My thoughts

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It is no wonder young people have no faith in elected officials. It is surprising that any of us do.

The election process in this country is so broken that candidates no longer get elected based on their qualifications, but by vilifying their opponent, running him or her into the ground to the point that no matter who wins, we all lose as the moral fabric of our nation is further eroded, one toxic sound bite or commercial at a time.

Instead of, “He/she is a liar and a cheat,” how wonderful it would be to hear, “My opponent is a good candidate, but I am a far better choice, vote for me. He leads well, but I would lead so much better. She has done a pretty good job, but I am equipped with more skills and experience to do this particular job.”

Of course you’d actually have to be better to argue that line of reasoning.

The race between U.S. Senator Kay Hagan and N.C. House of Representatives Speaker Thom Tills in their tussle over Hagan’s Senate seat is a perfect illustration.

These two campaigns have daily churned out caustic rhetoric against each other to the point neither remains a viable choice.  They have slung mud at their opponent to the point neither is a desirable choice. And it promises to only worsen.

An attorney in town remarked to me after the last election: I wish the ballot had an option to select “none of the above,” and if that choice received the majority vote, a new election with new candidates would be called.

Oh joy; what a splendid idea that is.

How refreshing would it be to no longer be forced to select the least worst candidate(s) — to be stuck with the candidate the party wants in office so that it can have more control and push the agenda of the few through rather than govern for all.

One thing is for certain; with an option such as this, the mud slinging and vilifying would stop on a dime.

This brings me to the race for sheriff of New Hanover County. The position of sheriff is the top law enforcement in the county. The responsibility for the safety of the citizens in that county stops with the sheriff. He (or she, if that time ever comes) is the boss of all the municipal police chiefs, all of them.

Granted, New Hanover County has problems; it is far from perfect. Real issues exist, like increasing violent crime, gang activity, illegal drugs, sex trafficking and lack of school safety.

Yes, we have made it a policy not to endorse political candidates.

But last week on the heals of the tragic death of a former sheriff from a neighboring county, who for whatever reasons had fallen so far from grace, one candidate crossed the acceptable conduct line by attempting to capitalize on that tragedy to further his campaign efforts.

To seize on Ron Hewett’s death, as his family and friends mourned, before he was even buried in a flawed attempt to gain votes is morally reprehensible and it sends a strong signal as to the maturity of that candidate.

Yesterday Sheriff Ed McMahon issued a press release essentially clearing those who work in the jail from any wrongdoing in the events surrounding Hewett’s death.

There is still the separate inquiry ongoing by the State Bureau of Investigation.

McMahon also has repeatedly said it is his hope and intention that, once the SBI report is finished and has been reviewed by the district attorney, that he can release all the information including video, consistent with what North Carolina law allows and with respect for the wishes of Mr. Hewett’s family.

While we wait on this, you either believe Sheriff McMahon is a liar, or he is not. It is that simple. There is no middle ground.

When the time comes and the video is made public, all indications are that it will absolutely support what Sheriff McMahon has said.

Jumping into the political arena by issuing a statement before the facts were/are made public — saying the deceased did not receive correct treatment, that standard protocol was not followed, and ascribing the death to a lack of experience by deputies in the jail — was not helpful. It only furthers public mistrust of the sheriff’s office while revealing the candidate as lacking in good judgment.

A request to the county manager pursuant to NCGS 153a-98 for the purpose of releasing all the information has already submitted, McMahon has said. NCGS 153a-98 deals with the privacy of employee personnel records. Release of anything much more than name, rank and serial number is up to the discretion of the county manager with the concurrence of the commissioners. In this case, the privacy of employees would be those working in the jail who were involved in the Hewett altercation and subsequent rendering of medical aid to Hewett.

What the sheriff has said so far is good enough for me to wait and see. Any of the off-the-record statements by those who hold knowledge of what occurred on the afternoon Hewett died have supported what the Sheriff has released.

But, let’s be clear: it is imperative that there be real transparency. All the videos must be released, unedited versions. The public has the right to know the unvarnished truth about how Hewett died.

Nothing less will do.

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