Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis is once again throwing up his hands and blaming others throughout the city for his own actions.
But folks aren’t buying these poor excuses anymore.
The mayor is not new to his position, and he’s definitely not new to politics. In fact, he’s up for re-election next year, and there are more and more people throughout Augusta that are ready for a change come 2018.
Folks are sick of Davis pointing fingers and playing the victim, especially when he’s the one stirring the pot.
During a speech before the Rotary Club of Augusta this week, the mayor waited until the very end of his talk to discuss the controversial proposal to build a new $120 million arena at the abandoned Regency Mall site in south Augusta.
With several prominent community leaders in the audience, it was clearly a topic he wasn’t eager to discuss.
“And so, it brings me to the thing that is on most of your minds. ‘Mayor, you can’t leave if you don’t say something about the James Brown Arena,’” Davis said. “I know. I know. That’s why I waited until the last few minutes.”
It was time for the mayor to face the music.
“There is a conversation going on in our community that has, in fact, become divisive,” the mayor said. “There is a conversation in our community that, again, is very painful. I did not know that I would be 48 years old and on the verge of being martyred in my own city.”
Cue the violins. The mayor is laying it on thick.
“I did not know that because I thought about something differently than other people thought about it, not only did I think about it differently, but I asked the question and I said, ‘What are the possibilities if we did this?’ Little did I know… that there would be a variety of conversations that happened as a result of that and I would be written about for 60 days in both The Augusta Chronicle and the Metro Spirit, not once, but oftentimes twice a week, sometimes three times a week,” the mayor said. “Little did I know that.”
Little did the mayor know that if he surprised the entire city with a brand new proposal to build a $120 million arena with taxpayers’ money on an abandoned piece of property that the city does not own that people might have a strong reaction?
Really?!?!? Come on, mayor.
But then Davis’ speech began to take on a different tone. One of blame. He began implying that anyone who did not support the Regency Mall proposal was not being “inclusive” of all residents of Richmond County.
The mayor said he believed former city leaders, the media and business people in Augusta over the years when they said they would focus significant “effort and energy” on reconnecting Gordon Highway with downtown.
“Somewhere along the way, I read it. I believed it,” Davis said. “Augusta is more than downtown. Augusta is more than just one thing. A city that we live in is a city that, again, should provide opportunity for all of our residents.”
The mayor then suggested that those who are questioning the Regency Mall proposal are the ones dividing the city.
“It does not have to be an us versus them. It does not have to be west Augusta versus south Augusta. And even if you don’t like my slogan, ‘One Augusta,’ at the end of the day, we are all Augustans,” Davis said. “We are all Augustans who care about this city. We are all Augustans who are passionate about this city. That matters to me.”
All of that sounds wonderful, but a city leader also must be wise and use his or her due diligence when it comes to taxpayers’ money, especially when the price tag is more than $120 million.
The mayor should know that fact.
However, Davis suggested that the Regency Mall proposal would be successful because he has done his homework on the location.
“If I don’t know about something, I won’t talk about it,” Davis said. “But if you hear me talk about it, particularly publicly or even privately, I have done my research and I know, at least part of what I’m talking about.”
As far as the Regency Mall project, Davis said “there is a moment in time” that a city must be bold and act even if there are differing opinions about the proposal.
But for Davis, this speech wasn’t about facts because those are difficult to explain.
Instead, the mayor avoided any facts and stuck to emotions.
“As your mayor, you expect me to be forthright and you expect me to be honest,” Davis said. “I will do that every day.”
That is, except when dealing with all of the members of the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority, especially Chairman Cedric Johnson and Vice Chairman Brad Usry. Isn’t that right, Mr. Mayor?
He also said that the four authority members who supported the Regency Mall site shouldn’t face public criticism.
“That is OK that if we say four of the six voting members voted and said, ‘We like this site and there are reasons why we like this site,’” Davis said. “That is OK. That is what makes Augusta who she is. And that is OK.”
The mayor should have stopped there.
He was already behind, but then he began digging himself in a hole.
He began using odd comparisons that not only didn’t make any sense, but caused people’s stomachs to turn.
Davis used the example of one golf fan not being excited about Tiger Woods returning to play the Masters, while he, on the other hand, would be happy to see that happen.
“If you tell me that you are not happy that Tiger Woods is coming back and going to play possibly in the Masters, and I say, ‘Well, absolutely, I’m excited about it.’ That is OK,” Davis said. “At the end of the day, what matters most is that when we have these big issues that turn divisive, what we should do as a community, what we should do as a city is stop and remind ourselves, just like the good Texans in (Sutherland) Springs.”
Did the mayor really just compare a horrific and violent shooting that murdered 26 churchgoers in a small Texas town to the city’s dispute over the Regency Mall proposal?
“They were church members together; they were neighbors together; they were co-workers together; they were friends, school members, partners, parishioners and they stood together in that church,” Davis said. “May we also stand together as Augustans beyond this decision. Beyond where we are around this issue and the divisiveness of it.”
Close the book on Mayor Davis. He is done.