Somewhere on A1A...

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Tomorrow, my city is going to elect a new mayor. The choice to replace a hugely popular and highly successful man is an example of the worst in American politics. On one hand we have a novice politician with more money than the city budget, on the other we have the retiring Sheriff who presided over one of the more corrupt police departments in the country.

The wealthy son of a multi-millionaire with no government experience won the primary largely by buying it. The father is an outsider to the old money network in town who spent his success buying up large chunks of northeast Florida. His influence is significant, but only on the local scene. No one really knows why the son wants to be mayor, and he hasn’t told us during the campaign. It appears that like Bill Clinton he wants to be somebody rather than really do anything.

The Sheriff did receive some national notoriety when a documentary of his police department won an Academy Award last year. Maybe you saw it, it was about a group of detectives who beat a confession to murder out of an innocent 14 year old. One of those detectives was the Sheriff’s son. That's sad enough but one of the Sheriff's campaign pledges is to bring discipline back into the public schools. One wonders if it's the type of discipline his son learned which led him to beat an innocent youth.

The movie added to the handful of cops already convicted of murder and conspiracy in the killing of a local businessman, plus the ongoing corruption investigations by our state and federal prosecutor’s offices, it’s a wonder the man has any credibility let alone that his candidacy has any chance at all. But, he’s black. To question the Sheriff’s qualifications is to subject oneself to charges of racism. To vote against this corrupt public official is akin to “going back to the politics of the 50’s and 60’s.”

So we have the little, whiney, white, inexperienced, rich kid up against the corrupt, burly, inarticulate, black working man. Both of them are easy to vote against. Neither deserves to represent the city. It’s a contest of money vs. race. The money will likely win. For too many people the election of an unqualified white man will lead to charges of racism. The race card will be played, unfairly, on people who simply made a choice based on public record.

My vote tomorrow will be against a corrupt, scandal-ridden public official that I would be embarrassed to have represent my city. I can only hope that, should the whiney rich kid win, that he has anticipated the way the result will polarize a large part of the city. He’ll have a short window of opportunity to show his sensitivity, but I’m probably


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