Editorial: Real responsibility


Published: Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 3:17 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 3:17 p.m.

Mayor Craig Lowe's arrest on a DUI charge after crashing his car early Thursday let a lot of people down.

It's an embarrassment for Gainesville to have a mugshot of its mayor all over the news, while seemingly devastating to his re-election prospects. But many people can be forgiving because they know someone who has struggled with addiction, have problems with alcohol abuse themselves or simply have made mistakes in life that they've regretted.

It says positive things about our city that a number of people immediately expressed concern for Lowe and support for him getting help if needed, including his election opponent Ed Braddy, whose own arrest for DUI in 2006 led him to enter alcohol treatment.

Lowe's initial statement released late Thursday managed to erase a lot of that good will. In a classic non-apology apology, he said he was deeply sorry to "anyone who feels" that he violated the trust placed in him as an elected official.

He also said he thought he would be found not guilty of DUI due to "additional facts" that would come to light, while not presenting any of those facts.

By Friday afternoon, Lowe or someone advising him had the good sense to release a second statement. In it, Lowe said he accepted responsibility for his actions and any sanctions deemed appropriate by the court and state attorney.

He said he would submit to an alcohol-abuse evaluation and abide by any recommendations needed to assure the public that the conduct wouldn't recur. Earlier in the day, a judge had already ordered him not to possess or consume alcohol before his April 11 arraignment.

Lowe's statement expressed regret for his actions and a hope that in the future he would "again prove worthy of the public's trust and confidence."

A good place to start in regaining that trust would be speaking publicly about the incident. Accepting personal responsibility includes personally addressing the issue, rather than issuing press releases through your campaign manager.

In fact, it's tone deaf to be handling this as just another campaign issue. Lowe isn't only a candidate, he's the Gainesville mayor.

He needs to explain inconsistancies in his explanation of crashing into a sign on a rural road around 2:20 a.m., reportedly after falling asleep. He told the Florida Highway Patrol that he had three beers earlier in the evening, the last one at 10 p.m. Yet he registered a .061 or .069 on a breath test around 6 a.m. A University of Florida expert on DUI cases said such a level indicated someone whose blood-alcohol level was much higher than the legal limit of .08 at the time of the crash.

Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes they're whoppers. Our city has the capacity to forgive. But Lowe's contrition will ring false unless he comes clean and speaks publicly about the incident, rather than just issuing written statements that don't fully explain the facts.

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