This column appears in the December 21, 2017 edition of Urban Pro Weekly.
I first began my coverage of Augusta politics in 2009. Prior to that, my only experience in journalism was in sportswriting. What changed, you ask? My growing interest in social activism led to a quick study of Augusta’s political structure.
The idea of politics might be intimidating to some, yet I am here to tell you that it really isn’t a difficult idea to understand. I believe it’s an idea where representatives of the people work in the people’s best interest. The money from the government, which comes from the people, is allocated in a way that helps the entire populace.
Of course, this is not politics as we know it — in Augusta, or America, for that matter.
Politics is a big money game (I am tempted to type “scheme.”) It is pay-for-play in every way imaginable. Our elected officials don’t do the bidding of the people. They do the bidding of corporations.
Politics isn’t just about economics, though. On a very simple, yet fundamental level, politics is also about race.
Take the Atlanta mayor’s race and runoff, which Keisha Lance Bottoms won by the “skin of her teeth.” A map that displayed the voting results by precinct showed a literal divide down the middle of the city. (The map is pictured here).
No matter how progressive or civilized we like to think we are, oftentimes, we vote for the candidate that looks like us.
It’s an undeniable bias. But what happens when the elected officials who look like us don’t truly represent us?
This is exactly the case of what happened when the Augusta Commission — a governing body where six of the 10 commissioners are Black — balked on a deal to build a new James Brown Arena at the Regency Mall property.
The four white commissioners stood firm. They knew anything short of retaining the JBA in downtown Augusta would be a loss for them.
The six Black commissioners? Not so much.
Whether intentionally or no, they have mishandled the JBA proposal at Regency Mall so poorly that they ended up, to quote Teddy Pendergrass, as “two-time losers.”
First, and most importantly, they let down the predominately Black constituency in South Augusta, and Augusta overall. For the time being, and seemingly the foreseeable future, they failed to secure an economic jewel that could revitalize South Augusta.
Secondly, the six Black commissioners did nothing to earn the respect of those who were opposed to the proposal in the first place. They are still seen as a bunch of incompetent stooges.
Ironically, and with a touch of racism, a boisterous group of (predominately) white folks also see the commissioners and Mayor Hardie Davis as “corrupt.”
Of course, there was very little talk of “corruption” as Augusta built a TEE Center, a parking deck and gentrified downtown Augusta. What, you think white folks in power are going to tell on themselves?
So, the question remains — what do we do?
It’s simple in practice, but hard to execute. We must maximize our majority.
Here’s what commissioners and other elected officials need to understand — representation is more important than re-election.
Elected officials spend so much time trying to please the media and corporate entities that they forget about serving the populace.
Truth is, Black commissioners will never please Augusta’s white-owned media. That’s why it’s foolish to build a legacy on what they think and say.
Instead, build your legacy on the ABC’s — be men of action, boldness and candor.
People will not always agree with you, but at least conduct yourselves in a way where you demand peoples’ utmost respect.
Black folks might not always have the money, but there are times when we have the masses. And it’s important, in those moments, to push our weight around and make a passionate effort to create lasting change in our community.