HomeOpinionColumn: Sylvia Cooper muses on the news of the week

Column: Sylvia Cooper muses on the news of the week

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(Opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Augusta Press.)

News in Brief for Busy People – Questions Asked; Questions Answered

Q: In Tuesday’s mayoral election, well-financed candidate Steven Kendrick, a political insider, received only 210 more votes than political newcomer Garnett Johnson. How did that happen?

A: Kendrick’s actions in the past 60 days have made lots of voters question whether he’s just another Hardie Davis. And maybe Augusta voters are finally getting tired of well-financed political insiders. Also, they don’t trust the current administration and are fed up with the lack of concern government officials have about wasting their hard-earned money. They are especially disturbed over Davis’ wasteful spending and the lack of commission oversight, as well as their disinterested attitude about the subject.

Q: Why did Davis, who’s divorcing his seriously ill wife, Yvett, file a restraining order with stricter prohibitions than the court’s existing Automatic Domestic Standing Order?

A: Because he wants to gag her to keep her from spilling the beans on him, the details of which might turn his last few friends’ hair gray.

Q: Why did Davis refuse Yvett’s request for more conferences with their lawyers and halting the divorce proceedings while she deals with a serious health issue?

A: Well, according to her lawyer, it’s because he wants to just shut her up about his longtime adulterous affair and wrongdoings.

Q: Why did The Augusta Press file two open records lawsuits last week trying to obtain financial records that Davis contends are not subject to disclosure under the state’s Open Records Act? 

A-Lawsuit 1: Because the newspaper’s readers and the citizens of Augusta have the right to know how much money was donated to the Mayor’s Masters Reception over the past three years and what Davis did with it since it’s a city function on city property that gets more than a third of its money from the city.

A-Lawsuit 2: Because the newspaper’s readers and the citizens of Augusta have the right to know what Davis spent $2,822 from his campaign contributions account on. He told the state ethics commission it was in relation to the “fulfillment” of his mayoral duties. We want to know what he did.

50 Ways to Almost Lose Your Election

You just swap your job with your second in command, Rand.

Get sworn in by your judge friend, Ben.

Just take six grand from the Candy Man, Stan.

Get a job with the Boys and Girls Club, Bub.

There must be 50 ways to lose your election,

Fifty ways to lose your election.

MORE: Steven Kendrick and Garnett Johnson will face runoff in Augusta mayoral race

Kendrick was expected to win big Tuesday. Everything pointed in that direction. Longtime Richmond County Tax Commissioner and chairman of boards, he’s high profile. He has a well-oiled political machine, an impressive resume of public service and more than $200,000 in campaign donations from prominent developers, engineers, consultants, businesses bankers and others.

He announced his intention to run for mayor a year before any other candidate. And word is, he’s been lining up support and helping people who could return the favor for quite awhile now.

So, seriously, why did he receive only 210 more votes than the relatively unknown Johnson?

The biggest reason, in my opinion, is that many Augusta taxpayers are totally disgusted with the local government and the mayor and his shenanigans. They are also disgusted with the city’s appearance; the neglected parks and facilities, such as Riverwalk, the Boathouse, Lake Olmstead Stadium; potholes, trash; higher tax assessments; stormwater and streetlight fees. They want to know what the billion-dollar budget is paying for.

Staff Photo.

They’re tired of the same old greedy liars and schemers and want to see someone in the mayor’s office they believe will be concerned about them and not in promoting himself and lining his own pockets.

Some voters are skeptical about Kendrick because they can’t understand why he’d give up a job he could likely keep until he retires – a job that pays $150,000 (or more) a year for one that pays $70,000 less. They suspect he already has people in place in the Legislature willing to increase the mayor’s pay. Or he knows commissioners could do it themselves under Home Rule with enough commission votes.

The common-sense folks also don’t think the mayor’s office needs a half-a-million-dollar-a-year budget like Davis has. And Kendrick turned them off by saying the mayor’s budget might need to be even higher.

Also, voters were truly disgusted that Kendrick and his Deputy Tax Commissioner Chris Johnson literally exchanged jobs to enable Kendrick to keep a paycheck and city-subsidized health insurance during his mayoral run.

When the switcheroo became public, Kendrick said he was taking inactive status, but he continues to receive city health insurance and other benefits.

Then Johnson resigned as Deputy Tax Commissioner and received an estimated $55,000 severance package and a $23,000 raise for becoming tax commissioner. Kendrick might have given up the check because of public criticism after the underhanded politics-as-usual maneuvers came to light, but voters haven’t forgotten the insult.

