Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lori Davis Appeals to Conscience of Commissioners

Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Augusta, GA
From Reports

Lori Davis, a candidate for the District 1 Augusta Commission seat and a contributor to CityStink.netwent before the commission yesterday to urge city leaders to halt action on approving a very lop-sided management contract for the Reynold's Street Parking deck that has been mired in controversy since its opening last Fall. Davis appealed to commissioners' consciences and asked them what kind of political legacy they want to leave. In the end, commissioners tabled the parking deck contract with Augusta Riverfront LLC. We have printed the full text of Lori Davis' remarks before the commission below. We will have video when it becomes available.

I come before you today, once again as a citizen...A VERY concerned citizen. Most of you know me, and know what I stand for in this community. You are well aware, I belong to a group of like minded individuals who are worried about the direction this city has taken in the last several years…

This is no ordinary group.. We have the capabilities among us to uncover information that has been deeply buried.… In voicing our opinions, our group has sometimes been applauded by members of city government. To you we say Thank You!!.. What we are doing can be a thankless task. Other times we have been merely tolerated, in some cases we have been treated with outright hostility.I remind you, if it weren't for this group of like mined individuals,YOU as Commissioners,and WE, as citizens would have never known the TRUTH about questionable projects such as one in particular that you are here to discuss and vote on today..The lop-sided parking deck deal agreement..

Citizens DESERVE the truth, and taxpayers have PAID for the truth..

I was rather rudely reminded this last week by two separate Commissioners, of the place that citizens have in the process of government.. NO SURPRISE HERE... We've gotten used to it.

In conversation,Commissioner Brigham said to me, in an offhanded remark that there are many people who come before the commission with a variety of .. "unimportant" issues…Commissioner Joe Jackson said, ON CAMERA., that a forensic audit should not be done just to satisfy a, "special interest group".We can assume they were talking about our group of dedicated individuals who wish nothing more than that the truth be told, to ALL citizens.

I was saddened and to hear these Commissioners speak this way. Embarrassed for them and embarrassed for us.I think several of you would agree.. Gentlemen WE the CITIZENS of Richmond County ARE your special interest group, and nothing we bring before you, or any other citizen, should EVER be viewed as unimportant..much less verbalized.

I believe I know the reasons for certain members of city government's attitude towards our research team..

After we began to investigate the TEE/Center/Parking Deck deal, it became apparent that the deals put together, from day ONE were, NEVER in the best interests of the city, but were from the very beginning, slanted in favor of the companies involved. 

This is not conjecture, nor is it , as Mr Brigham told me, "Just our opinion". It has been proven through open records requests paid for out of our own pockets, along with some good old fashioned detective work.

Most of the material we've uncovered has been dutifully forwarded to you in order to help you better grasp the scope of the problem we face. We challenge you to stop and think about your future votes as all eyes are now upon you. 

Our findings have also been been forwarded to the media. Sadly,print media, especially the daily paper of record has paid only cursory attention to our well documented revelations, with very little,if any investigative journalism utilized. That's not surprising, considering the owner of that paper is one of the major players in this hastily prepared and ill-conceived parking deck plan.

Let me be clear….We don't necessarily blame the businessmen involved. They are doing what any savvy businessmen WOULD do, get the best deal for their company.But we would hope that these same businessmen would have some sense of moral duty to the community in which they live. Sadly we don't see that sense of civic- mindedness here. Making all of this even harder to swallow…Moral bankruptcy in the pursuit of monetary gain is an affront to hardworking, taxpaying,honest citizens .Although not illegal…… disturbing nonetheless.

We also do not hold individual commissioners, nor the Mayor wholly to blame. ..Unless the city charter is changed and Commissioners become full time public servants we cannot expect them to spend the time to investigate these deals. However, we DO take issue with those who are paid large salaries to look out for taxpayers interests, and you should as well. They are specifically,the city administrator Fred Russell, along with his one man outside legal team, Jim Plunkett… They are the ones who let the citizens of this county down, They have let YOU down by agreeing TIME AFTER TIME, to deals that were never in the best interests of the taxpayers.

Sadly, in the case of the parking deck agreement, we the people,were last on the list of "special interests" when this deal was crafted. 

Given Augusta's current financial situation, we can ill continue to do business this way..The recent First Friday incident illustrates the problems created from funneling money into these lop-sided deals, thereby having less to spend on more important things like public safety.We are now reaping what we have sown.By wasting public resources on various pet projects to benefit the few,the many who ARE left in Richmond County are paying the price.

I ask ALL of you here today, knowing what you now know about this parking deck deal, and this form of deal-making within your ranks, how will you proceed? Will you be remembered as one who began to right this ship, or one who continued down his own path into moral bankruptcy?We are the people you are elected to serve.We are the people you campaigned to and asked us with all sincerity for our vote...You must resolve on this day to hold accountable those who put their own "special interests" ahead of the interests of the people whether it be one among you or those who continue to pressure you from the outside.

As Thomas Paine said, "These are the times that try men's souls" I ask,Who owns your soul? The people? Or those who would profit at the expense OF the people?
I recommend today that you do the right thing. Table the current parking deck lease agreement until the other proposals can be studied and compared.In last week's parking deck workshop, Jim Plunkett was specifically tasked by YOU to do this. 
Also, move forward with the forensic audit for full transparency for your constituents. Don't sign any lease agreement without the release of the liens as promised by Wells-Fargo.

And lastly, Make sure that the new agreement meets the original RFP of the contract, with not only a budget, but commercial terms securely in place.
If all this is done, then the citizens of Richmond County will again be able to put their faith and trust in you as true leaders.

Perhaps this could be the greatest deal of all….
Lori C. Davis"***

**Below is a video excerpt of Lori's Speech**

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