Analyzing the Aftermath of the Parking Deck Saga

Originally posted on CityStink
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Augusta, GA
By The Outsider

Al M. Gray, President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc. contributed multidisciplinary review techniques in support of this article. Cost Recovery Works is no longer in business, as of December 31, 2012.

After the more than nine month long ordeal over the Reynolds Street Parking deck debacle, yesterday’s events at the Marble Palace that resulted in the approval of  the long beleaguered parking management contract may have seemed rather anti-climatic. Indeed, we got wind that approval of the contract was imminent — if certain conditions were met. Key to passing the agreement was the inclusion of safeguards for the city that specifically stated in clear language that Augusta Riverfront, LLC (ARLLC) could not bill the city for their overhead expenses. Previous proposals were riddled with loopholes that ARLLC could exploit, amounting to a blank check from the taxpayers.

Also, included in yesterday’s contract was a clause giving the city the right to audit ARLLC’s books to verify their compliance. This was a crucial safeguard for the city and one that ARLLC’s lawyers were fighting all the way up until the final hours leading up to yesterday’s vote, but in the end they yielded and agreed to include the rights to audit.

Wayne Says Sell It!
Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle deserves a large amount of the credit for these safeguards being included in the final contract. We understand that the lawyers were trying to twist Guilfoyle’s arm all the way up to the final hours to get him to bend under the pressure and approve the deal without these key safeguards, but the District 8 commissioner would not budge. He stood his ground and insisted that these conditions be met or his vote would be NO. Guilfoyle added the stipulations and to the agreement in his motion yesterday to approve the contract.

The citizens of of District 8 in South Richmond County can feel confident that they have someone like Wayne Guilfoyle representing them. Though a freshman commissioner, Guilfoyle has demonstrated leadership on a variety of important issues and continues to exhibit a willingness to study the details of these complex contracts, weigh all of the options, and play hardball when necessary to get the best deal for the taxpayers. Augusta could use more commissioners like him.

Not Gonna Be Bowled Over
Mayor Pro-tem Joe Bowles deserves credit for negotiating better terms in the contract that gives the city a much more favorable split of deck revenues at 70/30%. He also negotiated the inclusion of a pedestrian skywalk over Reynolds Street from the deck to the TEE Center that will enhance public safety and steer patrons to the city-owned parking spaces on the upper levels. Bowles even found the savings in the construction of the deck that will pay for the skywalk at no additional cost to the city. It’s this keen eye that makes Bowles a consistent leader on the commission.

The mayor pro-tem is also willing to admit when mistakes have been made and then work diligently to correct them. He also has a knack for forging compromise through the art of negotiation, but is willing to stand his ground when necessary to make sure the interests of the taxpayers are protected. His leadership will certainly be missed when his term expires at the end of this year, but Bowles will leave office with a nice legacy and he has certainly set the tone for all future mayor pro-tems.

Wise Man Lockett
From the very beginning, Commissioner Bill Lockett has been a vocal critic of the parking management deal with Augusta Riverfront, LLC. This is probably why he voted against approving yesterday’s contract — as a protest of the entire process. That is understandable. Time and time again, Lockett’s wise caution from his in-depth study and analysis of these complex matters has been proven right. Lockett doesn’t take anything at face value. He wants to see it in writing — he asks the right questions — he goes over every detail with a fine tooth comb. Some people may find this tiresome, but without Lockett’s determination to get to the truth and his attention to every detail, Augusta would have likely ended up with a much worse deal nine months ago, locking the city into a 15 year contract with ARLLC instead of just 5.

Though ultimately unsuccessful in getting the forensic audit to probe the process that gave us this debacle, Lockett was right in asking for it, and we predict when all is said and done he will be vindicated on that issue as well. Augusta could use more commissioners like Bill Lockett, who understand that their primary duty is in protecting the interests of the taxpayers of Augusta instead of bending to the whims of people like Paul S Simon. We suspect this is why Lockett does not face opposition for reelection.

Theater of the Absurd
On the opposite end of the spectrum is outgoing Commissioner Jerry Brigham, who fought vehemently against all attempts to give taxpayers a better deal over the parking deck. In what can be best described as a scene from the theater of absurdity, Brigham jumped at the opportunity yesterday to get in front of the cameras after the vote and tell a reporter for WJBF News that the final contract is, “… financially more stable than what was originally proposed and I think the Commissioners feel better, in general, with this proposal.

It’s too bad the reporter did not retort by saying something along the lines of:

But Mr Brigham, weren’t you the one who wanted to rush this deal along and fought against these changes from the very beginning?

Indeed, if Brigham had gotten his way, the parking deck contract would have been passed last fall and it would have been for 15 years instead of 5 years and would have been riddled with loopholes that ARLLC could exploit as a blank check, using the taxpayers as their own personal piggy bank. Brigham’s contract had none of the safeguards and denied the city the rights to audit. And when these deficiencies were brought to his attention by government watchdogs, Brigham refused to budge and admit that errors were made. So maybe Mr. Brigham’s statement means he has had a change of heart? We doubt it — it’s probably more about saving face and trying to take the credit for the hard work of others who in the end forged the compromise that got a much better deal for the city.

Unlike his colleague Joe Bowles, Brigham will leave office with a cloud over his head. In every step of the process, Commissioner Brigham fought hard for the interests of Paul Simon and Augusta Riverfront, LLC over those of the taxpayers in his district and the city as a whole. We can only hope that his successor will be someone more like Commissioner Guilfoyle, Bowles or Lockett. The voters certainly have a choice before them this fall.

What Happens Next?