Then, there were the C4Live concerts that were supposed to take place during Masters Week at Lake Olmstead Stadium. People bought tickets for a pretty penny, only to learn the concerts had been canceled shortly before the tournament. Kendrick was the local face for the concerts, and people got discounts for mentioning his name.

MORE: Four clear winners emerge from Tuesday’s vote in Richmond County

People who bought tickets were promised a refund, but reportedly some haven’t received theirs.

C4Live leases the stadium from the Augusta Economic Development Board, which Kendrick chairs. The Las Vegas company donated $6,000 to his mayoral campaign. It would be a nice gesture for him to reimburse any unreimbursed ticket holders.

And the latest news about Kendrick that has some folks fuming is that he’s going to be working as a paid consultant for the Boys and Girls Club of Augusta for $40 an hour.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Nor This

I have a question that nobody I know can answer. The Augusta Richmond County Commission at 552 Telfair St., Augusta, is listed on now-District Attorney Jared Williams’ April 2020, campaign contribution report as having donated $200 to Williams on Feb. 7, 2020. Is it legal for the Augusta Commission to donate money to political candidates?

The Master Gardener

The man who helped make Augusta the Garden City died earlier this month. 

 James “Jim” Stutts was 98 years old when he passed away May 11. He was one of the sweetest people I ever interviewed when I was a fulltime reporter. I met him when I was writing gardening stories for The Augusta Chronicle about 20 years ago. His yard was filled with dozens of beautiful blooming camellias of every shade and hue camellias come in. Not only were they growing in his yard, dozens more he’d rooted were growing in buckets around and about.

I oooed and aaahd over how beautiful they were, so of course, he insisted I take some with me. He was so generous. And he showed me how to root them by air layering, which involves wrapping a limb with wet moss and covering it with plastic wrap and aluminum foil and waiting a few months for roots to develop from the limb. He gave me several different varieties that I planted and have watched grow and bloom. When they do, I think of him and his kindness. I air layered some, too, and they miraculously grew roots.  It was like magic.

Jim’s obituary in The Augusta Press said he enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and was chosen for the SeaBees. He served in the Hawaiian Islands building runways and on Guam building a hospital. He earned a Battle Star for the invasion of Guam. He earned a degree in Electrical Engineering from the Citadel. He came to Augusta in 1964 when he joined a team that built Augusta Newsprint.

“After retiring in 1991, Jim continued to pursue his love of gardening. His camellias are in many yards in the Augusta area. A garden was named in his honor at Pendleton King Park in 2005.”

Memorial

All is so very quiet. There is a sound of flags softly snapping in long breezes. People walk about, sometimes pausing seemingly to consider how the past survives in the present and even reaches into an uncertain future. They almost always shuffle their feet as if wanting to leave but are being held in place by unseen arms. The day is long every day. Nothing really changes but the people who wander up and down the long rows of white crosses and stars of David. The quiet though. That’s the rub. The ceaseless deepening quiet reminding us of how different things are now than when relentless noise marked events in our lives. Now we welcome the muted sounds of murmured prayers and tearful, barely whispered goodbyes. But there is the bugler! The clear notes of Taps rolling across the field at dusk. They signal the end of our day and the beginning of our Rest in Peace when the quiet is as it should be.

Thanks to Ernie Rogers for his contribution to this week’s column.

Sylvia Cooper is a columnist with The Augusta Press. Reach her at [email protected]  

23 COMMENTS

  1. Inspired by the $200 campaign contribution from the Augusta Commission to Jared Williams’ campaign fund, I coined a new word to describe the involved parties, “Crimoron” is the amalgamation of criminal and moron.

  2. I urge everyone that I know to throw their support to Garnett Johnson for Mayor of Augusta!He is a very smart businessman and he has promised to pay for his own car and gas if elected mayor.In other words he is the opposite of the scoundrel who is the current mayor.Steven Kendrick will be a repeat of Davis.It’s very telling that Kendrick would give up a job making 150,000 per year to make only 70,000 a year to be Augusta’s Mayor?Well I think we can all figure that out.Garnett Johnson will bring back honesty and integrity back to the Mayors Office.We never want to have another Hardee Davis of the likes of him as Augusta’s leader ever again.It’s time to clean house!!

