|CC Dist 2 candidate Damon Cline|
Though this is Cline's first foray into local politics, his name is not unfamiliar to most people in the area, especially readers of The Augusta Chronicle. A journalist for 15 years, he was a former Business editor for that newspaper. Now he works in the Communications and Marketing departments of GHSU and is editor of GHSU Today Magazine.
Articulate and looking a bit like David Duchovny, Cline fits the bill of someone running for political office, but he contends this was not something he had ever planned on doing... not if it was not for Magnolia Trace. Cline had hinted a few weeks ago on the Facebook group: Say No To Magnolia Trace Housing Project, that he would be willing to challenge Trey Allen if no one else stepped forward.
Early on there was buzz that Jennifer Mcrae, the leader of the anti Magnolia Trace citizens activist group, would challenge Allen, but she quickly dispelled those speculations, saying she had no interest in running for office. But after McRae, Cline was one of the more vocal members of the opposition to Magnolia Trace calling for more accountability and transaprency in Columbia County government.
As you will remember, The Magnolia Trace saga blew up in early December of last year, when residents surrounding the proposed government subsidized housing development packed a Columbia County Commission meeting demanding answers and accountability. Commissioner Trey Allen, along with County Commission Chairman Ron Cross had met in county attorney Doug Batchelor's office in the Summer of 2010 to discuss the project and concluded it to be "good for the community." City Stink revealed earlier this month that Batchelor was also working on behalf of the Missouri based developers of Magnolia Trace on the project, but did not disclose this to the county. See our story on that here: Magnolia Trace Double Take.
City Stink also revealed that the Missouri based Magnolia Trace develepors were donating to the campaigns of state level and Columbia County politicians. See our story on that here: Mag Trace: Money Traces to the Gold Dome.
Though initially defensive about the development, Trey Allen eventually started to understand the political ramifications when hundreds of citizens packed that Commission meeting on Dec. 6 2011. A more contrite Trey Allen made a motion at that meeting to hire outside counsel to try and stop the project. However, the Savannah based attorney hired by the county concluded that it was too late to halt it. Though it appears Allen did have a change of heart, for many people it was a little too little too late and was motivated more by fears of being kicked out of office than anything else.
Only two Columbia County commission seats are up for grabs this year, both held by Allens (though not related). Butch Holley already announced his intentions to challenge Commissioner Charles Allen (brother of Dist 12 Congressional candidate Rick Allen) this fall.
Not on the ballot this fall is Commission Chairman Ron Cross, though many people wish he was. At that Dec. 6th citizen packed meeting, Cross was indifferent, arrogant and downright insulting to the concerns of the hundreds of citizens who showed up. But Cross' days may be numbered, since a referendum to impose term limits on commissioners will be on the fall ballot.
However, citizens will have the opportunity to impose their own term limits for atleast two commissioners. As for Damon Cline, the test will be whether Magnolia Trace is still fresh in voters' minds come November, and whether the issue even plays outside of the immediate area surrounding it. But for this citizen turned citizen activist, Cline believes this election is about more than Magnolia Trace. As he told the CCNT reporter Donnie Fetter, Cline said:
"Columbia County needs a public watchdog. The actions of some county leaders indicate they have become out of touch with the wants and needs of the everyday people they are supposed to serve."
Well who better to be a public watch dog than a journalist of 15 years?***
Damon Cline's campaign website can be found here: DamonCline2012.com
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