Thanksgiving will be upon us, dripping in fat and calories, in just a few days, so it's time to hand out the 2009 Turkey of the Year awards to the lucky folks who have earned them with bird-brained carryings-on this year.
We will begin with the Defrosted Turkey award, which goes to Richmond County Board of Education officials and their energy conservation team members who are searching out and photographing school personnel's minifridges. It's sort of like an Old Stove Roundup, but different because they're not out to replace them with new ones but to get rid of them altogether. They estimate it will save a whopping $9,600 a year in the school system's $256 million budget. Of course, having the team go to all 59 schools and board offices to search for hidden minifridges in classrooms and offices will probably cost at least that much, not to mention the hazards it could present to teachers' health.
Don't take away the minifridges,
For no teachers will remain
Their yogurt cups will sour,
And they'll all die of ptomaine.
District 1 Augusta Commission Candidate Matt Aitken gets the Turducken Award for ducking forums with candidate William Fennoy , whom he faces in a Dec. 1 runoff. I guess he doesn't want to stick his neck out.
Mr. Fennoy gets the Turkey Bologna award for saying he should win because he's black and Mr. Aitken is white.
All of the losers in the commission and school board races get Turkey Leftover awards.
Citizen activist Woody Merry gets the Mad Turkey Disease award for trotting around all over the place pecking furiously at city officials and ruffling everybody's feathers with near libelous accusations.
The Cooked Goose award goes to Operations Management International, the company that managed the city's sewer plant for 10 years but got basted in the recent bidding and lost the contract and all the gravy that goes along with it to ESG Operations Inc. And who knows? Some of the gravy might even splash onto state Sen. J.B. Powell , as it did after OMI got the contract.
The Deep Fried Turkey award goes to attorney David Fry , who was arrested and charged with trying to bribe Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason and Commissioner Corey Johnson to vote for the trade, exhibit and event center.
Commissioners Joe Bowles and Don Grantham get Fighting Turkey awards for their dispute over naming the new judicial center in honor of retired Georgia Court of Appeals Chief Judge John Ruffin . The Marble Palace powers that be, aka judges, didn't want the center named for Judge Ruffin or anyone else. At least that's what they said. So they prevailed upon the five white Augusta commissioners to vote against Mr. Johnson's proposal to name it for Judge Ruffin, and all five agreed to stand firm.
Mr. Grantham coincidentally went out of town on business, which ensured there wouldn't be a tie vote for Mayor Deke Copenhaver to break. The vote on the first round failed 5-4. Then, amid all the tension, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Bowles held a high-level meeting behind their chairs and came out with a motion to name the facility The Augusta Judicial Center and John H. Ruffin Courthouse, and that passed with Mr. Bowles providing the sixth vote. Mr. Grantham was so mad at Mr. Bowles we're making him a double winner with the Hot Turkey award.
Former state Sen. Ed Tarver gets the Bob Young Turkey award for flying the coop and going to work for the feds. And Turkey Wing awards go to State Court Solicitor Harold Jones and state Rep. Hardie Davis , who want to fly up to the next branch and fill Mr. Tarver's empty Senate seat.
Mr. Young and Mr. Copenhaver get Turkey Ham awards for their movie roles.
The Flying Turkey award goes to Commissioner Calvin Holland , who flew to a four-day National League of Cities conference in San Antonio and sent you the bill. Well, that's the least you can do for him as a going-away present, although he won't be able to share all those new ideas he picked up there.
The Turkey Egg award goes to City Administrator Fred Russell , who is always hatching new ways to balance the budget.
Cold Turkey awards go to criminals in Augusta who fought the law and found out, too late, the law won.
And finally, the Turkey of the Year award goes to City Attorney Chiquita Johnson for trying to expand her office with a compliance officer and assistant to oversee city contracts, as well as a public information officer, perhaps to tell everybody how great she is.
The judge was torn between her and Mr. Merry, but the scales were tipped in her favor when the judge heard she wants to banish all but one TV camera from commission chambers, making the others sit in the committee room outside the main hall and relegating all interviews to the hallway. The next thing you know, it will be tape recorders and then reporters' scratchy pens she wants out. Where will it end?
