Mayor Hardie Davis surprised most of Augusta today by announcing a “call to action” for citizens to change Augusta’s form of government. We’ll let the mayor’s announcement speak for itself, but the tremors are already being felt across Richmond County.
The following is a complete transcript of his speech made earlier today:
“Thank you for joining me here today. We stand at the base of the “Tower of Aspiration” in historic Springfield Village Park. Today, it is time for us to ensure that Augusta has a better future ahead. It is time for all of our collaborative hopes, dreams and aspirations of OneAugusta to be realized and released from the shadows of our past. It is time for us to put a government in place that allows this city to be nimble, to be competitive, to open its doors not just for businesses to come here, but for individuals and families to come back HOME.
“I took office understanding that we live in a city with the largest full service law enforcement agency in the state at over 650 employees; led by a sheriff who is and should be able to make day to day decisions about the safety of all our citizens without encumbrance or concern from the employees or our citizens that the position is too powerful. Yes we live in a city with 32,000 of Georgia’s finest students, being led by a visionary superintendent who is able to make the day to day decisions about the education of our children without the struggle of who is in charge, without the struggle of having to get ten individuals to agree to allow businesses to partner with the local schools to improve the quality of life and expand educational opportunities for our children.
“While these are glimpses at how effective leadership operates, the role of Mayor of this same city of 200,000 residents has been reduced to managing meetings where ten individuals make all the decisions to hire and fire, to spend tax payer resources without any long range planning. In our current structure of government there is no system of checks and balances. There is no ability to hold anyone accountable for the decisions that are made on a day to day basis because our government was not designed that way.
“Department heads and entry level employees report to ten different individuals, yet most citizens believe that the mayor is responsible for providing direction, providing vision, and providing leadership for the entire city. Our government has failed to function effectively for 20 years because we have been set up this way.
“When decisions are made whether good or bad, the Mayor cannot veto or change those decisions. In fact the Mayor doesn’t even contribute significantly to the process of making decisions that impact our city and our citizens. That’s not the type of government the US Constitution provides. The constitution provides for government based on a system of checks and balances between the branches of government but our current structure subverts that most basic and fundamental premise. The architects of our local government surely understood that important principle, but chose to ignore it under the disguise of giving too much power to the office of Mayor.
“In a true democracy, checks and balances prohibits any one branch from having too much power ‘real or perceived’ to ensure that the power really rests with the people who elect us. Today the bell of life continues to TOLL on Augusta. We can no longer continue this experiment in its current form. The future of our city, her residents and future generations weighs in the balance of decision. It is the balance of decision that must be rooted in what is JUST, what is RIGHT.
“I call on citizens from across this city to join in this conversation to urge the General Assembly to amend the City of Augusta’s charter so that it works for all of our citizens, and provides a system of checks and balances. To provide a government where the role of Mayor is not ceremonial; One where the Mayor who is elected by citizens from all of Augusta – East, West, South, and Downtown- One where the Mayor who is elected by Augustans representing every ethnic group, every faith community, every industry and every dream can share a vision for our future, Where the Mayor provides direction and leadership. Let us today, join in conversation that leads to action.
“Action that will give the mayor veto ability that can be overridden with 8 votes by the commission – Take action and make the attorney, fire chief, finance officer and administrator direct reports to the Mayor while giving the administrator hiring and firing power over department heads. For 20 years we have had this conversation in the shadows with no action, today as we stand at the Tower of Aspiration, let not our aspirations for a better Augusta once again be squelched because we talked and did nothing.
“Today let us answer the bell that has tolled long enough and join together as OneAugusta and take action by telling the Legislature it is time to make things right in Augusta, it is time to correct the challenges of our current government structure and put a system of checks and balances in place today and for future generations of Augustans. Thank you and may God continue to Bless Augusta and her citizens.”
The following is Davis’ proposal for new mayoral responsibilities:
1. Responsible for execution of all ordinances and resolutions
2. Exercise supervision over all executive and administrative affairs
3. Appoint department heads (including : county administrator, general counsel/county attorney, fire chief, and finance officer) subject to approval of commission, to serve at the pleasure of mayor
4. To sign and approve deeds, bonds, and contracts as law may require
5. To submit annually to the commission an appropriations resolution, budget message, budget report, and capital improvement program for commission approval/ ratification
6. To conduct studies and investigations, and to make legislative recommendations to the commission
7. To represent the consolidated government in intergovernmental interactions
8. To provide for an annual financial audit and report of its findings
9. Preside over commission meetings
10. Vote only to break a tie in initial votes of commission
11. To exercise veto power subject to an override of 8 votes by the commission