According to Augusta mayor Hardie Davis, the results of a non-binding referendum on a new Augusta arena site are inconclusive and require more analysis.
Last month, voters were posed with two non-binding questions concerning the arena site. One yes-or-no question asked if officials should back the current location of James Brown Arena in downtown Augusta, while another yes-or-no question asked if they should place the venue at the site of the dormant Regency Mall in south Augusta.
Yes for the downtown site garnered 57% of the vote between Democratic and Republican ballots, but because it was a non-binding referendum officials are not legally bound to follow the results. There was also a notable partisan split among the results—-73% of Republicans voters said yes to the downtown site, compared to 54% of Democrats. The Regency Mall site, meanwhile, earned a 61% yes vote among Democratic voters. During a radio interview on Wednesday, Davis indicated that a more thorough analysis of the data is needed. More from the Augusta Chronicle:
In a Wednesday appearance on a radio program hosted by Jordan Johnson, the president of Augusta Young Democrats, Davis cast doubt on whether voters have spoken and said instead that the media had “manufactured consent” on the issue, in the manner of the 1988 book by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky. The book proposes the mass media is self-serving and self-propagating by catering to large institutions and advertisers.
“What I said is I am going to listen to the will of the people,” Davis said. “So you have the Republican ballot where they said we want you to build it downtown, and you’ve got the Democratic ballot where they say we want you to build it at Regency Mall.”
“I’ve got two competing interests here. I know who elected me, the people who elected me said build it at Regency Mall,” said Davis, who was a Democrat while serving in the state legislature.
“There were more voters on the Democratic ballot than there were on the Republican ballot. These are things that have to be looked at. What we’ve not done is a complete data dive; who voted and what were the votes. … At the appropriate time we’re going to sit down with our data analyst people and look at what that tells us and at the appropriate time I’ll make a statement,” the mayor continued.
Proponents of the downtown project had cited a few factors in their case for building an arena there, including a previous consultant’s report that recommended the site. However, proponents of the Regency Mall site have built their case around the idea that the arena would serve as an anchor for a larger redevelopment concept in south Augusta. If it does eventually move forward, the new Augusta arena would replace James Brown Arena, which originally opened in 1980.
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