(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.