Originally created 06/30/00

A city of what?



The year isn't yet half over, but the winner for the best new oxymoron of 2000 is already in: Augusta, city of ethics.

Can you believe it? That's like Washington, city of civil politicians; or New York, city of safe parks for pretty women; or Paris, city of friendly waiters.

Have we missed something? How could Augusta go from being "a cesspool of corruption," as Mayor Bob Young characterized his city last October, to having one of the "strongest ethics" of any city in the state?

That's how he described Augusta this month in accepting the Georgia Municipal Association's "Ethics" designation.

What a remarkable transformation in just eight months. The problem is we see no evidence that it happened.

Augusta is still being investigated by a special grand jury for government malpractice, misdeeds and misuse of funds. Isn't that still a cesspool?

If the honorable mayor had acted honorably, instead of participating in this Orwellian nonsense, he would have told the municipal group, "Thanks, but no thanks. We just don't make the grade yet as a `city of ethics."'

To be sure, the association does bestow that honor on 36 other Georgia municipalities, so maybe it doesn't take very much to qualify.

Supposedly, though, to be so honored a city's officials must officially commit to: 1) serving others, not ourselves; 2) using resources with efficiency and economy; 3) treating all people fairly; 4) using power of position to benefit only the constituency; 5) creating an environment of honesty, openness and integrity.

Those are all terrific goals - and Augustans are still waiting for just one of them to be achieved.

This raises the question: Can any city that asks, get the "ethics" label? That suggests being a "city of ethics" - which lets designated cities use the municipal association's ethics logo on their stationery and other property - is just another public relations gambit to boost the state's image. How ethical is that?

Augusta, "city of ethics," is already known as the Garden City for its beauty. Yet there's still much work to be done on both fronts if those appellations are to ring true.