Man, what is it about people who don't live in Augusta trying to run for office there?
Just a week ago, Keith Brown resigned from the Augusta Commission after Richmond County's elections board disqualified him from running for the seat to which he'd been appointed. They determined his legal residence was in Aiken County.
Then, Ronnie Few filed to run for mayor this past Thursday. Candidates for mayor swear that they are qualified to hold the office, and have lived in the city for at least one year prior to the election. But then we find out Few also filed for a Columbia County homestead exemption April 11, 2006, swearing that he lives in Columbia County. You know, in the homestead.
So, Few lied to Augusta, or he lied to Columbia County. Either he's not qualified to be mayor of Augusta, or he's not qualified for a homestead exemption in Columbia County and thus fraudulently applied for it.
Few says he didn't read the "fine print" before signing Columbia County's homestead exemption application. For the record, the single-page form has no "fine print"; all of the type is in the same size font, with some headings either upper case or bold, or both. So he's saying he didn't read it, period - which probably isn't true, either, but if it is, that's a pretty scary admission from a guy who wants to be Augusta's mayor.
Brown and Few aren't the first outsiders to try to get a spot in Augusta government, by the way; they're just the latest. George DeLoach was Augusta's original carpetbagger candidate, winning, and later losing, a state House seat for south Richmond County even though everyone was pretty sure he lived in Waynesboro.
Geez. We know Augusta's government hasn't gotten any better since then, but is it so bad that they're now having to import candidates from surrounding counties?
You'd think they'd at least try to import some good candidates, not slow-to-do-the-right-thing Brown or quick-to-do-the-wrong-thing Few.
It's instructive that so much recently was made of the Wall Street Journal story about Augusta. It was indeed a tremendously flattering piece, especially for Columbia County, which was constantly referenced as the actual destination of many of those people retiring to "Augusta."
In other words, much of the story talked about the desirability of Augusta as a retirement community, but the examples cited all were of people who moved to Columbia County or, in one case, Edgefield County.
Augusta mostly was celebrated for nifty restaurants downtown and a full array of cultural amenities, in addition to a low cost of living and low housing costs. The suburbs, especially Columbia County, are a big part of the positive mix.
The only negative notes in the whole story? Augusta's notoriously divisive government.
Why, then, would unqualified, outside candidates be trying so hard to become part of that awful government? Does this mean some of the folks in surrounding counties, who have been migrating out of Augusta in huge numbers, are now trying to sneak back in to take over the city?
This could be serious. Do we need to get the National Guard to set up checkpoints along the borders of Richmond County to keep illegal political aliens like Keith Brown and Ronnie Few from trying to take the political jobs of legal Augustans?
Probably not. But I suppose with so many people voting with their feet to get away from Augusta's government, it should be expected that only politicians would be trying to find a way back in.
But good grief: Not even the rats tried to climb back on the Titanic.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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