Candidates need to stay ethical

Qualifying has been completed.

Labor Day is past.

It is time for the campaigning to begin.

Municipal elections in Clayton County are on the November ballot and it looks to be a robust election year.

The race for mayor and seats on the city council in Forest Park are being hotly-contested.

City leaders have certainly made the headlines in recent months and there is no reason to suspect that will change as Election Day nears.

Forest Park, however, is not the only municipal election on the ballot.

Jonesboro will have new leadership with two members of city council not seeking re-election.

Riverdale has a contested city council seat on the ballot.

Morrow will see changes in city government, regardless of who wins Nov. 5, with two members of the council not seeking another term.

College Park also has a contested election this year.

What all this means is that citizens have a chance to have a say in the future of their towns, if they chose to.

We encourage candidates to make their respective cases for office.

Candidates should campaign vigorously and let voters know why they should cast a vote for them.

Campaigning takes on many forms.

Signs, leaflets, speeches, public appearances and newspaper advertisements are all ways that those running for office get their messages out to would-be voters.

While there are many appropriate ways to campaign, there is one noticeably inappropriate campaign method that we caution against.

Using public office to run a campaign is wrong.

It is not ethical.

It is not legal.

It is not effective.

In fact, when incumbents use their position in government to campaign and grandstand, it largely just backfires.

Those we elected should never underestimate the intelligence of those who elect them.

It is obvious when elected officials think they are smarter than the general public and think they can pull the wool over the eyes of the electorate.

The Georgia Municipal Association warns mayors and city council members about the dangers of using their positions or resources available to them by virtue of the seat they hold to campaign for re-election.

In its Handbook for Mayors and Council members, the Association cites Georgia Code 21-5-30.2 and cautions,” Georgia law forbids the expenditure of public funds to influence the outcome of an election.”

In fact, even the use of a city newsletter is problematic: “Articles in a city newsletter which could be construed as attempts to influence the way citizens vote on an upcoming referendum question can violate this law,” GMA warns.

When we sit in city council meetings and listen to officials pat themselves on the back repeatedly, giving themselves credit for anything and everything that has taken place in the city since they have been in office, it is obvious to us what they are doing.

What is even more important, is that it is obvious to citizens.

We encourage citizens to take note and to vote accordingly.

— Editor Jim Zachary