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Best And Worst Of 2010

Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010
As I reflect on all that has transpired in 2010 there are so many scandals to choose from I honestly had a tough time deciding on the top five contenders for my "worst behavior in government list."  Of more concern, it was difficult to identify a five really great things happening in the area of government. (I sincerely hope that changes in the coming year.)
 
I’ll begin with the worst so that we can end on a positive note. The list is incomplete and in no particular order.
 
Worst:
·      Pay scandal in Bell, California. News that the city manager was drawing more than $800,000 in salary sent shock waves throughout the country and made international news. Made elected officials and administrators look like crooks.
·      On-going scandal involving former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. (This is so big it counts as two.)
       Currently serving time in prison for earlier offenses, Kilpatrick is now the subject of a new, 38-count indictment by the Federal Grand Jury. A six-year investigation showed he and his father along with other city officials engaged in fraud, corruption, racketeering, extortion, bribery, and other crimes. Using both his former state office and his power as mayor Kilpatrick is accused of extorting millions of dollars from contractors and abusing the public’s trust. As U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade put it: “If you steal from the taxpayers, you are going to be held accountable. Getting out of office does not get you off the hook.”
·      Supreme Court decision on Citizens United. This action allows millions of dollars spent on campaigns to go unreported, and opens the door for further erosion of transparency and accountability in political campaigns.
·      Representative Charles Rangel. After serving decades in Congress, Rangel stood before his colleagues and was publicly rebuked. The lesson here: no matter how much you do to help your constituents, you have ethical obligations as an elected official. No one is above the law, or above the ethical standards we expect in public servants.
Best:
  • After years of corruption, Alabama has adopted 7 ethics bills. Rather than accept the “lame duck” status of an outgoing governor, Bob Riley pushed for adoption of the legislation, which was passed at 3 a.m.
  • More government agencies embrace transparency. A new “app” called iOpenGov gives free access to California laws on open government and related issues. A good idea for the other 49 states.
  • Jacksonville, Florida caps a multi-year effort by passing a charter change (with a 17-0 vote) that incorporates ethics provisions removed in the 1970s. Among the new provisions: Establishing an ethics commission with more independence; having the ethics officer report to the ethics commission; and creating a system for commission fines and penalties. This grass-roots effort is a model for other cities hoping to unite diverse constituencies to encourage positive change.
  • The election of Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. This has nothing to do with the candidates or their issues – I just think it’s great to have the voters take the time and make the effort to write “Murkowski” on their ballots.
  • The Jon Stewart – Steven Colbert rally on the Great Mall in Washington, D.C. I’m betting some people were more excited about this event than they were about any inauguration. Not only did the rally raise awareness of the need for citizen involvement and civil discourse, it showed that politics and public policy could actually be fun, if not funny.
 
Tomorrow I’ll give my predictions for 2011. In the meantime, let me know what you think of the list. Do you agree? Disagree? What would you add or subtract?
 
 

  

Tags: Alabama, Charles B. Rangel, City of Bell, ethics codes, Jacksonville Florida, jon stewart, lame duck, public discourse, public trust, stephen colbert

 
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