The Road to Plunderdome

Two Plans Enter, No Taxpayer Leaves

OPINION from The Arrowflinger

Legendary singer James Brown would be aghast over the Arena controversy that bears his name.

Over the last eight months, even jaded political observers of the already lunatic-run government of Augusta, Georgia have been riveted to the orgy of anger, intrigue, arm-twisting and name calling that left left the consolidated county hopelessly, and possibly permanently, divided. South Augustans of all races, yes including whites, found that the constantly-enriched downtown, central business district, media and hill fiefdoms want them to add the biggest capital building project in the city’s history to a gaggle of incredibly mismanaged and costly efforts with the TEE Center, Parking Deck, Judicial Center, Library and Municipal Center renovation efforts. Worst of all they found themselves denigrated for living in South Augusta.

The establishment faction rolled out a tour de force against Mayor Hardie Davis for pursuing a location at the defunct Regency Mall property on Gordon Highway. The scrutiny, detailed analysis and coverage, finally summoned into play after being virtually nonexistent during the earlier fiascos, was gratifying to behold. Mayor Davis and supporters of the Regency site were caught off guard. They very justifiably complained of a double standard. In that, they are absolutely correct.

The political spectacle could be seen coming in the piney woods of Lincoln County three years ago. On a long enough timeline and given enough rope, the Hapless nine man and one woman Augusta Commission stumbled blindly into a trap of their own making, yet one laid by a merry band of intrepid busybodies, gadflies, curmudgeons, Augusta Todayers, Political Watchers and City Stinkers, with one Arrowflinger in the mix. (Perhaps we would best term the bunch The Augusta Emancipation Reclamation Project but that awaits some sort of official proclamation that frankly might not come until the Augusta Lynx return to ice skate on Broad Street some Midsummer day.)

The activists set the stage for this uncivil war by amassing such outrage over the blatant mismanagement and looting on those earlier big projects that they were able to defeat SPLOST 7A 2014 in May 2014. By the time that plans and project lists were being made for SPLOST 7B 2015, a new Arena on the project list would have meant near certain defeat.

While some of the activists sought to defeat SPLOST 7B 2015 outright, in a repeat of the long-shot 2014 vote, a couple of them worked behind the scenes targeting the new arena as being the best avenue to either defeat the SPLOST if it was on the list, pressure commissioners to eliminate it from the list , or failing both, to reduce it to such a miniscule funding total as to force the city into a later conflagration. The commissioners, notably Marion Williams, were reluctant to even attempt listing the Arena at the full $110 million. Sequentially the designated SPLOST funding was whittled down to about $20 million, then $15 million, and at one point looked to be zeroed out and off of the list. Commissioner Hasan insisted on putting some money on the list and the project appeared as line 10 of 12, way down on the list of the Quality of Life projects. Even worse, the verbiage was misleading to the voters, reading

Modernized James Brown Arena $6,000,000
Address needed upgrades for aged and outdated James Brown Arena, including possible new multipurpose area with a seating capacity of approximately 9,000 for concerts, sporting events, community events, meetings, futurity, and other event.

How does “Address needed upgrades” for a mere $6 million become “Build a New Arena for $120 million to $200 million? The real outrage should be the fact that the Mayor, Administrator, and Commission are YET AGAIN taking voter approval on a fractional portion of a facilities cost, just as others had done with the municipal building and TEE Center, as carte blanche authority to build a much greater project. Even worse it is the biggest expansion of this bait and switch trickery ever at TWENTY FOLD expansion.

Citizens might remember that officials like Mayor Davis, commissioners like Sean Frantom, former Mayor Deke Copenhaver, the Chamber of Commerce and the business supporters of SPLOST 7B 2015 all promised that cost controls would be in place for the SPLOST-funded projects. Davis was quoted as saying “….”That we take every step forward to put in place unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability so we are demonstrating to all of our citizens that we can be good stewards of taxpayers resources”

The statements of Mayor Davis, Mayor Pro Tem Davis and Commissioner Frantom in this WJBF Channel 6 report prior to the vote are telling!

