Tuesday, May 1, 2012
By The Outsider
Well it looks like the District 1 Augusta Commission race just got its fourth candidate. Self described "peace activist" and bee-keeper Denice Traina made it offical yesterday, joining community activist and government watchdog Lori Davis, former Laney-Walker neighborhood Association President Stanley Hawes, and incumbent Matt Aitken.
Traina appears to be positioning herself as a one-issue candidate, making her announcement at the Broad Street Bus transfer station, promising to significantly expand public transit, if elected. However, she gave no specifics how the city would pay for it. Last year, the city began contracting operations of the city bus system out to a private company called Mobility Transit. In a February 25, 2012 City Stink column, Lori Davis, who is also seeking the Dist 1 seat, detailed numerous problems and complaints with Mobility Transit, such as vendors not being paid and employee benefits and health insurance being temporarily cut off for non payment. Augusta Commissioners are now mulling whether to sever ties with Mobility Transit over these issues.
Besides being a one-issue candidate, Traina also appears to be a candidate on the fringe of the political spectrum. Here are a few things we discovered:
"Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Military Recruiters Have Got to Go!"
As Georgia Green Party co-chair, Traina led an effort to have military recruiters kicked out of Georgia high schools. She said that the military should be banned from public schools until organizations like The Peace Corp and Americorps were given "equal access." But apparently Traina did not do diligent research, as these organizations have always been allowed to recruit in public high schools along with the military. A March 18, 2005 editorial in The Augusta Chronicle took on Traina's effort to kick the military out of Georgia public schools. You can read that here--> Misguided or Malevolent?
One has to wonder how this anti-military position will go over with voters in a city with close ties to the military, where Fort Gordon is among the largest employers and a population with large numbers of veterans.
"It Must Be....Witchcraft"
Denice Trania lists the creation of a community garden as one of her accomplishments while serving as President of the Harrisburg/West-end Neighborhood Association. The garden is located on the 600 block of Bohler Avenue in Harrisburg.
Most residents agree that the garden is an improvement, but Traina ruffled some feathers in the community when she invited a Wiccan group to perform a ceremony to consecrate the land. You see, the garden is located on the grounds of Augusta First Assembly of God Church, who allowed use of their property by the neighborhood for the community garden. Many members of the Christian congregation were upset that Traina invited a group of Pagans to perform a ritual on their property without their consent and especially since their pastor was not invited to give a blessing to the garden, despite their church providing the property. An article in The Augusta Chronicle talked about the Wiccan ceremony here-->Harrisburg Community Grows with Garden.
"You Say You Want a Revolution?"
It had become clear that she had a very different vision of the problems in Harrisbug as well as how to deal with them. By early fall of 2009 less than one year into her two year term, the neighborhood Board of Directors was fed up. Traina did not get behind efforts to create a Chronic Nuisance Property Ordinance to help curb crime and problems stemming from absentee landlords that were plaguing Harrisburg. Instead, Traina had a more "touchy-feely" agenda focusing on things like community gardens and Pagan rituals. Her solution for combatting crime was through bolstering the "self-esteem" of the criminals who were terrorizing Harrisburg. For many residents of the neighborhood her direction was out of step with reality.
In the early fall of 2009, Traina called a special meeting of the Harrisburg/West-end Neighborhood Association in an attempt to purge the "tough on crime" members from the Board of Directors who were championing the Chronic Nuisance Property Ordinance, but the tables were turned on Traina. After failing to get a second on her motion to remove two outspoken members from the Board of Directors, The Board voted to remove Traina as President by a 6-1 margin, with Traina being the lone vote in her own favor. Traina later complained that she was targeted because of her liberal political views, but she was the one who initially tried to purge members from the Board of Directors who had political and philosophical views that ran counter to hers.
Though improving public transit is a noble cause that will certainly resonate with many District 1 voters, Denice Traina will need to do more than offer bumper sticker slogans and a wish-list of hollow promises. Considering how the city is strapped for cash, she will need to offer more practical solutions and a means to pay for them.
And whereas improving public transit will be an important issue, it is by no means the only issue affecting District 1 voters. Traina's "soft on crime" mentality may not resonate very well with voters who live in neighborhoods under siege by criminals. Traina says that she will go on a walking tour to gauge what issues are important to residents of the district, but that leaves the question, "shouldn't those issues already be apparent to someone running for the commission?" If not, then it shows someone who is out of touch with the average voter in District 1. Also, how will voters receive Traina's radical political ideology that calls for kicking the military out of public high schools? Fort Gordon has been a vital part of this community for many years, and Augusta prides itself as a "military town." Will Augusta voters embrace a candidate who has demonstrated a hostility towards America's armed forces?
Single issue candidates rarely get traction beyond the niche constituency they have carved out for themselves. But voters may wonder if the transit issue is merely an attempt for Traina to hide her more radical political agenda, just like her Green Party does with the environment... all the while championing an agenda on the far fringe of the political mainstream***