Friday, December 14, 2012
Anointment of Corey Johnson Raises Questions
By The Outsider
It appears there is a push underway to anoint commissioner Corey Johnson the next Mayor Pro-tem and this has started to raise a lot of eyebrows. WRDW News 12 reported on Wednesday that Commissioner Joe Jackson intends to nominate Johnson for the post being vacated by Commissioner Joe Bowles at the first commission meeting after the New Year. Mayor Deke Copenhaver even was quoted as saying that he fully expects Johnson to be named the next Mayor Pro-tem.
But some are wondering what the motivation is to anoint Johnson before the new commissioners have even taken office. There will be four new faces on the commission after January 1st -- well actually 3 new faces if you consider that Marion Williams is a returning commissioner. Some political insiders are saying that Johnson's confidence indicates that this has all been prearranged behind closed doors. Many people were hoping that the new commission would do business differently.
So why the push for Johnson as Mayor Pro-tem? Well considering the history for filling the post, commissioners like to alternate between black and white commissioners. The exiting mayor-pro tem, Joe Bowles, is white -- so it is assumed that the next Mayor pro-tem should be black -- and apparently the powers that be have already decided it should be Corey Johnson. This has many political observers speculating that this is a reward for Johnson switching his vote on the TEE Center management contract. As you may remember, commissioners debated for more than a month over the details of the TEE Center contract. Augusta Riverfront LLC was essentially holding commissioners hostage-- demanding they sign off on a lopsided contract that would have been very detrimental to city taxpayers. Fred Russell and the mayor continued to play a game of cat and mouse -- always waiting till the last minute to put the contract on the commission's agenda with no changes whatsoever, hoping to wear down the commission into signing off on it out of shear fatigue. But commissioners continued to balk at the tactics and there was even a push to ditch Augusta Riverfront LLC in favor of Global Spectrum -- the manmager of Augusta's James Brown Arena and Bell Auditorium. It seemed that finally commissioners had the upper hand and were on the cusp of getting major concessions from Augusta Riverfront LLC or they would go with an entirely new operator.
But something happened after the General Election on November 6th. The very next day, approval of the TEE Center management agreement was placed on the Nov 8th commission agenda. It looked as though they were back to their old tricks again. But even just an hour before the meeting commissioners were saying that they did not believe it would pass -- and Joe Bowles was even quoted just an hour before the meeting that he still favored the Global Spectrum option. But, oh how things change when they get in the commission chambers. This time, the contract did have amendments, but it was hardly the best deal the city could have gotten given their new position of strength. In fact, most commissioners had not even seen the amendments until right before voting on them, and the lawyers were even handwriting amendments just seconds before the vote. Surely commissioners would not approve such an important document that they had once again been hurriedly prepared and placed on the agenda at the last minute -- that most of them had not even had time to study? Surely they would not approve this contract when just an hour earlier, they were telling the media they would not? But they did. Yes, it was an improvement over the previous deals floated, but hardly the best deal the commissioners could have gotten if only they had waited one more weak. It looked like the commission was in a rush to pass anything after the results of the election just two days earlier . And who was the deciding vote that passed the TEE Center contract with Augusta Riverfront LLC at the last minute? Yep, you guessed it -- Corey Johnson.
We had been hearing for weeks that an immense amount of pressure was being put on Johnson to change his vote in favor of the terms with Augusta Riverfront LLC, and when people began talking about using Global Spectrum, that pressure intensified. Johnson stood his ground for a couple of weeks but in the end, voted for the contract with Augusta Riverfront LLC.. that was only slightly better than the original.. just at the moment when the city had the upper hand in the negotiations.
Political insiders tell us that some of Augusta's biggest power brokers dangled some mighty big carrots in front of Johnson for him to switch his vote -- but the clincher was apparently promising to make him the city's next mayor. And now it looks like they are making good on that promise by prepping Johnson for the job by anointing him the next mayor pro-tem, which is essentially an understudy for the mayor. The next mayoral election will be held in 2014. After the results in the sheriff's race, the downtown power brokers saw the writing on the wall, and realized that the next mayor was likely to be black -- and they needed to get busy now prepping someone for the job whom they could control -- and that someone appears to be Corey Johnson.
But what about Bill Lockett? He has been proven right on a multitude of issues -- including the TEE Center. Lockett has a command of the details on the most complex issues and comes fully prepared to ask tough questions. Corey Johnson on the other hand has difficulty forming a complete sentence. And then there's the whole ego thing. When interviewed by WRDW about the anticipated mayor-pro-tem position.. Johnson exclaimed, "Because I'm great. I'm going to be honest with you because I'm great." Wow, what humility. If he does get the job, we have to wonder if he will require a gold plated throne.
But what about Wayne Guilfoyle? He has emerged as a real leader on the commission and, like Lockett, does his homework before commission meetings. Guilfoyle had some tough questions for DDA director Margaret Woodard earlier this week regarding the renewal of the downtown business improvement district and companion CADI program. Guilfoyle wondered why downtown business owners were being taxed a third time for services that once were provided for free by jail inmates. Astute observation, Wayne! Guilfoyle, also held his ground on the TEE Center and he was one of the swing votes that halted action on the controversial Laney Walker Overlay. And isn't it about time an Asian-American held the mayor pro-tem position? I mean, if we are going to award the position on a rotating racial quota, isn't it about time for an Asian-American to get the nod? Plus it would give South Richmond County a level of prestige they have not had on the commission in quite some time.
But the power-brokers have decided they want Corey.. maybe because they fear independent thinkers like Bill Lockett and Wayne Guilfoyle. They seem to have the next four years planned out and Johnson asd mayor-pro-tem fits nicely into their plans.***
More to come