Never-ending election season to usher in new year
City Ink
By Sylvia Cooper| Columnist
Sunday, December 27, 2009

Elections rounded out 2009 in Augusta, and 2010 will begin with another, as voters go to the polls Jan. 5 to fill the vacant District 22 state Senate seat with either a Libertarian or one of three Democrats -- two of them elected officials who decided the grass was greener on the other side of the fence, and the other a music professor.

While Libertarian Taylor Bryant and Democrat Sandra Scott make the political forums more interesting -- Mr. Bryant with his statements about lower taxes and not spending other people's money amid a roomful of Democrats, and Ms. Scott with her penchant to burst out in song at any moment -- the real heat is between state Rep. Hardie Davis and former Richmond County State Court Solicitor Harold Jones .

During a recent forum, Mr. Davis alluded to Mr. Jones' endorsements from Augusta Commissioner Calvin Holland , Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason and state Reps. Quincy Murphy , Wayne Howard and Gloria Frazier .

"We're still fighting the perception of the old boss system, where a few misguided elected officials want to decide who gets elected, what issues they will address without regard to the entire community," Mr. Davis said.

Mr. Jones countered by saying, "I have a great relationship with those members, but when we start talking about bosses, I'm very offended by that because on my opponent's literature when he was asking for money, he put Don Grantham on there. Is Don Grantham his boss? He put J.B. Powell on there. Is J.B. Powell his boss? He put members who live in Columbia County. Is Columbia County his boss? This is nothing but a framework of those who represent me. They've asked me to be a part of their team."

Mr. Davis then said that as their next state senator he has a responsibility to represent the entire community's interests, "not special interests, not a group of folks who want to decide whether you make decisions, whether you get an opportunity in this community."

"And when we talk about those individuals who have provided funds for me, guess what?" he asked. "Those are the same folks who have supported many of the commissioners in Augusta. These are the exact same folks who have provided funding and resources for my opponent. And at the end of the day, most folks who are elected in Augusta go to the same folks for resources."

When a little bird told Mr. Grantham what Mr. Jones said at the forum, Mr. Grantham said he was delighted he was being used as an example because that indicates he has strong leadership.

"They're paying me a compliment," he said.

"And I hope everyone who reads about this will vote for Hardie Davis. The future of Augusta looks brighter with the leadership within the commission and within the delegation with Hardie Davis being elected."

CHECKING BOTH WAYS: Looking back and forward with the Boy King and His Court:

Mayor Deke Copenhaver will seek the crown once again next year.

"There were times I was so frustrated, I considered not running," he said. "But I decided to stay a part of the team. But the voters will have to rehire me."

Memorable events for the mayor in 2009 were the debates over the trade, exhibit and event center and Laney-Walker/Bethlehem revitalization.

"Losing my father, Bill Copenhaver, was for me personally a big part of my year," he said.

"But all the major recognition we've had in national business publications has been a great way to close out the year. And having a small part in the No. 1 movie of the year is something I never saw coming. But overall, 2009 has been a great learning experience, and it laid the foundation for great things to come for the city."

He looks for the city to be transformed in 2010 with the Laney-Walker initiative picking up speed, the TEE center coming up out of the ground, as well as the new Hyatt Place Hotel by the Augusta Common, construction on the Kroc Center and completion of St. Sebastian Way and the library.

His New Year's resolution, which is always the same but never realized, is to play more golf, see more movies and relax more.

Don Grantham looks back a little further than 2009 to find what he considers to be perhaps the best thing he has done as a commissioner, and that was getting commissioners to get out of derivative water bond deals that could have sunk the city.

"Had we continued down that path, information presented by our financial bond adviser indicates the city of Augusta could be broke," he said.

He's also proud of his input into the Laney-Walker/Bethlehem project and the work he put into trying to remedy the Hyde Park flooding situation.

"And I'm also proud of my work on the TEE center and Gilbert Manor," he said. "It was partly my idea to get the funding for Gilbert Manor from the local banks and to save money with the bonding of that project and to get SPLOST passed to pay for that so it is not a burden on property owners. "

"That, along with other things I contributed to in my way, I look forward to finishing in my final year as commissioner in 2010," he said.

His New Year's resolution is for the commission to become more workable with better relationships among all commissioners and all races.

