Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Mayor Wimps Out On Unpopular New University Name
Wednesday Augusta 15, 2012
By The Outsider
Breaking more than a week of silence on the controversial new name for the consolidated university in Augusta, Mayor Deke Copenhaver finally weighed in last night, essentially telling the people of the CSRA to just "get over it" and "accept" the new name. The Mayor said although he favored the popular University of Augusta moniker, he now supports the name Georgia Regents University, also known by its awkward acronym, GRU. If the mayor was such a fan of the public favorite University of Augusta, he sure did not actively push for it publicly. He says that during the naming process he weighed in on several occasions making his preference for University of Augusta known, but that must have been behind closed doors, because we don't recall the mayor being a forceful advocate for the name that the vast majority of the public wanted. It seems to us it's the mayor once again wanting to have it both ways on a controversial issue.. kind of like Presidential candidate John Kerry saying " I was for it before I voted against it."
Popular local radio talk show personality Austin Rhodes took to Facebook updating his status saying "Gotta love Mayor Deke...he fights for three years for a baseball stadium NO ONE wants...but he gives up on ASU/MCG in 9 seconds. What a guy." Rhodes has been a vocal critic of the GRU moniker, calling it "clunky" and downright "GRUesome." And the vast majority of the public seem to share Austin Rhodes' sentiments. Protests are planned this week against the new name and the the Augusta Chronicle Editorial page has urged its readers on an almost daily basis to fight this name. The Columbia County Commission will even take up a resolution at its August 21 meeting to voice their disapproval of the new name and urge the Georgia Board of Regents to rescind it.
But Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver seems more than willing to throw in the towel without a fight at all. Austin Rhodes raises a valid point in his earlier statement. This is a mayor who, for nearly the entire time he has been in office, has lead a crusade for a new downtown ballpark..... that virtually no one else in the city, besides him, feels is necessary. Despite overwhelming public opposition against a taxpayer funded ballpark, including a Democratic straw poll a few years back showing around 80% opposed, the Mayor has continued to press the issue anyway.
The Mayor has always coveted the site of the former Augusta Golf and Gardens for his dream riverfront ballpark. Just this year, GHSU President Ricardo Azziz, got control of that property from the Board of Regents for university expansion.Azziz has said he envisions a research park, student housing and a performing arts center. But that still did not keep the mayor from fighting for his ballpark at that location. City Administrator Fred Russel even had meetings with Azziz to make appeals on the mayor's behalf for including a ballpark at the site as part of university expansion. Sources also tell us that the mayor even appealed directly to individual members of the Board of Regents and even the Governor! It seems the mayor was willing to do whatever it took to fight for his ballpark. So why is the mayor giving up so easily over the new name of the university? Why isn't Deke at least putting as much energy into fighting for the university name that the vast majority of his constituents want, including himself? After all, this is a name the community will have to live with for many decades to come.
Could it be that Deke wimping out over the university name is an effort to curry favor with Azziz, who will head the New U and control the Golf and Gardens property, to hopefully get his dream ballpark on which he has staked his legacy as mayor? Would Mayor Copenhaver be willing to sell-out the citizens of Augusta for a ballpark?
Or perhaps since Mayor Copenhaver is term limited he is not really concerned with local public opinion anyway... and he is looking toward future employment after 2014. And after taking this position on the university name, Deke could probably not be elected dog catcher. BUT we hear being a Georgia Regent is a pretty sweet gig... all that power...$millions of public money at your disposal... and NO accountability to the public. The bigger the ego, the better! Sounds like a perfect job for someone like Deke.***