Thursday, November 10, 2011

Where's Deke on ParkingGate?

The Boy King by City Stink's cartoonist "The Shadow" Commentary
Dustin Goads

Well, once again when it comes to controversy, Augusta's mayor is missing in action. It's no secret that The Boy King loves to avoid controversy at all costs... so when news hit that the city of Augusta had just built a $12 million parking deck on land it doesn't even own, it was no big surprise that you didn't see or hear much from the mayor in the local media.

Not that Deke is camera shy. I mean if the news had been that Augusta was ranked in the top 25 places to have a gall stone removed by some obscure online publication, The Boy King would have convened a news conference to hype the news and to somehow take the credit because of his charisma, charm and his ability to "bring people together" had obviously contributed to Augusta making the rankings.  But the city spends $12 million dollars to build a downtown parking deck on land owned by the same people who want to be paid to run it and Deke doesn't seem to think it is a big deal. But remember this is a pattern for Augusta's mayor.

When there was a near riot at The Cherry Tree Crossing housing project a few years back, the media couldn't even reach Deke for comment. Instead, then mayor pro-tem Al Mason stepped forward and called for calm and spoke on behalf of the city to the local media. Something you would expect the mayor to do. But then no one could get a comment from Deke for days.

Then a couple of years ago, when Augusta was about to hold its first Gay Pride Parade and Festival, the "Unity Mayor" punted the request for a permit to the city's legal department instead of signing off on it himself. It was an obvious ploy by Deke to ride the fence on that issue. There was no legal grounds to deny the permit and Deke knew it, but he wanted to absolve himself of the responsibility for granting the permit.

 It would have been a great opportunity for Deke to show some leadership and do the right thing because it was the right thing to do, regardless if it was the politically popular thing to do. But it has become obvious, that Deke is more concerned about popularity than in showing leadership and doing the right thing. And based on his showings in his last two elections, that strategy unfortunately seems to work.

And then how could you forget the recent brouhaha involving Fred Russell and  decision to hand out big raises to select employees while most others where getting furloughs and pay cuts. Deke was mostly silent on that issue, when just about every commissioner seemed to have something to say. Deke was more upset that it made the city look bad, not at the situation itself. Deke also had little to say over the recent controversies at the fire department that ended up with the upper echelon, including chief Willis taking early retirement. Unless it's a photo opp at a ribbon cutting or a news conference to announce that Augusta has made some ranking in yet another obscure top 10 list.. well then you just don't hear or see a lot of The Dekester.

When Deke was on The Means Report (WJBF) recently, Brad Means asked the mayor about the parking deck and whether he would ask Augusta Riverfront LLC to donate the land, as commissioners had been told by Fred Russell that they had agreed to do. Deke's answer and his mannerisms were very revealing. First he was obviously perturbed that the question had even been asked in the first place. And he answered it by saying: "Why do some people always want to look back at matters? We should be looking ahead." This seems to be Deke's canned response to any controversial situation that he wished would just go away.

 But the question is valid, and of course Deke did not answer it. Commissioners were told right before they voted to approve the deal to build the TEE Center and the parking deck that Augusta Riverfront LLC (or their subsidiary.. in this case 933 Broad Investment Co, LLC) had AGREED to donate the land. But that never happened and commissioners were never told that the terms had changed. Does Deke not have a problem with that? He should. And Deke kept reminding us in his first campaign about his experience in negotiating real-eastate deals and how that could be beneficial to the city. Well Deke, now is a perfect time to put those negotiating skills to good use.

Or was the mayor aware that the deal had changed? If so, then why didn't he inform the commissioners that the land was not going to be donated? The mayor's visible defensiveness on this issue leads even the casual observer to believe that maybe he knew more about what was going on then the commissioners knew. Is that why he wants all of this to just go away? 

But once again we have another controversy in city government and absolutely NO leadership from the mayor. You have commissioners bickering back and forth. One wants a full-scale forensic audit. Others deride that as a "witch-hunt".  But where's the mayor? Where's the leadership? Where's Deke's charisma and charm when you need it to "bring people together"? 

We would hope that the mayor would take this more seriously, because we are talking about millions in tax dollars and possibly commissioners being purposefully mislead. That's a big deal. And it should be a big deal to Deke. The Boy King may want to just "keep moving forward".. but as the maxim goes " those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them." Well that may explain why Augusta seems to be making the same mistakes over and over and continually getting suckered into these bad deals.

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