  3. Thank you for putting the spotlight on all the political corruption in the Augusta Government Sylvia. Without you and the Augusta Press many
    taxpayers would have never known what copious amount of corruption takes place in Augusta on a daily basis. Sylvia virtually none of the items above could have taken place without the support of our current Commissioners, including your friend John Clarke. The only caring and honest Commissioners that currently serve voted YES on a forensic audit starting with the Mayors Office. Our mutual friend John Clarke voted NO! John Clarke has continuously called for a forensic audit of the entire city government, meanwhile trying to look good to his conservative base, knowing it would be too expensive and would never pass by his colleagues. In the past several years John Clarke has cut deals to increase his Commission salary, added $600.00 a month stiffen to his fuel cost and increased his travel expense budget. It’s become apparently clear that John Clarke and a few others on that Commission do not serve the best interest of the tax payers.

  4. Mr Coleman if you go to past youtube videos of the Augusta Commission meetings you will actually see Commissioner John Clark did vote against a SUBSTITUTE motion to only include the Mayor’s Office in the audit. The original motion for a complete audit of the Government then failed as did the substitute motion. Please if you are going to try to degenerate a specific Commissioner get your facts straight as I was sitting in the Commission Chamber when the votes were taken. Another point is that the Commission only get $500 per month, which they pay taxes on and the motion to create that payment was passed 10-0. My suggestion is for Citizens of Augusta if you really want to know what is going on with the local Government then either watch the Commission meetings online or attend the meetings in person. One other recommendation is to read the Commission Agenda which is posted on the Augusta Richmond WEB site each week before the meeting take place. The Citizens of Augusta should have factual information on Candidates for Political Offices rather than hear say.

    • Mr.Powell,
      I do know what goes on with the daily activities within our local government. Nearly four years ago I helped John Clarke get elected to the position he presently holds. John Clarke himself has informed me of several backroom deals he has cut in the past with several politicians such as Hardy Davis. I still consider John a good person that has lost his way. He won me over during that time with his passion to serve the people. Up until my retirement approximately 3 years ago , I had a personal relationship with 9 out of 10 Commissioners and the Mayor. Up until COVID hit, I attended every commission meeting I could. I am a known individual in those chambers.I have personally witnessed or obtained many documents of politicians ignoring other taxpayers best interest while trying to enrich themselves . I will be more than glad to meet with you and discuss any subject matter dealing with our tax dollars and the corruption connected to it. A lot of these items I speak of have already been given to the FBI. John Clarke has contiously called for a forensic audit of the entire government , knowing good and well it would never pass the full commission for several reasons. The time it would take , several years to audit the entire government, it would take millions of dollars, and his fellow commissioners would always vote no because it would put a spotlight on them and their dealings with taxpayers dollars. When Commissioner Clarke was given a chance to vote on a forensic audit of the mayors office only , he showed his true colors, He voted NO along with several other nervous commissioners. And once again Mr. Powell , John Clarke has informed me personally of unsavory backroom deals he had to make with other commissioners to get support on items he wanted to get passed. And I will be more than glad to discuss these items with you if you really want to know the truth.

    • Please re-read Charlie Coleman’s response. He said, and you agreed that John Clarke voted AGAINST the selective audit of just the Mayor’s Office. I do not think there is any question in anyone’s mind, that at the very least, there should be an audit of the Mayor’s Office. With shenanigans that went on between Kendrick and Johnson, and their “Musical Chairs” game in the Tax Commissioner’s Office, pretty much say that there needs to be a complete and forensic audit, of the whole DAMN ARC government. Let the chips fall as they may. Who knows, WHO might be making our 2024 license plates…

  5. This column was spot-on and succintly articulated the sentiments
    of many of us who live in Richmond County. Augusta is not living up to its potential because we have to many so-called public servants who are anything but that. We need more persons in office who have a desire to make Augusta the great city it can become and I believe that Garnett Johnson will be a tremendous choice to begin moving us in the right direction.

  6. I also got my augusta press subscription to read Sylvia. I am glad that they continued to develop it over time and it is now very comprehensive in coverage. I wish it was an AP so all I had to do it click on it to ready it. Over email is a little clunky having to log in. I am pleased generally and think it is a good value.

  7. Ms Cooper:

    I returned to Augusta in 2018 after a 50 yr absence and I have been very concerned by our dysfunctional governance model and inept and/or corrupt leadership by some. Thank you for providing a breath of fresh air and in-depth coverage on local matters.

    As a result of trying to develop some family property I was able to witness first hand this dysfunction over the last eight years. I do feel we have some hope at the mayoral level in Garnett Johnson and I pray we find a fair way for the people of Richmond CO to address our unworkable governance structure. We have concentrated the power in 10 commissioners with no checks and balances. Many have created their own fiefdoms without regard for what is best for all citizens.

    Hopefully this can change moving forward. Thank you again for your service to the community.

    Huxley Nixon

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