Though this closes the chapter on the nine month long saga over the parking deck contract, the issue is far from over. Now commissioners will have to decide how to hold the people accountable who created this mess in the first place. Why was the RFP (Requests For Proposals) process circumvented in favor of a hideously unfavorable deal with ARLLC — one for which they did not even submit a bid? Why were commissioners consistently mislead about the land under the deck being donated? Why were commissioners not informed of the $millions worth of liens on the property until after government watchdogs discovered them? Why were commissioners not made aware of the results of a 2009 parking study that showed that a $12 million parking deck was not even necessary and a $1 million surface lot would have sufficed. Why did city-hired outside counsel agree to such atrocious terms under previous contract proposals that were written entirely by the lawyers for ARLLC?

Now that the contract terms have been settled these are the questions commissioners need to ask and find answers. This process did not happen by mistake. What should have been a simple and clear-cut process was intentionally made more complex and nearly incomprehensible to most commissioners, the media and the public in an effort to sneak through a contract riddled with loopholes, lacking controls and caps on expenses and absent safeguards like the rights to audit. The people responsible for this must be held accountable so that this does not happen again. This ordeal also demonstrates why the city needs consistent procedures and guidelines governing these kinds of contracts. What we currently have is a an ad-hoc process governed by whim. That must change or Augusta will keep repeating the same mistakes with future contracts.

As the agenda now moves on to the the much larger TEE Center contract there is much more at stake. If commissioners have learned anything from the parking deck saga, they now know not to take anything at face value and to study every detail and spot every loop hole. Instead of rushing something through like commissioners did in December of 2009 that gave us this mess, they would be wise to yield to caution to insure that the interests of the taxpayers are protected above all else. If commissioners ask the right questions, study the details, and use good judgement and common sense, we don’t expect this process to drag out for nine months. But it’s entirely up to them.***


Guest Column: Lee Anderson Hardly a Leader

Originally posted on CityStink
Friday, August 24, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Jeffery Sexton

Al M. Gray, President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc. contributed multidisciplinary review techniques in support of this article. Cost Recovery Works is no longer in business, as of December 31, 2020.

My attention was drawn to this comment from Lawton Sack, Chairman of GA-GOP’s 12th District:

Rep. Lee Anderson was elected as our Republican nominee for GA-12 on Tuesday night. There already seems to be an air of defeat permeating this race against Barrow. Some people are publicly and privately saying that Lee cannot beat Barrow. I have had some tell me that they will be voting for Barrow instead of Lee. I believe strongly and sincerely that Lee can win this election, and I cannot and will not give up without a fight. I have lived under Barrow for almost 8 years, and I am tired of his duplicity and his non-leadership. Barrow is not the right answer for GA-12. I kindly ask that each of you, our Republican leaders and activists in GA-12, to please not add any fuel to the pessimism. If you choose not to support our nominee, that is your right and prerogative. I simply ask that you please not make the battle more difficult for those that choose to fight on.–Lawton Sack, GA-12 GAGOP Chair

Now, as y’all probably know, I’ve spent a good amount of time over the past four years – since Anderson was first elected to the Georgia General Assembly in 2008 – watching the Georgia General Assembly quite closely. And honestly, Anderson’s name was never a factor in my conversations with fairly high ranking sources in the Assembly, no matter the issue. But I decided to use the power of LEGIS to do some research into Rep Anderson’s “leadership”, and here’s what I found:

Per his biography page, as of the 2011-2012 session of the Assembly, Rep Anderson’s highest ranking position is as the third ranking official (Secretary) of the Intragovernmental Affairs committee. He has no other leadership positions in the Assembly – meaning Speaker Ralston and the other genuine leaders in the GA House of Representatives don’t consider the man a leader at all, else he would be given more prominent positions, particularly given the turnover of the last couple of years.

But let’s also look at his legislative record, shall we?

Rep Anderson has had his name attached to 40 bills in the 2009-2010 session, his Freshman term. Of those bills:

  • 15 were statewide House legislation
  • 2 were local legislation dealing with the City of Harlem and Columbia County
  • 2 were Senate bills that he was the House sponsor of (SB 6 and SB 456)
  • 16 were various commendation resolutions
  • 2 were resolutions supporting development of GA’s energy resources
  • 1 was a resolution honoring China Day at the Capitol
  • 1 was a resolution recognizing Burn Week
  • 1 was a resolution creating the House Study Committee on Property Law Modernization and Standardization

Of those 40 pieces of legislation, Rep Anderson himself introduced just 1/4 of them – 7 bills (HB 196HB 440HB 453HB 630HB 723HB 975, and HB 1253) and 3 commending resolutions (HR 1656HR 1766HR 1940).

Of the 7 bills Rep Anderson introduced himself, 4 (HB 440, HB 453, HB 630, HB 723) became law – though half of those were the 2 pieces of local legislation he had introduced. Of the rest of the House bills that Rep Anderson co-sponsored, only 4 became law: HB 93HB 156HB 529HB 1206. Of these four, Anderson was the primary co-sponsor on half of them.

For comparison purposes on the numbers above, there were nearly 6100 pieces of legislation introduced in that session, with 1527 of them being House Bills, 552 Senate Bills, 2340 House Resolutions, and the remainder of them Senate Resolutions.

In Rep Anderson’s Sophomore term, the 2011-2012 session, here is the breakdown of his 55 total bills:

  • 38 were commendation resolutions
  • 7 were statewide House legislation
  • 5 were local redistricting bills
  • 1 was a local bill to provide term limits for the Columbia County Board of Commissioners
  • 1 was a resolution supporting the modernization of the Federal Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (HR 381)
  • 1 was a resolution urging the US Dept of Labor to repeal certain proposed policies (HR 1561)
  • 1 was a resolution urging the US Dept of Community Affairs to adopt amendments to the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (HR 1948)
  • 1 was a dedication resolution

Of these 55 pieces of legislation, Rep Anderson introduced just 2 of the bills (HB 1179 and HB 1180, both redistricting bills regarding Lincoln County) himself, though he introduced 34 of the commendation resolutions himself.

