OPINION from The Arrowflinger
Legendary singer James Brown would be aghast over the Arena controversy that bears his name.
Over the last eight months, even jaded political observers of the already lunatic-run government of Augusta, Georgia have been riveted to the orgy of anger, intrigue, arm-twisting and name calling that left the consolidated county hopelessly, and possibly permanently, divided. South Augustans of all races, yes including whites, found that the constantly-enriched downtown, central business district, media and hill fiefdoms want them to add the biggest capital building project in the city’s history to a gaggle of incredibly mismanaged and costly efforts with the TEE Center, Parking Deck, Judicial Center, Library and Municipal Center renovation efforts. Worst of all, they found themselves denigrated for living in South Augusta.
The establishment faction rolled out a tour de force against Mayor Hardie Davis for pursuing a location at the defunct Regency Mall property on Gordon Highway. The scrutiny, detailed analysis and coverage, finally summoned into play after being virtually nonexistent during the earlier fiascos, was gratifying to behold. Mayor Davis and supporters of the Regency site were caught off guard. They very justifiably complained of a double standard. In that, they are absolutely correct.
The political spectacle could be seen coming in the piney woods of Lincoln County three years ago. On a long enough timeline and given enough rope, the hapless nine man and one woman Augusta Commission stumbled blindly into a trap of their own making, yet one laid by a merry band of intrepid busybodies, gadflies, curmudgeons, Augusta Todayers, Political Watchers and City Stinkers, with one Arrowflinger in the mix. (Perhaps we would best term the bunch The Augusta Emancipation Reclamation Project, but that awaits some sort of official proclamation that frankly might not come until the Augusta Lynx return to ice skate on Broad Street some Midsummer day.)
The activists set the stage for this uncivil war by amassing such outrage over the blatant mismanagement and looting on those earlier big projects that they were able to defeat SPLOST 7A 2014 in May 2014. By the time that plans and project lists were being made for SPLOST 7B 2015, a new arena on the project list would have meant near certain defeat.
While some of the activists sought to defeat SPLOST 7B 2015 outright, in a repeat of the long-shot 2014 vote, a couple of them worked behind the scenes targeting the new arena as being the best avenue to either defeat the SPLOST if it was on the list, pressure commissioners to eliminate it from the list, or failing both, to reduce it to such a minuscule funding total as to force the city into a later conflagration. The commissioners, notably Marion Williams, were reluctant to even attempt listing the arena at the full $110 million. Sequentially, the designated SPLOST funding was whittled down to about $20 million, then $15 million, and at one point looked to be zeroed out and off of the list. Commissioner Hasan insisted on putting some money on the list and the project appeared as line 10 of 12, way down on the list of the Quality of Life projects. Even worse, the verbiage was misleading to the voters, reading:
Modernized James Brown Arena $6,000,000
Address needed upgrades for aged and outdated James Brown Arena, including possible new multipurpose area with a seating capacity of approximately 9,000 for concerts, sporting events, community events, meetings, futurity, and other events.
How does, “Address needed upgrades,” for a mere $6 million become, “Build a New Arena for $120 million to $200 million?” The real outrage should be the fact that the Mayor, Administrator, and Commission are YET AGAIN taking voter approval on a fractional portion of a facilities cost, just as others had done with the municipal building and TEE Center, as carte blanche authority to build a much greater project. Even worse, it is the biggest expansion of this bait and switch trickery ever at TWENTY FOLD expansion.
Citizens might remember that officials like Mayor Davis, Commissioners like Sean Frantom, former Mayor Deke Copenhaver, the Chamber of Commerce, and the business supporters of SPLOST 7B 2015, all promised that cost controls would be in place for the SPLOST-funded projects. Davis was quoted as saying, “… that we take every step forward to put in place unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability so we are demonstrating to all of our citizens that we can be good stewards of taxpayers resources.” (Editor’s Note: WRDW article quoted herein no longer available online.)
The statements of Mayor Davis, Mayor Pro Tem Davis and Commissioner Frantom in this WJBF Channel 6 report prior to the vote are telling!
The tune they sang then is octaves lower than the, “Let’s BUILD IT NOW!” they seem to sing today. Land acquisition agreements are not planning, they are obligations to proceed.
2015 SPLOST 7b 2015 was passed by the voters on Tuesday, November 03, 2015. Now it looks like they might get bypassed on actually getting to vote for or against building the biggest project in their history. Instead, on May 22, 2018 they are being virtually TOLD, “We are building this thing on one of two places, whether you like it or not.”
Tractorgate blew away their last figment of credibility that their sworn “Cost Controls” will ever exist.
Augusta government is the laughingstock of Georgia. Pigkiller in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome exclaimed [laughing], “PLAN? There ain’t no plan!” In Augusta, looting is always the plan, even when it is on a ballot in two places.
Two plans entered, no Taxpayer Leaves.
They will build it just for its looting potential.
(Editor’s Note: The above WJBF video is included here for the purposes of journalism and public education. This clip is herein archived for the public good in the discourse and record of political speech, and is thereby protected under Fair Use.)