City Ink: Unedited: Mayor, businessman spar over new arena

As you probably heard, Augusta businessman Clay Boardman, in a private email to Mayor Hardie Davis that became public a week ago, criticized the mayor’s proposal to build a new arena at the old Regency Mall site. Boardman called the proposal “wrong, bad for the City and disastrous for the Arena.”

 

Davis responded with an email to Boardman, prompting Boardman’s immediate email response to him. Both are printed below, unedited, for your reading enjoyment.

Clay,

I thought I would respond to your recent email as a friend, though I made several attempts to talk to you via phone weeks ago most recently October 12, to discuss this very issue and get your thoughts. Your email starts by stating that you are expressing your opinion “and every other person’s opinion I have talked to… ” Would it be appropriate to ask who have you spoken with? Have you bothered to speak with anyone outside of the Augusta Country Club “Breakfast Club,” or the very exclusive, membership only, Augusta Tomorrow group before deeming the proposal as “wrong, bad for the City, disastrous for the Arena…and ill-advised”?

What makes “every other person you have talked to”…more insightful, more thoughtful, or more informed than the hundreds of people that the Mayor, Commissioners and Authority members talk to each week? For the record, the majority of the people they speak with are not their close friends and colleagues. They are strangers. Residents of this community who offer constructive suggestions and support for the concept and are offended by the brash manner in which you use pawns like Austin Rhodes and Sylvia Cooper in an attempt to drown out the perspective of the average folks in the community. Where do you get the nerve to assume only you know what’s always best for Augusta?

To be fair, in a second email, you might want to tell us the last time that you championed any project that would address the concerns that have been raised year after year by the residents of South Augusta for decades. The Mayor and the members of the Commission ran for office and were elected to use their best judgment on behalf of the entire community. Likewise, the members of the Authority were appointed to do the same. How are the opinions of those elected and appointed officials who support the Regency Mall site “attempts to undermine the Authority and the powers granted to the Authority,” but your unsupported opinions spread across email and Facebook are not?

What crystal ball are you relying on when you predict that building the arena on the Regency Mall site would result in a loss of “N. Augusta, Aiken County and Columbia County Spectators and would doom the Arena,” “could bankrupt our community,” and would “lead to the inability to obtain artists”? Do you have any substantive data that supports your extremely bold predictions or are you merely attempting to continue this community’s history of division (West Augusta v. South Augusta) and economic superiority (our opinions should control because we pay more taxes than they do)? Is that really the model that you used to become the prominent business man that you have been held out to be?

As a self-anointed advocate for Augusta, I am truly disappointed that you did not believe it necessary to address the real reasons that people are supporting the idea of building the new arena on the Regency Mall site. Reasons like a longstanding need for investment in that area of the city that is the gateway to Fort Gordon, the extremely poor parking on and around the current arena; the train tracks and the uncontrollable delays associated therewith; and outdated traffic accessibility patterns that limit traffic flow. Most importantly, the Regency site provides a wealth of economic development and growth opportunities in my opinion.

The current proposal would result in the beautification of a part of our city that has been neglected for far too long and will potentially rejuvenate the Gordon highway corridor from downtown to Fort Gordon, and beyond.

How can this be disastrous for Augusta? This city has an opportunity to channel the energy and optimism seen in Augusta and build upon that in an area that warrants attention while maintaining the revitalization of downtown in a way that provides greater opportunities for everyone. For the last two decades the public sector has in fact led the way with developments downtown; Tee Center, Tee Center Parking Deck, John H Ruffin Courthouse, Ronnie Strength Sheriff Administration building, Georgia Cyber Innovation & Training Center, AU Medical Commons, AU Dental School, AU Student Housing, Municipal building renovations……… Finally we are seeing private sector investments and typically from folks who are not from Augusta after decades of talking about the potential of the city under previous leadership per your comment.

You mentioned studies that sit on shelves disregarded by the Mayor and Commission in your email and my only response is that from day one, I have worked with this Commission to take elements of the Shields plan and put those things into effect, thus the conversation we are having now about Gordon Highway and the Regency Mall site. I will continue to be a Champion for all of Augusta and that includes continuing the work in downtown with a focus on the Cyber Corridor-Gordon Highway as well.

That is what people expect from this mayor.

Always open to talk,

Hardie

Boardman's response: 

“Let me respond to your lengthy email:

I have spoken, received emails or texts from maybe 100 people to date. I have yet to hear from anyone (nor have I solicited comments) in favor of your position nor the method by which you interjected yourself into the process by interfering into the Authority’s task delegated to it. I am not saying that there are not informed people in agreement with your position; I am saying that not one has contacted me.

I am not a member of the Augusta Country Club.

•I have not attended the breakfast club you allude to although I have heard that you attend from time to time.

I am not a member of Augusta Tomorrow which you accuse of being exclusive although you are a member.

I have never represented that every other person I have talked to is more insightful, etc. than you, the Commissioners or the Authority.

I have not spoken or emailed Austin Rhodes on this subject.

I have not spoken or emailed Sylvia Cooper on this subject.

I do not assume that I know what’s best for Augusta. I think I may know more than some others on certain aspects. I do not believe that you are the one that knows best though.

Re: your comment regarding South Augusta and how I have never championed anything there before: you are wrong yet again. I own about $8,000,000 of property in South Augusta presently and invested a similar or greater amount there in the Smile Gas days. My office was on the south side of Gordon Hwy for over 40 years and I worked from there for 14 years – a block away from Regency Mall. I have many, many friends there that I cherish. I have much to gain personally and civically from the beautification of south Augusta. I just wish you and the Commissioners that represent the area would act to do so. Look at the clogged storm sewers, paving condition, lack of street lighting, horrible streetscapes and lack of small parks as just a few examples of poor stewardship.

Re: your comments that I am fostering “division’: I feel that you have it exactly backwards. You are fostering division with your “country club,” and “exclusive,” comments. You are fostering division with a hint of racism. I happen to believe that decisions are best made based on facts and study rather than political, economic and racial fearmongering.

Regarding my knowledge of arenas, I was drafted by Wilmington, NC to develop a baseball stadium and entertainment complex and learned quite a bit in my two year involvement there. I traveled all over the east coast and/or researched existing projects in many cities. I also have two separate music businesses that book famous acts from all over the country and know quite a bit about the industry. I would venture to guess that I know a good bit more than you do in this area.

I believe in one person, one vote and for you to attribute the “we pay more taxes so they should listen only to us” statement is childish, uninformed and untrue.

When did I say I was self-anointed? I am a citizen and can and will express my own opinion. If people agree, good. If they don’t, that is fine as well. I have every right to say what I feel just as you do.

There are many beautification opportunities for South Augusta – why haven’t you embraced any?

What major private sector developments are you seeing around Regency Mall that you allude to?

What have you personally invested in south Augusta?

What city of our size are you trying to emulate that has located an arena in a remote, disadvantaged area such as the long-failed Regency Mall?

I would ask you the same question that you asked me: What crystal ball are you looking into?

Are you stating that the Authority has no right to issue bonds without the Commission’s consent?

What independent study are you relying on that says Regency Mall is the best location to build an arena?

What synergistic businesses are you stating exist close to Regency Mall that makes it a perfect location for an arena?

Your One Augusta campaign slogan is just that – another unmet campaign promise.

I am happy to talk when you wish and would think that a meeting with Cedric, as Authority Chairman, or Brad Usry would be a worthwhile meeting.

Yours sincerely,

Clay

 

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