All of Rep Anderson’s redistricting bills became law, as did his bill term limiting Columbia County Commissioners and 5 (HB 198HB 274HB 280HB 485HB 928) of his 7 Statewide bills.

For comparison with the above numbers, there were 5423 total pieces of legislation introduced in the 2011-2012 session, with 1311 of them being House Bills, 2201 of them being House Resolutions, 540 were Senate Bills, and the remainder were Senate Resolutions.

Thus, as Rep Anderson’s record clearly shows, he is hardly a leader – he has not held any position of any real importance on any major committee, and while he has had a few bills passed, 2/3 (4 of 6) of the bills he had passed that he had introduced himself were local legislation of no statewide importance.

I’ll leave it to the reader to interpret the benefit/detriment of the bills that did get passed with his name on them for themselves.

For anyone who would like to look at exactly what I have looked at on their own, please feel free to go to LEGIS. To find Rep Anderson’s information, simply use the Session drop down box to search for either the 2009-2010 Regular Session or the 2011-2012 Regular Session, then for the Member drop down select “Anderson, Lee”. All of what I have now shown will come up for you to look at the legislation at your leisure.***

Jeffery Sexton

The Day City Stink Took Over The Marble Palace (Video)

Originally posted on CityStink
Thursday, Augusta 23, 2012
Augusta, GA
From Reports

Al M. Gray, President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc. contributed multidisciplinary review techniques in support of this article. Cost Recovery Works is no longer in business, as of December 31, 2020.

Amid all of the hullabaloo of Tuesday’s runoff elections, something remarkable happened at The Marble Palace. Paul S. Simon, president of Augusta Riverfront, LLC, was on the agenda to give a presentation before the Augusta Commission about the Reynolds Street parking deck management contract in a special called meeting at 4:30pm. Representatives from and Augusta Today were also there including Al Gray, Lori Davis, Brad Owens and former Augusta commissioner Andy Cheek.  After Simon’s presentation, commissioners adjourned into a closed door legal session to discuss personnel matters. That’s when members of and Augusta Today took over the commission chambers. Al Gray went to the front of the chambers and began to address the gallery and questioned Simon about key points in the management contract. We have the video of that exchange below:

The speaker in the video is Al M. Gray, President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns, which is no longer in business, as of December 31, 2020.

Commissioners Cautioned Against Approving Deck Contract Today

Originally posted on CityStink
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Augusta, GA

The author, Al M. Gray was President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns. Cost Recovery Works is no longer in business, as of December 31, 2020.

As we told you yesterday, a special called meeting of the Augusta Commission is scheduled today at 4:30pm to once again try to approve the Reynolds Street Parking Deck management agreement between the city and Augusta Marriott hotel owners, Augusta Riverfront, LLC. A closed door legal session has also been requested by Augusta General Counsel to discuss the deck deal. Representatives from Augusta Today and will be in commission chambers today to observe these proceedings. Of course, if commissioners vote to go into a legal session, those proceedings will be off limits to the public and the media.

Al Gray, a cost-recovery specialist and a contributor to (now defunct) site, who has done extensive analysis of the deck contracts, plans to be at today’s meeting. Al Gray cautions commissioners from once again rushing into approving any last minute deal and he left the following remarks on why this contract needs to be tabled and what MUST be included for any contract to be approved:

The Mayor, Administrator, and Commissioner Jerry Brigham are set to RAM THROUGH disastrous Parking Deck Management and lease agreements that, at last review, contain the following flaws.

1) The Annual Plan was only a guide. The REAL AUTHORITY is the contract language defining costs that are allowed. The Annual Plan is a SMOKESCREEN. They are putting out the total and utter B.S. that the Commission will have approval for overages or costs beyond the Plan, but the CONTRACT LANGUAGE WILL FORCE PAYMENT!

Like the Jefferson County Alabama deals with Wall Street that bankrupted that county, unless this agreement has been amended SUBSTANTIALLY, it is an OPEN CONDUIT of UNLIMITED Augusta funds. The Manager can SELL THIS AGREEMENT and the agreement allows the Manager to set its own budget, like this agreement did the last time the public saw it. An agreement that allows unlimited billings would have unlimited value! LET US SEE THE AMENDMENT THAT ELIMINATES THIS!

Then there is the matter of the LLC getting 100% of the income for 150 spaces while Augusta gets 100% of the expenses. The LLC is being compensated with a like # of spaces, but didn’t the LLC pay the COSTS of the old spaces? Taxes, lighting, etc.?

Here are the rights of Audit I recommended that Augusta is apparently rejecting:

WHY NEEDED? TO DETERMINE THAT COSTS ARE ACTUAL COSTS traceable to the Managers records, that all discounts come back to the OWNER. The “Financial Audit” now in there is a RUBBER STAMP snapshot at the end of the year.

INSPECTION AND AUDIT – Manager’s “records” shall upon reasonable notice be open to inspection and subject to audit and/or reproduction during normal business working hours. Such audits may be performed by an Owner’s representative or an outside representative engaged by Owner.

The Owner or its designee may conduct such audits or inspections throughout the term of this contract and for a period of three years after final payment or longer if required by law. Manager’s records as referred to in this contract shall include any and all information, materials and data of every kind and character, including without limitation, records, books, documents, subscriptions, recordings, agreements, purchase orders, leases, contracts, commitments, arrangements, notes, daily diaries, management reports, drawings, receipts, vouchers and memoranda, and any and all other agreements, sources of information and matters that may in Owner’s judgment have any bearing on or pertain to any matters, rights, duties or obligations under or covered by any Contract Document.

