Monday, February 11, 2013

Corporal Gripweed: Sometimes Gridlock is Good

Monday, February 11, 2013
Augusta, GA
By Corporal Gripweed
"That which is right will become popular,and that which is wrong will soon lose its temporary popularity, and sink into disgrace".
                Thomas Paine.

There are certain words and phrases that have become popular in recent political discourse. Words like; moderate and bipartisanship . Phrases such as "reaching across the aisle", and "avoiding gridlock."
   Gridlock…I've always loved that word…Thomas Jefferson wrote  that "Government which governs least, governs best".

I submit that in some cases, gridlock is a good thing. The recent vote on the TEE Center skywalk which would connect the parking deck to the TEE Center across Reynolds Street, is a perfect example.The Commission voted 4-4 to deny funding for the project. 

In this case, the so-called "boogeyman" of gridlock worked as it should have. It is no secret that I, and many of my compatriots here at have never thought this project to be a wise use of taxpayer monies, especially given the fact that we were to absorb all of the expenditures but reap virtually none of the profit, if any. Under the current contract with Augusta Riverfront LLC, the owners of the Marriott and the contracted manager of the TEE Center, the taxpayers are guaranteed only a measly 5% of the catering receipts after a $400,000 threshold is reached. 

This last point is a slap in the face to taxpayers as we have already spent $1.4 million on the kitchen that will do the catering. My guess is, this threshold will not be met regularly, meaning that the city (the taxpayers) receives 0%. But what is more distressing is the fact that two of Augusta's "freshman" Commissioners, Mary Davis, and Donnie Smith voted, "No," on the motion to deny the expenditure for the skywalk , which means they are in favor of spending more money we don't have for something we don't need.

So much for the Augusta Chronicle's glowing assessment that Mrs. Davis and Mr. Smith would quote,"shake up the Commission". Already they have shown who they are working for. And in this case it does not seem to be the taxpayers.

On the other side of the equation we have the other two newly elected Commissioners, Marion Williams and Bill Fennoy. Because I'm a conservative, I'm guessing that my political ideas on a national level are very much different than theirs, but on this one they got it right. In particular, Mr. Williams who rightfully pointed out that we should not spend money we don't have on something that hasn't yet shown itself to be worthy of that expenditure. Sounds prudent to me. In this case Mr Williams sounds like the fiscal conservative.

On top of all of this we are supposed to believe that well educated executives and those bright enough to be conventioneers can't cross a semi-busy street in a modest sized city where there are two crosswalks with signals?…Indeed.

My suggestion is, if Billy Morris, Paul Simon and Augusta Riverfront LLC truly appreciate the incredible $65 million gift given to them by ARC taxpayers and facilitated by city administrator Fred Russell with the help of outside counsel Jim Plunkett ,then they should be willing to pay for their own skywalk. After all, they are already advertising the facility as the "Marriott Convention Center".

Moreover, we the taxpayers, could very well be on the hook for the yearly management plan of the TEE Center, soon to be voted on by the new Augusta Commission. A worrisome prospect given the recent exuberance by some commissioners to hand over the keys to the public treasury to the detriment of the citizens of Augusta.

My advice to newly elected Commissioners, who recently voted for re- opening the city's purse, yet again,would be; To rethink your stance…And do what's right…not what you think might be popular among the "ruling elite" .***

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