AUGUSTA, Ga. (WFXG) - Augusta Mayor Garnett Johnson says—to be the voice of the people, he needs a vote on the commission. He was joined by former Augusta mayors this morning to ask voters to help make that change happen.

When the city and county were consolidated in 1996, a mayor/commission government was established, meaning the mayor of Augusta has never had an equal vote with his colleagues on the commission. The exception is if the ten commission votes result in a tie… the mayor is then allowed to break the tie, but in some cases, a single abstention by a commissioner means the mayor can’t vote on that policy at all. 

Current Augusta-Richmond Mayor Garnett Johnson wants to see that changed. 

This morning, Johnson welcomed three former mayors, a former commissioner and a former senate majority leader to give their opinions on why they think Augusta-Richmond county voters should vote yes to giving the mayor a say… 

“Augusta-Richmond County is the only consolidated government in Georgia that does not have a charter review committee. And it's about time we have one,” said Mayor Garnett Johnson. 

The speakers included former Mayor Hardie Davis, former Mayor Bob Young, former Mayor Deke Copenhaver, former Commissioner Richard Colclough and former Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker. 

“It clearly states that the mayor is a member of the city commission, and is empowered to vote to make or break a tie. But our mayors, since the inception of consolation, have been subjected to voter suppression,” said former Mayor Bob Young.

“Never would I have thought that the mayor could not vote,” said former Senate Majority Leader, Charles Walker.

The mayor of Augusta has never had an equal vote with his colleagues on the commission, except in the event of a tie. That’s a system we’ve seen manipulated by abstentions in certain cases of potentially split decisions.

“We want to move this city forward. Whether that's the advancement of bringing a new business to Washington Road, and it's a five, five tie, the mayor needs to be able to cast a vote to say ‘yes, bring business to this city,’” said former Mayor Hardie Davis. 

Those in favor of allowing the mayor to vote /outside/ of the tie breaker tell me…those manipulations and abstentions can hold up government decisions and waste taxpayer money.

“The convention center was held up by extensions, the judicial center, as was the library. So it took years and years and years to bring these projects to position. So its speed to market, it is costing the taxpayers money by just slowing down those projects,” said former Mayor Deke Copenhaver.

 “We can't fix Washington, but on May 21, we can fix Augusta, or take a step in the right direction by giving the mayor a vote,” said former Mayor Deke Copenhaver.

However there are a few commissioners who don't think this is a necessary change. Commissioner Tony Lewis spoke with FOX54 on the phone and opposes the mayor vote.

 “Ever since the charter was enacted back in 96, that's been the position of the original consolidation charter that we are under. If it hasn't happened in 26 years, and it wasn't broken then, then I don't see why anything needs to change,” said Commissioner Lewis.

On May 21, voters will be able to decide whether or not the mayor should have the right to weigh in on commission topics.