Augusta mayor pushes plan to give him a vote on commission
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Mayor Garnett Johnson said Thursday he wants voters to decide on a plan to give him a full vote at Augusta Commission meetings.
Right now, he can only vote to break a tie.
The plan to change the city charter emerged earlier this week, and Johnson held a news conference on it Thursday afternoon.
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He released a letter requesting that the Richmond County legislative delegation support a bill to hold a referendum on the matter. In addition to Johnson, the letter was signed by commission members Alvin Mason, Brandon Garrett, Catherine Smith McKnight, Sean Frantom, and Wayne Guilfoyle.
That request was read for the first time Thursday in the General Assembly, assigned to a committee, and labeled Senate Bill 231.
The resolution would not create a “strong mayor” form of government or take power away from the commission, but rather give the mayor a vote equal to that of the 10 district commissioners, said a statement from the mayor’s office.
Johnson believes a “strong mayor” government “can be counterproductive to everything he is trying to achieve and could raise concerns about future mayors,” said the statement.
AT THE AUGUSTA COMMISSION THIS WEEK:
- City leaders approve funds for permanent lights on Greene Street
- City approves $850K to fix restrooms at Diamond Lakes Park
“This is not an ask for expanded powers or authority over the City Administrator or any other personnel,” the statement said. “This is simply an ask for a more balanced structure of power which Mayor Johnson believes will help get things done for our constituents.”
The plan emerged not long after an abstention during a commission meeting avoided a tie, thus keeping Johnson from voting on a plan to renew an ambulance contract with Gold Cross Emergency Medical Service.
He said coordinated efforts like this to prevent the mayor from voting “severely hampers our ability to make progress in our city.”
“We have all the challenges of things that impact the health and safety of our constituents like ambulance service. Yet we’re deadlocked on some of the simplest things. I believe that this referendum, if approved by the voters, or at least given to the voters, gives us an opportunity to make effective change,” said Johnson.
Senate Bill 231 was introduced Thursday by state Sen. Max Burns, R-Sylvania, and Rep. Mark Newton, R-Augusta.
“The great people of Augusta should be able to decide what is best for them as a collective, which will be done democratically through a vote on a ballot,” Burns said.
The bill has been assigned to the Senate Committee on State and Local Governments. You can read the full text of the bill here: https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/64704.
Augusta voters could have a say on the issue as early as November.
Before we get there, the bill would have to pass through the General Assembly and make its way to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for signature.
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