ERICKSON: Troublesome facts

September 27, 2013 

It is a fact that white voters are more fearful of C. Jack Ellis winning than black voters are of Robert Reichert winning the election for mayor.

It is a fact that Ellis has spent more time burning bridges and conforming to caricature than he has spent trying to build bridges in the community.

It is a fact that it does not have to be that way. County Commission Chairman Sam Hart was elected twice with support across the county regardless of race. Though his campaign this time was anemic, his support across the county showed.

These are just facts.

Last Monday, Ellis held a press conference to accuse me of racism for pointing out these inconvenient facts about the election. If C. Jack Ellis thinks facts are racist, he has much bigger problems than a runoff election.

Much of the turbulent and troublesome time during Ellis’s tenure as mayor was premised more on accusation and rumor than truth. He did not get carted off to federal prison as many north Maconites expected. Others around him found themselves in hot water and Ellis did too on occasion, but the rumor and accusation were more hyperbole than substance.

Still, Ellis governed in a way that left many in north Macon and in the business community unimpressed. They thought his fiscal stewardship left the city worse off. They thought he mismanaged the city. They thought he squandered goodwill.

When I was a lawyer, a group of north Macon residents paid me to study how to create a new incorporated area to protect north Macon from the Jack Ellis led city of Macon. Their joking, working title was “No Jack City.”

Census data between 2000 and 2010 shows many people left the city for the county or for another county during his tenure. Some of the fear and distrust of Ellis was based in reality; some of it was not. But Ellis seemed ignorant of the perception many had of him and fed that perception. Instead of trying to address it, correct it, or overcome it, he chalked it up to racism as he does now with troublesome facts.

To be sure, there was some animosity toward Ellis as the first black mayor of Macon. For some, it was all about skin color and for others it was all about a perception, premised in racism, about black officials elected in the South. Yes, Ellis is right. Some people did not like him because he was black.

But the overwhelming majority of people who opposed Ellis did not do so because of race. Ellis, though, presumed it was. By falsely presuming the majority hated him because he was black, he played himself a victim hoping to rally support in the black community.

This further damaged his relationship with north Macon and the business community. There were bridges to build, others to be mended, and relationships to be forged. There were, at first, willing players in the community. Over time, less and less of them wanted anything to do with Ellis as his behavior began comporting to caricatures so many developed of him.

By the time he mailed his letter to Hugo Chavez, changed his name to Hakim Mansour Ellis, and left office, any residue of goodwill had dried up. In 2008, when Mayor Robert Reichert received a letter from the U.S. Attorney about the “Safe Schools Initiative” and Ellis’s involvement, those who were convinced Ellis was corrupt, whether or not he was, had all the proof they needed.

Meanwhile, Ellis still plays the victim.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.

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