The tune they sang then is octaves lower than the “Lets BUILD IT NOW!” they seem to sing today. Land acquisition agreements are not planning, they are obligations to proceed.

2015 SPLOST 7b 2015 was passed by the voters on Tuesday, November 03, 2015. Now it looks like they might get bypassed on actually getting to vote for or against building the biggest project in their history. Instead, on May 22, 2018 they are being virtually TOLD “We are building this thing on one of two places, whether you like it or not.”

Tractorgate blew away their last figment of credibility that their sworn “Cost Controls” will ever exist.

Augusta government is the laughingstock of Georgia. Pigkiller in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome exclaimed [laughing]”PLAN? There ain’t no plan!” In Augusta looting is always the plan,even when it is on a ballot in two places.

Two plans entered, no Taxpayer Leaves.

Plunderdome.

They will build it just for its looting potential.

-Arrowflinger

No Account, But Headed to Judgement Anyway

Comments of Al M. Gray to the Augusta Commission

No Account, But Headed to Judgement, Anyway

Tuesday June, 20 2017

 

Mayor Davis and commissioners, thank you for the opportunity to speak. I never intended to return to this chamber, yet here I am. One should never say ‘never’ and that is borne out by the power of events that have shaken you, me and the people of Augusta.

No Account, But Headed to Judgement, Anyway sounds like a sermon harkening to passing into eternity that we all face, but as Mayor Copenhaver once told me “You ain’t dead yet!.”

Older folks used to have a description that was applied to crooked, lazy people. It was that they were “No Account.”

Your Equipmentgate scandal has assaulted the Rule of Law, not that this body, mayor, administrator, district attorney or Sheriff intended that consequence. That result grew out of the cronyism that has destroyed our protective institutions From Washington down. The accountants safeguarding our money threw math out, the lawyers forgot nobody needs them if there is no law, the press lost objectivity and credibility, and pastors escorted the money changers into our temples, not out. Our protectors decided to be No Account.

At Commissioner Sias’ last meeting DA Paine was posed the question “Is the RULE OF LAW DEAD?” After all, the most powerful, revered man in Georgia politics, had $2 million invested in banks and other financial institutions involved with drug money laundering, among other things. The Legislature two sessions ago decriminalized banking crimes in our state which was number 1 in mortgage fraud five years running. Then there is Equipmentgate. What happens in Atlanta and Washington is not yours, but what happened in Lincoln County is fully on your account, but you want to be no account for that.

Some of it comes from misguided instinct to protect the defenseless, who are anything but that. Elements of this body and friends of the mayor pro-tem rallied to defend her last week, but the fun poked at her soon will rain all over you. The rest of this body is protecting a nice lady administrator with the same instinct. At $187,000 per year and much power, she isn’t defenseless either. She is responsible for about 2/3 of this scandal, in my opinion.

16 years ago a sweet, attractive planning director supported by the full Columbia County commission abruptly left her position. Failures proved her plan flawed, deceptive, and outrageous to the no longer defenseless people.

2 weeks ago, we were walking with our dog Lilly. We came upon a flock of molting geese, whose wings were of No Account. Now geese are mean, big and can peck or wing-whip a beagle. One ran out of the woods, but Lilly caught it. The goose wing whipped her and got to the water. Lilly jumped in and outswam it. The goose did something it isn’t supposed to be able to do and that was to dive! While that one was escaping another goose ran out doing something even stranger. It ran low to the ground, head and all, like a snake! It didn’t want to be seen with its No Account wings.


You are faced with the same thing. This body is confronted by the truth of Equipmentgate. You must do the impossible for the next 6 months and together rise to account before Augusta. Justice must be served and accountability restored. Former Director Johnson must be dealt with, this Administrator must be phased out, her contract not extended, and a forensic audit of the landfill done.

The consequences of the 1/3 of the scandal resting with the Sheriff’s Department are simply chilling. The Sheriff must remove those involved.

