Four years ago, Bob Young barely missed being elected mayor of Augusta without a runoff. In second place was former mayor Ed McIntyre, as then-mayor Larry Sconyers came in a distant third.
That set up a runoff three weeks later. At that time I used a wrestling metaphor to assert that Our entire community would be best served if Young pins McIntyre, for good, in the runoff.
Young, of course, won. But McIntyre, body-slammed in what was then his third race for redemption since he disgraced public office and the city of Augusta, wasnt pinned for good. He has become one of those horror-movie monsters who, just when you think hes dead, pops up to menace his hapless victims.
Most rational people long ago considered McIntyre politically dead. This is how its supposed to work: Politicians who criminally abuse their office are shown the exit, and are not allowed re-entry. End of story.
Now, this doesnt mean that a politician who fails in some ambitious project shouldnt get a chance to learn from his bad experience. He should be judged by voters, and allowed to serve based on whether citizens feel the candidates potential outweighs the damage.
Compare it to a store employee. If a kid knocks over a case of expensive goods, he ought to be reprimanded and maybe pay for whats broken. If he knocks the stuff off the shelf while horsing around, he ought to be fired. And if he sneaks the box out the back door without paying for it, he should be arrested.
The kid in the first scenario deserves a chance at redemption: accidents teach caution. The kid in the second scenario needs redemption, too: youthful indiscretions build wisdom, just as accidents teach caution.
The kid in the third scenario deserves an opportunity to repent and rebuild his life, too, after paying the penalty for committing a crime. But that kid should never be entrusted with the key to the stockroom, especially when his experience now includes learning how he got caught the first time. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
Ed McIntyre is no kid who swiped cookies from the stockroom. He was a grown man who used public office for private gain, squeezing a bribe from a land developer. The ways his fans now try to rationalize redemption for McIntyre are amazing:
His bribery and extortion conviction was so long ago. Yet these people compliment McIntyres achievements as mayor. Sorry; if time swept away his sins, it blurred his accomplishments, too.
Judge not lest ye be judged. Those who quote the Bible should first read it. The rest of this verse says if you judge someone, you will be judged by the same measure. This is a warning against hypocrisy. Feel free to judge; just be prepared to meet the same standards. Here goes: Ed McIntyre is a nice man, but he is a crook. There; Ive judged him. Hold me to the same standard, along with those who will pass judgement by voting Tuesday.
McIntyre can bring the feuding Augusta commissioners together. Baloney. Whoever wins this seat will be just as legally powerless as Young or Sconyers before him. The difference now is that Charles Walker will no longer be running Augusta. Without Walker dividing and conquering, any mayor will have an extraordinary opportunity to rebuild the city.
Columbia County, considered Augustas bedroom community, must await the outcome of Tuesdays runoff.
We wont live or die based on who is in the mayors office. But Augusta will. The surest way to kill it is to grant redemption to a man who has not earned it, instead of building on the experience of a man whose accidents have taught him wisdom - and caution.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
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