Last week, the Insider wrote about local developer and businessman Clay Boardman sending the mayor an email explaining why he thought building the new $120 million arena at the Regency Mall location would be “disastrous.”
It was a blunt, but extremely honest email in which Boardman tried to explain why he felt the idea was “ill advised, poorly processed, poorly thought out and researched and simply the wrong decision.”
Well, this past week, the mayor’s response to Boardman’s letter was made public thanks to <<IT>>Augusta Chronicle<<IT>> columnist Sylvia Cooper.
And the tone in which Mayor Davis responded to Boardman’s email made mouths drop all over the county.
The Insider would be remiss without taking a look at this heated exchange between the two leaders in this city: the mayor and Boardman.
The mayor began his email to Boardman coming out swinging.
“Your email starts by stating that you are expressing your opinion ‘and every other person’s opinion I have talked to,’” Davis writes. “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’?”
Unbelievable. The mayor was immediately hitting below the belt. And since when is Augusta Tomorrow a “very exclusive” group?
“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?” Davis asked. “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… Where do you get the nerve to assume only you know what’s always best for Augusta?”
The mayor also suggested that Boardman was “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?” Davis asked.
So, is the mayor really implying that Boardman is not a “prominent businessman?”
Mayor, don’t mess with Clay Boardman. He has a track record in this community that he can be proud of.
Back in 1997, Boardman invested more than $17 million in Enterprise Mill, which dates back to the mid-1800s and was once operated by the Graniteville Company, and converted the abandoned structure into a mix of upscale apartments, businesses and office space located right in the heart of downtown Augusta.
At times, Boardman’s construction budget reached $50,000 a day, but he believed in the downtown project and didn’t give up on investing in Augusta’s future.
Over the years, Boardman has also renovated a number of Augusta landmarks such as the 55,000-square-foot Sutherland Mill, the Houghton School, the Widow’s Home and the William Robinson School, just to name a few.
Boardman is also the treasurer and site selection committee chairman of Turn Back The Block. It is a faith-based, nonprofit organization whose mission is to revitalize the Harrisburg neighborhood.
Now, that’s a record that will stand the test of time, but, for some reason, the mayor still felt the need to disparage Boardman.
Well, let’s just say, Boardman didn’t back down.
In his response, Boardman told the mayor that he had “spoken to, received emails or texts” from about 100 people throughout the community.
“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,” Boardman wrote. “I am not saying that there are not informed people in agreement with your position; I am saying that not one has contacted me.”
He also didn’t take the insults against his character lying down.
“I am not a member of the Augusta Country Club,” Boardman wrote. “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.”
But Boardman explained that he does have experience in this field.
“Regarding my knowledge of arenas, I was drafted by Wilmington, N.C., to develop a baseball stadium and entertainment complex and learned quite a bit in my two-year involvement there,” Boardman added. “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.”
Boardman also said he’s a longtime supporter of South Augusta.
“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,” Boardman wrote. “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.”
In fact, Boardman insisted he was the last person who was trying to divide Augusta.
“I feel that you have it exactly backwards,” Boardman wrote. “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 fear-mongering.”
Well said, Mr. Boardman.
“I believe in one person, one vote,” Boardman added, “and for you to attribute the ‘we pay more taxes so they should listen only to us’ statement is childish, uninformed and untrue.”
Perhaps the mayor should think twice before he hits the “send” button.