How many people in Richmond County care whether or not the Augusta Commission approved removing the mayor’s signature block this week from a document called, “Policy for the Drafting of Ordinances and Code Amendments?”
Come on, folks. Don’t be shy. Raise your hands.
Most people in Augusta don’t really care whether the mayor has a signature block at the end of any document. They also aren’t worried about whether the mayor supports the commission’s “Policy on Drafting Ordinances” or not.
Almost everyone in Augusta realizes the duties of the mayor are basically running a commission meeting twice a month, being present for a few ribbon cuttings and groundbreaking ceremonies and trying to be the best possible spokesperson for the city.
Everyone seems to understand that fact, but one person: Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis.
He just doesn’t get it.
Davis was elected into office by 75 percent of the votes cast almost two years ago and he still doesn’t understand when to pick his battles.
Last week, Davis made a public speech during the administrative services committee meeting addressing his position on the commission’s policy on drafting ordinances.
It was quite a lofty speech.
“Commission Policy for Drafting of Ordinances and Code Amendments creates what is generally a ‘standard operating procedure’ that effectively restricts the ability of a commissioner (legislator/policy maker) from an inherent premise of representative democracy, and that is to introduce legislation at any time,” Davis said. “Any constraint on the freedom of the legislative process would thus be subject to strict scrutiny and legal challenge to include being rendered null and void. I do not believe that the commission can adopt a policy and make it binding on itself as this policy would assert.”
Riveting, isn’t it?
Hang on, there’s more. Much more.
“Using state law, the local charter and current code, it appears that there is no true legal enforcement mechanism for this policy,” the mayor stated. “If a majority of the commission at a regular meeting wanted to pass a resolution or adopt an ordinance, then the majority could do so notwithstanding this policy pursuant to state law and the local charter.”
Wake up, folks. The mayor is speaking.
“While the approved policy appears relatively harmless on its face, it is questionable in its application and it is likely that the Commission Policy for Drafting of Ordinances and Code Amendments would have unforeseen ramifications that would impede government operations,” Davis said. “While the purported purpose of this policy is to implement a motion from a previous commission’s actions dated March 7 and 15, 2005; the stated concern at that time was the inordinate cost of having outside counsel draft ordinances at the request of department directors and outside agencies.”
Oh, he’s not done yet.
“The City of Augusta contracted outside legal counsel from consolidation (1995) until effectively 2008 when the first in house general counsel was hired,” Davis said. “Current government practice is to have ordinances and code amendments drafted in-house and not by outside counsel. It is therefore reasonable to ascertain that the drafting of ordinances and code amendments is part of the normal functions of the in-house law department and policy making process.”
We are getting to a “finally” now, folks. He’s almost done.
“Finally, this policy has the chilling effect of not only hindering the legislative process, but effectively censoring ideas of an elected member of the commission,” Davis stated.
Now, here is the kicker.
You can’t have a pointless speech without referencing the Gettysburg Address, can you?
Cover your ears, President Lincoln. You deserve much more than this speech.
“In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln extolled virtues for the listeners (and the nation) to ensure the survival of America’s representative democracy: that ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,’” Davis stated. “The purpose of a representative democracy is not to censor ideas, but to allow them to be heard and properly vetted. This policy restricts a commission member from representing the people by whom they were elected to be their voice. Any member of the commission must be able to take an idea and have it drafted for debate and discussion in the committee and then full commission process in order for representative democracy to exist.
“Therefore, having not been persuaded of the need for the ‘Policy on Drafting Ordinances and Code Amendments,’ it is not my intent to sign or assent to its approval or enforcement.”
Thanks for clearing that up, Mayor Davis. Where would Augusta be without you?
So, after all that, what happened this week?
In less than three minutes, the commission voted 6-3 to remove the mayor’s signature block from the document.
Boom. It was done.
Davis just wasted his breath and made himself look foolish in the process.
Even Augusta Commissioner Bill Lockett pointed out the silliness of the entire discussion.
“My concern is with the amount of time that was expended talking about a signature block,” Lockett said. “Time we could have used trying to decide how we are going to take advantage of the Cyber Command or the expansion of the medical complex or to make Augusta a greater place. We could have expended that time talking about how we are going to beautify Gordon Highway and Deans Bridge Road or what are we going to do about Regency Mall, but yet we spend all of this time on the mayor’s signature on a document.”
Of course, Lockett failed to realize he was wasting even more time talking about how the commission was wasting time, but that’s to be expected in Augusta, isn’t it?
“Let’s do what we were elected to do: Take care of the people’s business and let’s eliminate the power plays,” Lockett said. “Because if you have power and you don’t know how to use it, it is not going to do you any good.”
Who do you think Lockett was referring to with that final statement?
Let’s help paint Mayor Davis a picture.
This is what Lockett is trying to tell you: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Augusta has much bigger problems.