Sources say the only reason she hasn't yet put a resolution before commissioners is that the votes aren't there to pass it. Maybe she doesn't know how much politicians love to see themselves on TV.
READING THE TEE LEAVES: Could it be Commissioner J.R. Hatney and Co. are warming up to the TEE on Reynolds Street because they fear Mr. Aitken will win the District 1 race, and they want to cut the best deal for themselves while they still are able to force 5-5 splits on the board?
COMPLETING THE CIRCUIT: The field is getting crowded for the State Court solicitor's office. So far, four people say they will apply to fill Mr. Jones' office when he resigns to run for Mr. Tarver's vacant District 22 Senate seat. They are attorney Robert "Bo" Hunter , who held the office from 1989 to 1997; P.J. Campanaro , chief assistant solicitor; and attorneys Greg Leopard and Chuck Evans .
Mr. Leopard, of the Fleming Ingram Floyd & Leopard law firm, is a 33-year-old Augusta native. Ms. Campanaro, 35, has spent five of her seven years as a prosecutor in the Augusta solicitor's office. She lives in Columbia County but said she has spoken with the state attorney general and secretary of state's offices, and they said because it is a circuit-wide office anyone who lives in the judicial circuit is eligible.
THEY CAME TO PRAISE HAROLD BUT BURIED HIM IN WORDS. Among the 150 or so people at Mr. Jones' fundraiser at Henry Brigham Center last week were state Reps. Quincy Murphy , Gloria Frazier and Wayne Howard ; Mr. Mason; Mr. Johnson and Mr. Holland; and Commissioner-elect Bill Lockett . And they all had to speak before Mr. Jones came out. They were supposed to limit the speeches to two minutes, but the timekeeper must have been asleep, and you know how politicians love the sound of their own voices. Ms. Frazier went on so long folks around me started asking, "Has it been two minutes yet?"
MUMBLING, STUMBLING AND ONE LAST CHANCE: Superior Court Judge Jim Blanchard opened drug court in Augusta last week with the Pledge of Allegiance. But first he reminded everyone to think of the soldiers overseas fighting to keep them safe.
It was a full house, and there were a couple of relapses the judge had to send back to jail for a few days to get their attention. And there were some stars he rewarded with Chick-fil-A or Krystal coupons.
Somebody named Big Mac was back in the program, and Judge Blanchard welcomed him and everybody applauded. Big Mac stood up and started singing, "I just want to thank the Lord today."
Some of the people the judge called on to recite the 12 steps of the 12-step program stood up, spoke clearly and recited them all. Others barely mumbled their way through the first step.
Dwayne , the former addict I told you about, who got sent back to the pokey for a week after he tested positive for marijuana, is still behaving himself, but he can't find a job because he has a felony record. He says he's a really good artist and house painter.
"You're an addict," the judge told a habitual violator named Edward before he explained the strict drug court requirements. "There are three things that can happen to you. You can overdose and die. You can go to prison, come out and relapse and go back to prison. Or you can get in the program."
Edward, who had a record of DUIs and other criminal offenses dating back to the early '90s, was last arrested for manufacturing methamphetamine and marijuana possession. He'd been pulled over by officers, who found a meth lab behind the driver's seat.
"You're lucky," the judge told him. "I've sentenced people for manufacturing methamphetamine to 10 and 15 years in jail."
Then he laid down the law to Edward, telling him he must attend counseling every day at first; be tested for drugs three times a week; attend drug court once a week; abide by a curfew that would be checked randomly, sometimes twice a night and could include looking into his refrigerator; make payments to the court; sign away his Fourth Amendment rights; and expect to go to jail on the latest charges, as well as any others he might receive if he strays from the fold.
"Be at Jones Behavioral at 8 o'clock in the morning," Judge Blanchard ordered. "Not 8:01."
It's going to be interesting to see what Edward does with what could be his last chance.
Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228.