A post-racial pro-tem

Leadership post on Augusta Commission shouldn't signify step backward

Most Augustans probably couldn't care less who the Augusta Commission names mayor pro-tem for the year on Tuesday.


It's like runner-up in the Miss America contest, in that the mayor pro-tem presides at meetings if the mayor is absent -- though it's also slightly more important because the mayor pro-tem makes appointments to standing committees, which we're pretty sure Miss Runner-up doesn't do.

But this year, the commission can send a message to constituents in its selection of a mayor pro-tem: that we're past the tired old counting-heads racial stuff.

Following city-county consolidation in the mid-1990s, the commission used to have a "gentleman's agreement" that if the mayor were white, the mayor pro-tem would be black, and vice versa. In 2005, though, commissioners mercifully left that behind when Willie Mays, who is black, became interim mayor and they kept Commissioner Marion Williams, who is black, as mayor pro-tem.

We heartily endorsed that move, even though we had major disagreements with Mr. Williams on most everything, because we thought it was an important step toward racial unity in a historically divided Augusta.

Now, though, Commissioner Corey Johnson wants to take us back to that unhappy place -- out of sheer personal ambition.

Johnson has made no bones about the fact that he wants to become mayor pro-tem Tuesday not because it's his turn, or because he's wowed his colleagues, but because he's black.

What an incredible disappointment, coming from Johnson -- whose youth and charm we hoped would help lead this city forward, not backward.

We certainly hope Johnson's race-based power play is also a big-time miscalculation -- and that his colleagues will hinge their decision on factors other than race. Such as, oh, merit.

In Johnson's case, that wouldn't be terribly good news. Despite all his promise, Johnson has shown poor judgment -- such as when he traveled to Denver for a conference recently on the public's dime, while the city is furloughing employees now and contemplating layoffs later.

There also have been questions about Johnson's penchant, or lack thereof, for paying his taxes.

To ask his colleagues, and the people they represent, to overlook these shortcomings and, further, to look at his skin color while determining who should have the honor of representing the city as deputy mayor -- well, that's a bit much.

We're not willing to give up on Corey Johnson; he has far too many admirable qualities. But he has undoubtedly undermined his political potential with his lapses in judgment -- most glaring of which is his attempt to gain power at the expense of the racial progress the city and its leadership have etched out in the past few years.

We believe him to be a good man with a leader's heart. So we call on him to acknowledge his missteps and withdraw his candidacy for mayor pro-tem -- this time around -- and re-dedicate himself to being a servant leader who watches out for taxpayers, not himself.


Sat, 08/19/2017 - 23:27

Beyond the call of duty