Such records shall include (hard copy, as well as computer readable data if it can be made available), written policies and procedures; time sheets; payroll registers; payroll records; cancelled payroll checks; subcontract files (including proposals of successful and unsuccessful bidders, bid recaps, etc.); original estimates; estimating worksheets; correspondence; change order files (including documentation covering negotiated settlements); backcharge logs and supporting documentation; invoices and related payment documentation; general ledger entries detailing cash and trade discounts earned, insurance rebates and dividends; and any other Manager records which may have a bearing on matters of interest to the Owner in connection with the Manager’s dealings with the Owner (all foregoing hereinafter referred to as “records”) to the extent necessary to adequately permit evaluation and verification of:

(a) Manager compliance with contract requirements,

(b) compliance with Owner’s business ethics policies.

Contractors get away with ENORMOUS overbillings from misapplied labor burdens. I got back $millions from this source.


Insert – When computing actual costs chargeable to the Cost of the Work for payroll taxes, the Manager shall give proper consideration to the annual limitations of the wages subject to certain payroll taxes. The Manager may accomplish this through the use of an accounting system which computes actual costs for payroll taxes when incurred up to the wage limit cut-off and allocated same to all jobs by individual based on the time worked on each job by the individual. Alternatively the Manager may use an estimated net effective payroll tax percentage to allocate payroll tax costs during the year and make appropriate adjustments at the end of the year or at the end of the project (whichever is more appropriate) to adjust the costs to actual net payroll tax cost. Using the latter approach, if 50% of the wages paid to an employee during the year were chargeable to the Cost of the Work, then only 50% of the actual annual costs of payroll taxes would be allocated to the Cost of the Work, etc.

Insert – Cost of the Work shall include the actual net cost to the Manager for worker’s compensation insurance attributable to the wages chargeable to the Cost of the Work per this agreement. The actual net cost of worker’s compensation shall take into consideration all cost adjustments due to experience modifiers, premium discounts, policy dividends, retrospective rating plan premium adjustments, assigned risk pool rebates, etc. The Manager may charge an estimated amount for worker’s compensation insurance costs, but will make appropriate cost adjustments to actual costs within 30 days of receipt of actual cost adjustments from the insurance carrier.

Insert – Any payroll burden related costs to be reimbursed which are not required by law shall be subject to advance written approval by Owner to be considered reimbursable. Fringe benefit costs typically falling into this category include but are not limited to pension, employee stock option plans, bonuses, medical and dental benefits, life and accident insurance, etc. The Manager shall be required to submit a detailed breakdown of all such payroll burden costs along with all representation as to how the proposed actual billable cost will be computed. Such information must be reviewed and approved in writing by Owner before Manager may include such items as reimbursable costs.

All such payroll burden costs shall be billable as reimbursable costs at actual verifiable cost subject to provisional maximums agreed upon in writing in advance by both parties. It should be noted that certain fringe benefit costs such as funding of pension or profit sharing funds in excess of the minimum amounts required by law may not be considered reimbursable payroll burden costs by Owner, and those fringe benefit items which are not approved in advance in writing by Owner will be considered as nonreimbursable overhead cost to be covered by the Manager’s Fee. During the job and prior to contract close-out, adjustments will be made to account for actual costs which may be less than the provisional maximum costs previously billed.**************

11th Hour for the 12th District

GOP About to be Reformed, One Way or Another

Originally posted by CityStink
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Al Gray

The author, Al M. Gray was President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns. Cost Recovery Works is no longer in business, as of December 31, 2020.

A perfect storm has struck the ossified, corrupt political power structure in Augusta, the CSRA, and Georgia. The first harbinger of the maelstrom emerged a year ago when Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver attempted to bring a publicly funded baseball stadium to the Riverfront, prompting the formation of a loose coalition of Augustans, area residents, and former citizens. This is Augusta Today.

The opening pitch for that stadium by Mayor Deke was in the dirt.

Then came the Laney Walker Overlay debacle, where the Mayor was eager to run all over city ordinances and the constitutional property rights of the poorest people to get on the cover of Southern Living.

After that has been a blizzard of revelations, sourced in the city’s own documents, that shows a pattern of deception, mismanagement, incompetence, and probably rampant fraud centered in Augusta’s contracts.

Then along came TSPLOST, supposedly a regional collaboration, which instead has blown the CSRA apart and separated it from the 75% of the state that rejected the tax.

Augusta is a renegade government that endangers its citizens. In the parlance of former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, this is a known known. Things will never be the same again in Augusta and beyond.

The Republican Party in the 12th Congressional District of Georgia is in the midst of reform, too.

This spring the Liberty Movement seized control of the Richmond County GOP convention. They nearly did it at the district convention.

The Columbia County GOP is in pure turmoil from years of shenanigans, deposed chairmen, party establishment ruin, and is totally irrelevant.

A core cadre of GOP legislators named Barbara Sims, Ben Harbin, Lee Anderson, Bill Jackson, and Tom McCall joined together behind beleaguered Nathan Deal to foist TSPLOST, the largest tax increase in Georgia history, on the voters.  The GOP havens Columbia County and Lincoln County rejected them and it.

This same cadre of GOP legislators is wrapped all up in the ASU name change to GRU fiasco. Deal’s Board of Regents Chairman Ben Tarbutton has contributed to Lee Anderson’s congressional campaign and Sims has been supportive of the detested Georgia Regents University name.

John Barrow, the last blue dog Democrat in the South, looms with a war chest that will probably exceed $2 million. Barrow has shown a streak of independence from the Obama Administration and his voting record in terms of fiscal conservatism is on a par with GOP Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan. His office has rock solid constituent service.

Reform is about to be visited upon the GOP.  The party establishment hates it, but now knows it stands before an avalanche of public revulsion, anger, and determination. TSPLOST is about to be stopped cold. CSRA politicos will find themselves in a totally untenable position if they don’t reverse course and join this action.