Corey Johnson says the TEE center and Laney-Walker/Bethlehem were the biggest obstacles of 2009, and the most memorable event was attorney David Fry offering him and Mr. Mason management positions in a parking deck in exchange for their votes for the center.

Another highlight for Mr. Johnson was helping get former Georgia Court of Appeals Chief Justice John Ruffin's name on the new judicial center.

He looks forward to a major infrastructure project in the Hyde Park area and the eventual relocation of its residents.

Mr. Johnson's New Year's resolution is to do better next year than he did this year as a commissioner and continue to build great relationships with his colleagues.

Joe Jackson looks back at the past year and says, "Good riddance to the stalemate we had." He looks forward to commissioners letting Administrator Fred Russell do his job and for commissioners to do theirs and quit meddling in the department heads' business.

Joe Bowles sees his re-election to the District 3 seat with 80 percent of the vote, along with a proposal for a chronic nuisance property ordinance he hopes will be passed next year, as memorable events.

He looks forward to making government more efficient in 2010 by streamlining some departments and cutting expenses.

His New Year's resolution is to make sure Wheeler and Wrightsboro roads are made attractive with the help of volunteers and business owners.

Jimmy Smith found working with city department heads in 2009 to be "a delight" because of their cooperation and follow-through.

"And those ladies in (City Clerk Lena Bonner's ) office and Fred Russell's office and the mayor's office are top notch," he said. "I've made some new friends and some good friends. '09 has been the best year for me since I've been here."

Mr. Smith's New Year's resolution is to try to keep some of the promises he made when he came on the commission, such as getting dirt roads paved and working to get Georgia Highway 56 widened from Tobacco Road to Brown Road.

Jerry Brigham says he expects things to be different next year, with more of the same.

"I don't think things are going to change a helluva lot," he said. "I just have a feeling."

He predicts that city records will be more open next year and that there will be more Augusta attorneys in the law department.

Quotes of the Year

Joe Bowles on the perception of Augusta's government improving as more young commissioners are elected:

"Because we don't play by the old rules. I really think that's the issue now. It's the new school versus the old school."

Mr. Mason on city attorney Chiquita Johnson's proposed ordinance that would give her office police powers:

"It's got to be one of the most ridiculous documents I've seen. ... This is absolutely too much power for any individual to have within this government. This is what's ridiculous."

Ms. Johnson, after commissioners rejected her proposed ordinances:

"I'm trying to do what a county attorney ... what a general counsel would do in a city the size of Augusta. ... we have not had it here, and we don't conduct business the way normal governments conduct business."

From Commissioner Betty Beard's farewell speech:

"I honestly think there is a network that is a part of this city, and I don't think it's good for the city. I think this network will do anything it thinks it needs to do in order to move their agendas forward."

Richmond County school bus driver Sallie Thomas :

"I'm going by a wing and a prayer if your kids get to school, maybe, but it ain't my fault."

UNDERSTATEMENT. "It's just difficult to get people out to vote." -- District 1 commission candidate William Fennoy after his defeat by Matt Aitken

City Ink's predictions

- A parking meter salesman will jump off the Brooklyn Bridge.

- Headhunters will come looking for Mr. Russell, and Ms. Johnson will get hers served on a platter.

- Jimmy Smith will spend his last year waiting for that last meeting and counting on Don Grantham to tell him when it's over.

- Mr. Grantham will spend his last year wishing it was not going to be over.

- The open records act will rise from the dead.

To Absent Friends

Jesse Redd, joined the Augusta Police Department in 1945 and moved to the Richmond County Sheriff's Department in 1947. He also served as coroner and finally as bailiff for juvenile court and the grand jury until the age of 87.

Robert Howard, longtime Richmond County assistant recreation director

Rosemary Brooks, 18-year employee with the Richmond County Animal Shelter

Joe Scott, retired educator and Richmond County Board of Education trustee

William E. "Bill" Adams, master gardener, employed by the Richmond County Georgia Extension Service

George McElveen, former Richmond County utilities director

Jan Huffman, Richmond County Marshal's Office security officer

William J. "Bill" Adams, investigator, Richmond County Sheriff's Office and 32-year employee

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228.

From the Sunday, December 27, 2009 edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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