City Ink: Many commissioners left off invite list for mayor’s arena talks

Editor’s note: Earlier versions of this story incorrectly identified who was to meet at a restaurant. The Chronicle regrets the error.

 

Mayor Hardie Davis’ meetings last week with Regency Mall owners Alan Cardinale and James McKinnon that excluded most Augusta Commission members makes you wonder how he graduated from Georgia Tech without learning to count to six.

Of course, he might assume he already has at least four commission votes in the bag and only needs two more, one from Commissioner Ben Hasan and one from Commissioner Sammie Sias, both of whom were privileged to be at the very private meetings. But then, you never know how any commissioner is going to vote until they vote.

Davis didn’t invite Commissioner Sean Frantom because Frantom opposes the plan to build a new James Brown Arena at the mall site on property the city would lease for 35 years at $1 a year. So he probably didn’t invite Mayor Pro Tem Mary Davis either because she wants to keep the arena downtown. Nor did he invite Commissioner Marion Williams, who wants commissioners to consider condemning the site under eminent domain.

Grady Smith and Dennis Williams weren’t invited either.

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle was invited, but didn’t go.

“The arena issue has basically divided this county,” he said.

Cardinale had planned to meet with Coliseum Authority Chairman Cedric Johnson and Vice Chairman Brad Usry at Usry’s restaurant Thursday. But when Cardinale arrived, he saw a TV camera and left.

Usry said he and Johnson were disappointed they couldn’t meet, but stood behind the study the authority’s consultant did that recommended building the arena downtown.

^

Politics as Unusual: I finally understand how the mayor keeps making political mistakes. It has come to light that he has a political consultant on his payroll.

A little research on this consultant, Ryan Mahoney, shows he’s mostly worked for Republicans, such as Lee Anderson when he ran for Congress and Dr. Mark Newton when he ran for the state Legislature.

So the mayor hired a Republican to give him advice in a predominantly Democratic city.

After Davis and the Democratic-leaning commission took office in 2015, Davis shocked everybody by calling a news conference and announcing he was going to take over the government. And in one of his first major policy statements, he used the old Republican trick of plagiarism. Now if his latest move to have James Brown Arena built at Regency Mall is successful, he’ll be taking jobs and money out of the traditionally Democratic urban core and giving it to Republican-leaning south Augusta.

This raises several important questions, the first of which is, “Is Hardie Davis a Republican?”

The second question is, “Does Hardie Davis know he’s acting like a Republican?”

And the third is, “If Hardie Davis knows he’s acting like a Republican, will he stop, or will he become just another fat cat?”

^

Packrats Unpacking: When we moved to the country 20 years ago, we brought everything we’d ever owned with us, and since then, we’ve accumulated more.

When something was too good to throw away, but not good enough that anybody would seriously want it, we took it down to the little house, and put it in a bin and closed the door. And there in the dark, the bins multiplied until the day came we couldn’t walk around inside.

So for the past week, we’ve been going through them ruthlessly in an effort to get rid of so much junk. So far, we’ve emptied 15 bins and hauled off a ton of stuff, some we’ve had for 40 years or more. Hundreds of books, junk-era baseball cards, CDs, yellowed newspapers we couldn’t figure out why we’d kept, worn-out towels, sheets, comforters, clothes, shoes, camping equipment, kitchen utensils, glasses, cups, tennis rackets, trophies, framed awards, and memorabilia. Lots and lots of memorabilia!

Letters, cards, plays I’d written that I couldn’t remember a thing about, diplomas and news items I’d clipped, some of which I immediately knew why. Others not at all.

For example, while at The Valdosta Daily Times, I wrote a feature on a retiring Lowndes County principal named Mr. Frizzell that was so boring I couldn’t imagine why I’d bothered to cut it out, except maybe as a reminder to never interview a retiring high school principal again.

And then there was a story I wrote in 1984 headlined “Super Trucker Meets His Match.” It was about a man named Woodrow Turner Jr. who drove 34 years and 2½ million miles, give or take a few hundred thousand, and never had a chargeable accident until he retired, and a woman came over Valdosta’s infamous overpass and “clobbered” him good.

The overpass was built over one set of train tracks but not another set that ran only a few yards away because the General Assembly had appropriated only enough money for the overpass to cover one set of tracks. I remember hearing that the Valdosta lawmaker who got the money from the General Assembly had to take what he got or lose the appropriation. So he took it. And when George Busby was governor of Georgia, he got stuck there on his way to see his daughter, who was in labor at the medical center in Valdosta. That news story went everywhere.

I thought one news brief written by a new reporter covering the police department was so funny I stuck it up in my cubicle where it stayed until I left the paper.

It stated that a shoplifter stole $30 worth of clothing from Belk’s. The stolen items were two pairs of ladies’ shorts at $6.50 each and a $17 bathing suit, on sale for $14.95.

But nothing tops the letter to the editor about Archie McKay, the burned-out city editor and editorial writer at the Valdosta Times. The newspaper and Archie were criticized for never taking a hard stand in editorials. Archie did take a hard stand one time, though, in an editorial headlined “Put the Killer Away.” Unfortunately, he hadn’t read the news story it was based on carefully enough, prompting a reader named Jeff Wisenbaker to write this:

“I have been reading your paper for the last 17 years. I would have subscribed to another paper, but I wanted the coupons from the local stores.

“I have followed your editorials with little or no impression. Your editor, for instance, has settled down to writing good old boy stories to flatter the egos of his beer-drinking buddies. Needless to say, I have thought for years he should be delivering the paper as opposed to writing for it.

“Nevertheless, after your ‘Put The Killer Away’ editorial of July 21, I feel it is time for a compromise on my part. If the author will simply read the news and stop writing about it, I will continue my subscription.

“Since the man you want to put away died at the scene, I can only assume that you are proposing the lawyers prepare an insanity plea for the brain that the medical examiners have preserved or possibly that Ghostbusters make an appearance at San Ysidro, Calif., to prevent the remains of the deceased from committing further atrocities.

“I am, in spite of your ignorance, impressed with the Times finally taking a position, ludicrous as it is, on something. Keep up the good work and get a subscription to cable TV.”

 

More