With respect to the 12th District race, the path to reform is either going to be aboard a bullet train or it is going to occur on an even greater scale over 2 years. The former will come with a Rick Allen victory. The later will come with a Lee Anderson victory.

Some might see Allen’s alliances with the mavens of Morris Communications, the Augusta blueblood elites, the Copenhaver-Russell administration, and his own ties to the party establishment all the way to Washington, DC as diametrically opposed to reform. It won’t work that way. Precisely because of those alliances and the many contracts that his business has had with government, Rick Allen will have absolutely no choice but to embrace openness and reform. There simply will be no way to dodge questions. Instead of reform activists having to laboriously go through open records requests, questions will have to be quickly answered and issues resolved. The key to taking Augusta from worst to first lies in its contracting. Rick Allen knows this. Rick Allen will bring the reformers to the table because John Barrow will force him to.

Beyond the things that will force the issue, there is the knowledge that Rick Allen has the intelligence, openness, curiosity, financial background and moral code to bring back the rule of law, the Constitution, and fiscal responsibility to government. He knows the score with far better acumen than most. He knows that the people who send him to Washington won’t be those connected folks.

It was said that only Nixon could have gone to China. Maybe only Allen can visit reform on Augusta.

Reform will come in slower, broader, plainer, and yet more spectacular style if Lee Anderson is the GOP nominee. Then the party will be pinned hopelessly to a candidate with a record hostile to the hurting, threatened, middle class. Barrow will pounce all over it. Anderson went along to get along in the most unethical state government in America. He has pushed sales taxes on groceries, both with the ridiculous GREAT “tax reform” of the disgraced Georgia Speaker Glenn Richardson and with TSPLOST. Anderson’s TSPLOST did away with home rule, subverting Columbia Countians votes to those of welfare statists in neighboring Augusta. His subservience to Nathan Deal brings its own baggage. Then, there is the matter of his willingness to read and comprehend legislation. It just isn’t there. Neither is there substantial debating skill.

Lee is relying on four things to sweep him into office after Tuesday, while he disappears into a cocoon of silence.

  1. One is Obamaphobia.
  2. Two is the promise of $950,000 of Republican Congressional Campaign Committee funds to unseat John Barrow.
  3. Three is that voters uninformed of his record are drawn to vote for “the nice man with the tractor.”
  4. Four is that folks don’t notice that the discredited Georgia establishment is behind him.

It might happen. Obamaphobia very well may mean an Anderson seat in Congress. That would be the sum of all fears for the GOP. It would mean that the party openly supported a known-to-be flawed candidate into the US House of Representatives, one who might deliver more embarrassment and bad policy than a John Deere tractor can haul.

Reform now, GOP. You can pay a nominal price now or a capitol one later.

Tractor pulls are dangerous.***
Al Gray

Breaking: Special Meeting Called Tomorrow to Discuss Parking Deck Agreement

Originally posted on CityStink
Monday, August 20, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Lori Davis

Al M. Gray, President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc. contributed multidisciplinary review techniques in support of this article. Cost Recovery Works is no longer in business, as of December 31, 2020.

Heads Up Augustans!! The Commissioners are up to their old dirty tricks, or at least a few of them are. has received word that a special called meeting requested by Legal Counsel will be held tomorrow, August 21, 2012 at 4:30 in Commission Chambers. The one and only item slated for the agenda is —-You guessed it—-The Reynolds St. Parking Deck Management Agreement. Mr. Paul Simon, partner in Augusta Riverfront, LLC, will be presenting to the Commissioners.

Our question is, how can they do this when this item has been on the floor of the Commission several times already and has even been through a committee workshop. Also, in the last Commission meeting, another public workshop was called for on the very same item making the public quite aware of the problems associated with it? Commissioner Joe Bowles even railed against the lease agreement drawn up for  the city as being one-sided;  leaning toward the best Interests of Augusta Riverfront, LLC, and not the tax payers. Why haven’t the citizen’s been properly notified of this called meeting? Why is the normal process for placing items on the Commission’s agenda being circumvented to benefit Paul Simon and Augusta Riverfront, LLC? Why did Mayor Copenhaver sign off on this?

A closed door legal session has been requested after Mr. Simon gives his presentation in Commission chambers. Commissioners will have to vote on whether to approve going into legal session. What will be discussed that should be off-limits to the public and the media? Is this an effort to ram this lop-sided management contract through behind closed doors and keep it away from public scrutiny?

Word has it that Commissioner Brigham is the one who got this little meeting put together. It seems that Mr. Simon was to present before the full Commission as a delegation at the regularly scheduled 5:00 Commission meeting concerning the parking deck agreement, however, for some reason, his item did not make it on the agenda in time. Hmmm…  Wonder how that happened?

The broader question is, why the rush? What is in this for Commissioner Brigham and the others who are agreeing to this called meeting? Those of us who follow the actions of government in this city know that all things are done for a reason. We also know that something stinks here. We are counting on our Commissioners who are tired of the way business is done in this city to take a stand. Tomorrow is the day. Who will break ranks and go the right way??? Anyone, anyone at all?  Or shall we say, “Business as usual?”***


Hank Johnson Could Get Some Company in Congress with Lee Anderson

Originally posted on CityStink
Saturday, August 18, 2012
Augusta, GA
By The Outsider

Hank Johnson was elected to the the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006, representing Georgia’s 4th Congressional District, replacing Cynthia McKinney. Those were certainly big shoes to fill when it came to bringing embarrassment to the state of Georgia. McKinney provided an endless supply of gaffes and outrageous statements during her 12 years in Congress for late night comedy shows. But Hank Johnson has not disappointed.

