Originally created 11/28/02

Keeping it going

Strange as it seems, it is often difficult to choose to move forward. The familiar status quo, and the comfortable past, can be awfully alluring.

But by a paper-thin margin - i.e., the paper ballots of absentee voters - Augusta decided to move ahead on Tuesday, rather than revisit the past.

The mayoral runoff re-election of Mayor Bob Young, by just 1,450 votes over early 1980s Mayor Ed McIntyre, was a collective decision to step into the future.

The keys to whether the community actually does that are twofold:

The mayor and almost-mayor plus their supporters must come together now and leave their differences behind, for the greater good.

This will be particularly important due to the racial split the vote revealed yet again: Blacks voted overwhelmingly for McIntyre, while whites seemed to carry the day for Young.

We can't continue down that path. It leads nowhere. The racially divided Augusta Commission's ineffectiveness is Exhibit A.

At the end of the day, we all want the same things. Prosperity. Safety. Jobs. Health. Cultural and entertainment choices. A community we can be proud of. Respect.

It's high time we extended a hand and helped each other achieve those things - for all Augustans.

Despite his narrow loss on Tuesday - or perhaps because of it - Ed McIntyre could be a big help. Mayor Young should solicit it.

Mr. McIntyre didn't win votes just because he is black. Fact is, he polled splendidly in some heavily white precincts. No, Mr. McIntyre did well in this race - very well - because people like him, respect his abilities, and see in him a special talent for bringing the races together.

There was much speculation in the general and runoff campaigns about the 70-year-old McIntyre's health. But it is easy to see the man has a good heart.

Heart is exactly what Augusta needs. Desperately.

The community needs, in a big way, to take up the dialogue that began with a recent study indicating a need for a new sports arena, as well as an opportunity to construct it and complete a great number of other exciting capital improvement projects, all without the need for new taxes.

Consultants who determined that a new sports arena is not only doable but extremely viable also saw other ripe opportunities for progress here. They suggested building a new municipal campus on the site of the current civic center. And such vital quality-of-life additions as a performing arts center and new library are being suggested.

Extending the 1-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for 10 years could help obviate the need for any new taxes to fund the projects.

We really do need to consciously decide whether we want great things for this community. If so, the opportunity is within our grasp.

The Nov. 5 election, and Tuesday's runoff, give flight to such hope. As more studies are released in the coming weeks on what kinds of improvements we can realize, we need to maintain the momentum voters have given us.

We can do that by coming together, dissolving our differences and focusing on our vision for the future.

It has already started. It's just a matter of keeping it going.


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