After engineering a surprise vote by Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority members to build a new $110 million James Brown Arena at the old Regency Mall site, Mayor Hardie Davis held a news conference to hail the decision as a “game-changing moment” for the city.
The sudden 4-2 vote was based on a sketchy letter from the mall owner, produced at the meeting by authority member Darren Smith like a rabbit from a hat. It reversed an earlier decision by the site selection committee to keep the arena downtown, shocking them and dividing the populace.
Flanked by south Augusta boosters and property owners, Davis gave a lofty speech with only one jab at Coliseum Authority Chairman Cedric Johnson and Vice Chairman Brad Usry, who hadn’t seen the letter and voted against the motion to lease the site for $1 a year for 35 years.
Before excerpting portions of the speech, it’s imperative to present a glossary of Davis’ key words and phrases:
Stakeholder: Somebody who wants to get rich
Visionary Decision: Any decision that nobody with common sense would make
Bringing the Community Together: Everybody bows to one king
Key Component: A key that unlocks taxpayers’ pocketbooks
Positive Feedback: Stuff I want to hear
What We Need Now And To Plan For The Future: A re-election ploy and a nest egg
Game-changing Moment: When the other team wins with the clock running out
Tying Our City Together: Handcuffing and blindfolding the taxpayers
It’s a Framework: Sort of like an empty frame
Too Early to Have That Discussion at This Point: I don’t have a clue
Excerpts From the Speech: Davis: “I applaud the efforts of the Coliseum Authority members that voted in selecting the site. They made a visionary decision. … It really focuses on bringing the community together.”
Interpretation: For people who can’t see beyond their own noses, they followed my instructions well and picked a site that will continue my legacy as king of #SOGO.
Davis: “Gordon Highway is a strategic corridor. SOGO is a key component of Augusta’s future. And the James Brown Arena will do nothing more than open up SOGO.”
Interpretation: I couldn’t get anybody else to invest in south Augusta, so let’s let the taxpayers do it.
Davis: “It’s the most strategic corridor of our city.”
Interpretation: Gordon Highway is the road between two places where redevelopment is actually working – Fort Gordon and downtown – and my friends own property along the road.
Davis: “We know the owners of the (mall) property want to complement those efforts they see in our community, which is why they have been willing to engage us in conversations that they’ve not had over the last 15 or 20 years with folks in government.”
Interpretation: The guys from up north think they’ve finally found a mayor and local group they can screw over.
Davis: “They (Cardinale) find themselves at a place where they too share the excitement about Augusta and as such, they believe that, again, that starting those discussions as we did just a week ago will help advance this discussion beyond where we are.”
Interpretation: Cardinale thinks they can get rich off Augusta taxpayers.
Davis: “While I’m encouraged by the positive feedback from business groups, residents and even stakeholders, I know that there are others who want to keep the James Brown Arena downtown.”
Interpretation: The positive feedback is from everybody who thinks they’re going to get rich. The negative feedback is from those who want to keep James Brown Arena downtown, which is everybody else in Augusta.
Davis: “I understand their concern, and I appreciate their engagement, but I must tell you, this is not an us versus them. This is not a south Augusta versus a west Augusta. This is not downtown versus other parts of the county. I continue to keep saying it. We are one Augusta. Not two Augustas. Not 10 Augustas. Not a black versus white Augusta. We are Augusta.”
Interpretation: I am delusional, and everybody sees that but me.
Davis: “I believe we have devoted enormous resources to downtown.”
Interpretation: We might be one Augusta, but downtown is hogging all the money, and I want to get my friends some room at the trough.
Davis: “It’s time for us to grow all of Augusta, not just one part of Augusta. What can we do together? Look for common ground.”
Interpretation: In looking for common ground, everything depends on who owns it.
Davis: “There will be future generations of Augustans who will look at this day, at this moment in time and say, ‘Someone was willing to be courageous. Someone was willing to be visionary.’”
Interpretation: They will say it was me, Mayor Hardie Davis.
Davis: “A greater vision for that property is high-rise apartments with a grocery store underneath.”
Interpretation: More government-subsidized housing for downtown Augusta and a reincarnation of the 15th Street Kroger.
Davis: “It’s a proposal. It’s a framework that allows us to begin discussions. We’ll get the right people in the room and have those conversations and frame something that works with the city of Augusta.”
Interpretation: Leave it to my campaign manager Ed Enoch, who happens to be the Coliseum Authority attorney and his law partner Ed Tarver, whose seat I took in the state Legislature to make sure Augusta is served well. And we’re all going to get rich.
Davis “There are a number of options of how this gets funded. Obviously, you’ve got revenue bonds, and you have general obligation bonds. I think it’s too early in the conversation to have that discussion at this point.”
Interpretation: Who cares as long as the attorneys and my friends get rich?
Davis: “We want to make sure we’ve got a framework that is palatable to not only the elected officials who end up voting for this, but then we can stand in front of our citizens, 202,000 residents in Augusta, and say, ‘We believe this is Augusta’s best opportunity, and this is in the best interest of the city of Augusta and does not put us in a place of being exposed.’”
Interpretation: We want to make sure the elected officials get a piece of the pie, and the residents think we’re cooking up something good for them too without putting us in the pot.
Davis: “I submit the overall handling of this process to the degree that I know little pieces of it, there are things that should have been handled differently. I lay that at the feet of the chairman and vice chairman. They’re the ones in control of this process.”
Interpretation: I’m pushing Regency Mall because Cedric Johnson and Brad Usry made a mess of things.
Godfather of the High-speed Chase: I read where city officials are planning to put a statue of James Brown in the center of a roundabout at James Brown Boulevard and Twiggs Street to slow traffic. Is that funny, or what?
He Didn’t Get the Memo: During an Augusta Commission committee discussion about ways to protect the goats that maintain the city’s retention ponds from further attacks by stray dogs, Mayor Pro Tem Mary Davis said she’d had two calls from people saying that a donkey would protect the goats.
“I heard that as well,” said Animal Services Director Sharon Broady. “We purchased a donkey. He was not familiar with that program. He came in and was kicking the goats all over the pasture.”