Editorial: Is this any way to conduct public’s business?

Mayor’s attempt to steamroll commission is just bizarre

Mayor Hardie Davis announced a holiday open house for the public this coming Monday. A day after he tried to shut down Augusta Commission debate over a new arena.

 

Unusual optics, to say the least.

After the commission stalemated 5-5 Tuesday on whether to proceed with ill-advised plans for a new arena at the site of the old Regency Mall, the mayor broke the tie in favor of the proposal, which he has been shepherding all along behind the scenes.

But when it looked as if the commission might immediately reconsider the decision – Commissioner Ben Hasan said he mistakenly voted for the proposal – Davis quickly gaveled the meeting adjourned to prevent it.

Ultimately, after commissioners voted to overturn his adjournment, Davis had to allow the proceedings to continue — and the commission voted the mall site down convincingly, 7-1.

It’s striking, and perhaps even reprehensible, that the mayor tried to use a parliamentary maneuver — adjourning the meeting — to prevent the elected members of the Augusta Commission from expressing their true will on the matter.

In short, Mayor Davis wanted the location of a $110 million arena to rest on his power to adjourn a meeting.

He’s got to be kidding.

No, he’s not.

In fact, even after the 7-1 defeat of the mall site proposal, Davis seemed not to recognize the commission’s authority in the matter – saying, instead, that the 4-2 decision in favor of the mall site by the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority is the controlling vote.

Really? Where is the Coliseum Authority going to come up with $110 million or more, without the full cooperation of, and the full weight and credit, of the city?

And who would be foolish enough to buy bonds for such an ill-considered location, from such a politically divided city?

When did this science-fiction-sized bee get in the mayor’s bonnet – that he would be so personally attached to the Regency Mall site that he would try to get it passed over the objections of a super-majority of the city’s legislative body? And then choose not to recognize its authority in the matter?

This is just bizarre – and, together with the insular, secretive process the mall proposal has been put through, it calls the mayor’s judgment all the more into question.

Holiday open houses are all well and good. But our local government ought to be open every day.

 

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