In an infamous U.S. Armed Services committee hearing in March 2010, Johnson expressed his concern to Admiral Robert F. Willard, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, regarding a military installation on the Pacific island of Guam, a U.S. Territory. Johnson said, “My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize,” to which Admiral Willard replied, “We don’t anticipate that.”

The video of Congressman Johnson voicing his concerns about Guam tipping over received extensive airplay on just about every radio show, and late night comedy show imaginable, from Leno to Jon Stewart to Stephen Colbert. It still pops up today, more than two years later, as a reminder of some of the crazy things that can pop out of the mouths of members of Congress.

This upcoming January, Hank Johnson might be getting some company in Washington, DC from a fellow Georgian if state representative Lee Anderson makes it past Tuesday’s runoff and is successful in defeating current 12th District Congressman John Barrow. Who can forget when  Anderson was asked about The Federal Reserve in a debate earlier this year and appeared absolutely clueless. Anderson seemed to think it was something like a rainy day fund, responding with: “We must build our reserves even stronger than what it is now… on the Federal level,” and he went on to say that the legislature is, “building back our reserves up now.”

Anderson was not asked at that debate about his thoughts on Guam, and since he has refused to participate in any debates with his GOP challenger before Tuesday’s runoff and is refusing to go on radio shows and speak to the media in general, we wont be able to ask him. But we have to wonder what his response would be. Would Anderson even know what Guam is? Would he know that it is an island in the Pacific and Territory of the United States? What’s Anderson’s position on Guam tipping over?

Based on Anderson’s performance in prior debates, the writers for the late night comedy shows are probably crossing their fingers that the Grovetown hay farmer wins the runoff this Tuesday. Along with fellow Georgian Hank Johnson, the jokes would write themselves and Stephen Colbert and Saturday Night Live would have an endless supply of material. Someone else who probably has their fingers crossed for Lee Anderson this Tuesday night is Congressman John Barrow.***

Furor Over University Name a Gift for Lee Anderson?

Originally posted on CityStink
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Augusta, GA
By The Outsider

Al M. Gray, President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc. contributed multidisciplinary review techniques in support of this article. Cost Recovery Works is no longer in business, as of December 31, 2020.

With the local outrage over the new name for the new merged university dominating the front page of the daily paper, the evening news, and the talk radio shows, you’d almost have forgotten that there is a run-off in a week for the Georgia 12th Congressional District GOP race.

Lee Anderson, who is now in a runoff with Augusta construction contractor Rick Allen for the 12th District GOP nomination, ought to send Dr. Ricardo Azziz and the Georgia Board of Regents bouquets of flowers.

The furor over the university name change has successfully diverted local attention away from Anderson’s voting record in the state legislature and most importantly his support of TSPLOST. There was a noticeable backlash against Anderson in his home base of Columbia County in the immediate aftermath of the TSPLOST vote on July 31st. Despite failing in 75% of the regions throughout Georgia and being soundly rejected by more than 58% of voters in Columbia County, the tax still passed in the CSRA region, largely because of the voters in neighboring Richmond County. That means that Columbia County residents will still be forced into this new tax region despite voting against it.

We heard reports in the days following the TSPLOST vote that some Lee Anderson signs were being taken down from yards across Columbia County in protest of his support for the tax and  voting for it in the Georgia General Assembly. But TSPLOST was not the only tax Anderson supported in the legislature that is disproportionately hitting middle and lower income residents. He also voted in favor of a $500 million hospital bed tax and Georgia Power’s advance billing of $1 billion in profits, hidden as “construction costs,” which lead to double digit rate increases for the average  customer. Voters in Columbia County were finally starting to pay attention to Anderson’s anti middle class voting record, and this presented an opening for Rick Allen in the run-off.

And then came the announcement from the Georgia Board of Regents last week that the name for the new consolidated university in Augusta would be named Georgia Regents University. All Hell broke loose. It’s been dominating the headlines for the entire week and there is no sign that the outrage will die down any time soon. William S Morris III even had a self-penned letter on Sunday’s front page of his Augusta Chronicle newspaper where he announced his resignation from the  board of GHSU over the name flap. Articles on the name controversy on The Chronicle website have been getting by far the most comments, and callers to local radio talk shows have also been fixated on the name change.  More protests are planned for this week. We’ve noticed here that web searches for the congressional race and TSPLOST have fallen off considerably in the last week. All of the interest seems to be on the name for the new university.

The timing could not be worse for Rick Allen. A recount request by Wright McLeod last week that yielded one vote had  delayed the inevitable show-down between Anderson and Allen. And during the uncertainty of the recount,  the announcement of the new name of the university came out, and got everyone talking.. Any momentum that Allen could have capitalized on over TSPLOST seemed to be slipping away with the clock counting down to August 21.

To win the run-off next week, Allen will have to win Columbia County. The furor over TSPLOST and tying Lee Anderson to it looked like it would be the winning strategy that could deliver victory to Allen. But now the furor has shifted to something else… the name of the new university. Will there still be enough outrage over TSPLOST in Columbia County next Tuesday to sway the run-off election in Allen’s favor? That remains to be seen.

Allen is already handicapped by a depressed GOP voter turnout in Richmond County because of the Sheriff’s race. All of those republican cross-overs who took a democratic ballot in order to vote for Scott Peebles are not allowed to cross back over to vote in the congressional run-off on August 21st. Anderson did rather poorly in Richmond County in the July 31st general primary, in fact it was his worst showing in all of the counties in the 12th district. Allen could have been able to win Richmond County by a big margin and run up the vote tally and offset Anderson’s advantage in the rural southern counties next Tuesday, but because of the depressed turnout, Allen’s advantage in Richmond County will be negated and thus the largest county in the district will end up having a negligible impact on the race. That means Columbia County will decide this.