Lady Justice has been dead in Augusta so long she stinketh like Lazarus. It is time for her resurrection.

Thank you.

-AG

Update: At the conclusion of these remarks, Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis, Jr. took umbrage with them and made thinly-veiled threats that “there will be consequences!”

Mr. Mayor is voteless and toothless! He doesn’t have the guts to call the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in on this OUTRAGEOUS SCANDAL. He could you know.

Mums the word from Augusta’s No Account County Commission, as there was not even a second for Commissioner Marion Williams’ motion to request that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation conduct an Investigation that the Augusta Richmond County Sheriff’s office botched.

At least one Augusta Commissioner isn’t No Account!

Equal Protection, Equal Accountability

Comments of Al M. Gray to the Augusta Commission
Equal Protection, Equal Accountability
March 1, 2016

Mayor Davis, lady and gentlemen of the commission, thank you for the opportunity to speak today.
The baseball great Yogi Berra once said “If you come to a fork in the road, take it” but after its last two meetings perhaps this body should stop, back up and try another fork before the wheels come off of Augusta’s government like one of those KME firetrucks. Citizens, officials, and observers far and wide have been taken aback by votes to remedy a pay-increase scandal which represents a horrendous breach of Constitutional equal protection for the one employee and the simultaneous dismissal of equal accountability for 3 others who arguably had more responsibility.

The vote and particularly the commentary during the last commission meeting filled me and most observers with dismay, not just because of the ugly tone, but because the transparency so loudly promised during the SPLOST campaign is obviously dead. A citizenry who saw its garbage collection service cut in half now sees, yet again, tomfoolery to shift money between accounts to cover benefits to the downtown.They see the time-consuming machinations this administration has undertaken to do it during a time in which new SPLOST controls were supposedly a priority.

The biggest scandal in Augusta history – the financially ruinous Tee Center/Laney Walker Development deal – wasted more $tens of millions than a convention of con artists could dream up. The principle TEE contract required extensive records to be kept until the year 2020, yet neither side of the ugliness of the last 2 weeks wants to empower Augusta by learning from its mistakes there. One faction wouldn’t want it out during the state Republican Party Convention at the Convention Center out of fear of embarrassing party officials and the city. The other seems to want to maintain the sloppiness to get tens of millions more in loot with assertions of “it’s our turn, now” or “we are getting our share.”

Politicians like to create a façade of controls to hide the looting, but not controls to stop the looting. With the TEE center Augusta wound up with the daisy chain of “expert” controllers costing a combined $1250 per hour who controlled almost nothing and rubberstamped nearly everything. The powerfully-written construction management contract that Augusta won was turned into mush at their hands. Why?

Your Gift From the Copenhaver

Another Yogism by Berra– “It is Déjà vu all over again” – fits my 40 year odyssey out of Augusta, back, and now into this chamber. The mid 1970’s found me at the Labor Department in Augusta working to administer the old 13 county CETA employment programs. Fury erupted among the mostly black program management in Augusta that Columbia County had preselected an overwhelmingly white contingent of ineligible folks, but then came the embarrassing find that Augusta’s enrollees were mostly black ineligible folks.

A poor blind black woman with a young lad in tow came into the Program Directors’ office to see the Reverend F. Francis Cook. “This is my grandson, Jonathan, who sees about me, the best he can, but he needs one of those CETA jobs you all are handing out,” she said. Deputy Director Cook was in tears. There were no jobs left for the eligible and deserving grandson. He got crowded out by black politics. F. Francis Cook made sure we quit running a program for cronies, to make room for his people and for ALL people.

Yes, you can use the system perfected by the last administration to loot the people and discriminatingly spread $millions but “They did it and we are too!” makes a twisted concept of equal protection, while hurting the wrong people -people in your community.

What happened over the last two weeks destroyed confidence that this commission desires the promised transparency and reform. Choose another fork, one of real reform; this one is a dead end for Augusta.

Thank you.

Here is the video