 pm
0
0
If you are accusing Hammond

If you are accusing Hammond of attacking women and cripples with out any proof that is libel.

Riverman1
93452
Points
Riverman1 12/14/09 - 02:42 pm
0
0
I'm still learning about this

I'm still learning about this situation. Was Hammond an owner of the restaurant in Evans?

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