If Rick Allen can win Columbia County by the same margin as it rejected TSPLOST, he will be the candidate facing John Barrow this fall instead of Lee Anderson. But for this to happen, Allen will have to position himself back to his Columbia County roots and distance himself from the political elites in Augusta-Richmond County, who have for the most part forsaken him anyway for the Sheriff’s race and have become more of a political liability. If Allen has any chance for a victory against Anderson, it will be found in Columbia County.

Linking Anderson to the unpopular TSPLOST appears to be the winning strategy to take Columbia County. The key is to make sure the voters are still as outraged over TSPLOST next Tuesday as they were a week and a half ago. One way this could be accomplished is to link the red hot outrage over the university name change to the outrage over TSPLOST. They both have one common denominator: an overbearing state political body out of touch with the wishes of locals.

TSPLOST failed in Columbia County, but  the Georgia General Assembly engineered the bill in such a way, that their wishes could be outvoted by people in other counties.. and that is exactly what happened. The legislature also sought fit to penalize regions that voted against the tax by withholding a large portion of state transportation matching funds. The voters were not really being given a real choice by the politicians under the Gold Dome in Atlanta. TSPLOST was more like an act of extortion: vote for it — or else.

Lee Anderson was one of the state legislators who voted in favor of this flawed bill that took local control away from individual counties and gave it to a new regional government. Similarly, the wishes of many local residents and leaders were outvoted by another state body known as the Georgia Board of Regents when it came to naming the new consolidated university in Augusta. The case could be made that an overbearing state government  gave us the hideously flawed TSPLOST and the extremely unpopular name for the new university abbreviated as GRU. Some can say that TSPLOST and the new university name are GRUesome, and Rick Allen would be wise to make that argument and continue to link Lee Anderson to the overbearing and out of touch state government  that gave us both.***

Don’t Feed the Dead Bolted Bears

Dead Bolt from a Wildlife Refuge
Sunday August, 12, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Al Gray

Some of the most tense, relaxation-devoid, and snafu-filled experiences an outdoorsman can have is to try to jamb pack a meaningful hunting or fishing trip into a long weekend. For starters, every guy and his brother have the same idea. The fields and streams can be crowded.  The highways get traffic jams. The destinations can be miss-booked or overbooked. Having a meaningful, positive experience is a challenge.

The Memorial Day weekend of 1979 was like that. A small group of us: Freddie and Sandy Norris, my sister Arlain and her fiancé, Robbie Robertson and this author decided to make a dash for Lake George in east central Florida. The idea was to catch the bluegills bedding atop the large mussel shell beds out in the lake upon the weekend full moon.  We made reservations with Blair’s Jungle Den at Astor. The manager assured us that unit, B2 would be open and awaiting our intended late arrival around midnight.

Multiple compelling emergencies delayed our intended 3:00 PM departure from Evans. After considerable debate, we decided to go for it anyway, leaving around 6:30 Friday evening. We were extremely tired after a long day of working and packing. Passengers slept in order to take their turn at the wheel. The trip down was pure torture.

Around 1:30 AM we pulled into the Jungle Den parking lot. Mobile home unit B2 was very clearly occupied, but A3, an old 2 bedroom Jim Walter shanty with an improvised attached bedroom to the rear, was empty. This discussion ensued:
Sandy: “I AM NOT staying in that place!”

Me: “Why not?”

Sandy: “I am scared to death of bugs and that place looks like it is roach infested, with maybe fleas, too!”

Me: “There might be some dead crickets from the case that Uncle John insisted upon opening in there last year. We got serenaded and leapt-upon the whole week, but other than the bugs we brought everything was OK

Sandy: “Well, if I see a bug, we are going to the Holiday Inn back in Orange Park.

Unloading luggage commenced in earnest. Freddie, Sandy and Arlain got the main bedrooms and were settling in when I started into the rear bedroom, which turned out to have 2 single beds. One was opposite the door and the other was perpendicular to it at the end of the room. Robbie was just behind me, when I turned on the light switch. The sight of an enormous hairy spider on the wall greeted me. A quick decision was thus prompted.

I exclaimed: “Look what a HUGE spider that’s perched over YOUR bed!”

Robbie laughed as he pulled off one of his sandals. WHAM! The wall shuddered as the heel of that sandal squashed the spider, leaving a smear on the wall, as the spider fell limply alongside the bed to the floor.
Sandy yelled: “What was that?”

Me: “Nothing. Robbie is so tired that he crashed into the bed.” (Not a lie – he had!)

Sandy: “I was afraid you were killing insects.”

Me: “We have not seen any insects” (A spider is an arachnid, not an insect.) “Good Night!”

The wind was blowing the next day too briskly to fish on the big lake. The bluegills did not cooperate on the river channels, either. Being constantly buzzed and pushed around by the weekend boat traffic from Astor headed out into the lake might have had something to do with that. Robbie had brought his blue Glasstream  boat, which was so fast it was spooky, but he left the river respecting that the big boats of the commercial fishermen were deceptively fast.  We caught some bluegills in some of the backwater sloughs but the total catch disappointed.

Monday morning and departure time came quickly. We were loading the last luggage, when Sandy stopped at the threshold and looked back into Number A3. “Well,” she said, “I was worried about bugs, but y’all were right – this cabin was bug free.

We broke into uncontrollable laughter. “Sa……Sa……Sandy…… the reason there weren’t any bugs was because the giant wolf spider we killed the first night had eaten them all!

What prompted thoughts of disastrous weekend jaunts was opening the junk drawer in the kitchen this week and seeing a pitiful collection of metal parts that had rested there for a decade. Seeing it again brought a belly laugh. It was a souvenir from the Great Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge hunt of 2002.

