Originally created 12/25/05

City government: a monument to mistrust



Eleven million Iraqis can't be wrong. The right to vote is the oxygen that breathes life into any democracy.

So why are some Augusta commissioners so afraid of seeing ink-stained fingers in Richmond County?

The movement to make modest reforms in Augusta's decade-old consolidated government structure nearly saw fruit this past week. Proposals to give the city administrator hiring and firing powers, to give the mayor a veto and to require a simple majority of commissioners present to approve anything, rather than the current six-vote requirement, failed by a narrow 5-4 vote.

Why, when the government clearly needs to catch up to the fast-moving and progressive private sector here? Why, when other governments in the area don't face such self-imposed hurdles - and our competition has a leg up as a result? Why, when all we're asking is to put these matters to a vote of the public?

How can we shed blood to grant that right to long-suffering Iraqis, but be denied it at home?

If six-voter supermajorities to pass anything and toothless administrators and powerless chief executives are such great ideas, why aren't more governments and private companies adopting such reforms?

Simple. They're terrible ideas. No government or company in its right mind would consciously set up such a system and expect it to function worth a darn.

So why did Augusta-Richmond County?

Again, simple: mistrust.

The races were so distrustful of each other that the consolidated government was set up to dilute power and thwart progress.

The consolidated government structure is, in short, a monument to mistrust.

A public vote on reforming that structure will reveal a lot about Augusta - principally whether it is ready to move on in a spirit of racial unity, or whether we are still shackled to the mistrust that gave form to this government.

The foundation of your house will have much to say about what shape its upper floors take. So it is with Augusta's government: With a structure that dilutes power so much that little can get done - all because we're afraid of what one race or another might do - how can we get anywhere good?

As long as this government is constituted as it is, we'll be working from a foundation of mistrust.

If that's what the majority of Augustans want, so be it. But we hardly think so.

At the very least, they should have their say.