Editorial: Still waiting
Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 2:32 p.m.
The Gainesville mayoral race had the potential to be a battle of ideas.
Mayor Craig Lowe and challenger Ed Braddy have very different ideas about the role of government. The community deserves an honest debate between them about city government's approach to energy, transportation, economic development and other major issues.
Unfortunately, Lowe's arrest last week on DUI charges after crashing his car has shifted the discussion to personal behavior. We're left listening to arguments from the candidates' supporters about whether Lowe's arrest is worse than Braddy's DUI in 2006.
Being moralistic about someone's personal behavior is a dangerous game, as we've all made mistakes. But Lowe bears responsibility for keeping his arrest in the spotlight. Rather than fully coming clean, he's let lingering questions make it into a bigger issue.
Lowe has ducked the subject of the arrest since returning to his duties as mayor this week, offering just a tired comment about it being "a matter that's in the legal system." His only response has been two canned statements issued last week through his campaign manager. He refused to take full responsibility in the first statement before changing his tune in the second.
That second statement said that Lowe would accept the consequences of his actions and face any sanctions deemed appropriate by the court or state attorney. That makes it sound like he's not going to fight the charges in court. If that's the case, he should be free to give a full account of the events surrounding his arrest.
Lowe's refusal to be accountable fits into the same pattern as his behavior as a public official. He's had difficulty admitting mistakes as mayor, whether it was the decision to hire his former campaign manager as a city employee or missteps in the process of building the biomass plant. His response to his arrest just reinforces an impression of arrogance.
Lowe has faced a lot of vehement, sometimes ugly, criticism over the biomass plant. It's understandable that he's now defensive. But answering tough questions is part of being mayor. We hoped he would answer questions about his arrest by now. We're still waiting.
Lowe can help everyone move beyond the issue by being forthright and personally owning up to his mistake. That would allow the community to put the incident in the past.
If there's never a real debate before the election about the policy differences between the candidates, Lowe only has himself to blame.