The Yazoo hunt began innocently enough. As a brother-in-law, Robbie is as good as gold, but when it comes to impromptu hunting trips, he can be a little dangerous.

Robbie: “Don’t you want to go with us to Yazoo this year?”

Me: “Yazoo makes lawn mowers, right?”

Robbie: “No, Doofus, Yazoo as in Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge in Mississippi, down below Greenville. The refuge is on a huge oxbow of the Yazoo River. Last year was the first year they opened it up for hunting – bowhunting only – and there are huge bucks down there. Steve killed a big 8 point last year on our trip there and there weren’t that many hunters.”

Me: “Count me in. Shooting does around the lake isn’t getting tedious, mind you, but a change in scenery might be good. That’s old Jerry Clower’s stomping grounds.”

The appointed day for the trip came. As it turned out, this scribe had a bout of stomach virus, so we made more stops than Steve would have liked, as he was gung-ho to get there to scout. Along the way, we were dreaming aloud about bagging a 12 point, 195-class Pope and Young buck out of that ‘pristine’ swamp in the middle of the Yazoo Refuge. Each one of us already had one on the wall.

Jerry Clower put that scenario to words well with “Want to Buy A Possum?” That one could have been a prophesy for our trip.

As we approached Greenville, I asked a stupid question.
Me: “Where we gonna stay? Hampton Inn?“
Steve, exchanging amused glances with Robbie: “More like Ho-ville Inn
Robbie: “We got the motel covered. We gotta have room to bring Steve’s canoe inside.”
Me: “Why can’t we leave it in the truck locked to the bed.”
Steve: “Bad part of town. People are walking the highway all hours. Robbie about got a girlfriend forced on him last year. Lots of crack dealing. Everything has to be in the room after dark.”
Me: “Ugh. I think I am getting sick again.” “What’s this about the ho’s?
Robbie: “There was a knock on the door late last year. I made the mistake of opening it. This woman walked in and she wouldn’t take ‘No’ for an answer. We had to pull our pistols on her to make her leave!”
Me: “You might have to pick me up at the Hampton, but I will give it a try
Steve wheeled into a dilapidated old motel, pulling into a space at the end room. I went to pay the Indian woman managing the place cash in advance through Monday. Upon returning to the room I saw a problem. The door to the room looked like it was nailed back together and the dead bolt was missing.
Me: “When we go out to eat supper and get groceries, let’s run by Lowe’s.
Robbie: “Why?”
Me: “There is a hole where the dead bolt used to be. No way I stay in that room with that door being unsecure, never minding the fact that it looks pieced and glued together.”
Steve: “Now, I’ve heard of everything. Here we are about to buy our own dead bolt for a motel room!”
We walked out the door and smack into a pimp with a couple of ho’s. He and they weren’t insistent, probably because 3 guys in camo don’t generally look like men to be trifled with. There was drug dealing all over the place.
Upon our return, I took in the bathroom and shower. I have never seen a shower stall with such a menagerie of scum and mildew. Going in there was a grand mistake. Yeah, my gas perm contacts needed to come out, but my two hunting companions got a strategic jump on me.
Steve and Robbie were asleep and they were snoring.
It was Loud.
Before this story continues, your scribe has a confession to make. I have a habit of molesting my fellow hunters in their sleep – with my snoring. It is legendary. The racket gets so loud that no one who goes on our dove hunting trips will subject themselves to it. They all want another roomie.
This time, Yazoo, Steve and Robbie were so loud, my efforts just blended in. We joked later that when our gang went hunting, we didn’t go a whoring, we went to snoring.
That sparsely attended hunt we were anticipating didn’t happen. On a trip around the loop road around the Yazoo refuge there were 85 pickups parked. There were so many hunters we had to get to the stands we found an hour before daylight and then blink our flashlights in warning to hunters approaching from the main parking areas. Our stands were almost on the water’s edge, which required that we take a short-cut down an old dike, across a beaver dam, through a pine thicket and alongside the swamp. The huge crowd of hunters pushed the deer out onto the humps and islands out in the swamp, so we saw a lot of deer. My stand was in a 14 inch black locust tree that was dropping its pods at the swamp edge. A very nice 8 point buck came in and started munching locust bean pods at 8 yards. He gave me the perfect shot.
I didn’t shoot. Thinking of the ordeal of getting that buck out of that swamp, across the oak stand, through the pine woods, up the canal, across the beaver dam, down the dike, and across the field to the truck, all via dragging or carting,  overcame the urge to shoot. That buck was doubly lucky, for he sashayed up to Robbie after he left me. He got a double bye-pass.
Back at the motel, the dingy carpet was getting muddy from our boots, the canoe was nestled against the wall, Steve’s boot dryers hummed, and the mold in the shower was getting abused by scent-proof shampoo. The seedy beds and the walls, were they to talk, were getting a new experience from three Georgia bowhunters. All of this went on behind our dead-bolt lock.
With all that snoring at night and maniacal laughter during the day, no pimps, whores, or dealers were coming anywhere near that end room. It sounded like there were grizzly bears in there.
I have to be the only person I know who bought his own motel door dead bolt lock. That’s my story and I am sticking to it.
The lock turned up this week. Here is the picture to prove it.

The Three Wise Counties (Video)

Saturday, August 11, 2012
Augusta, GA
From Reports

Three counties in the CSRA region wisely said NO to TSPLOST on July 31st: Columbia County, Glascock County and Lincoln County. However, since they were outvoted by the rest of the region, they will still be subjected to this hideous new tax and new level of government bureaucracy. To make matters worse, since the TSPLOST was rejected by 75% of the state, including populous metro Atlanta, this will likely result in proceeds from the CSRA’s gasoline tax being diverted to Atlanta. At least 3 local counties had the good judgement to see TSPLOST for what it was: a sham. Watch Al Gray’s video commentary below: