Tuesday, March 01, 2005

City Council inches towards small ethics package

Well, it looks like the City Council committee that had been holding up the Councilman Nutter ethics package has decided to give the watered-down version of the bill a chance to see the light.

From the Inquirer:
If the bills are passed, people or firms seeking those contracts would have to disclose campaign contributions to any public official in Pennsylvania dating back four years, as well as list consultants they hired - and how much they paid them - to help them land the contract. The consultants would also have to disclose campaign giving.

And in language added today, those firms would also have to list city officials or employees who solicited them for campaign money dating back two years, as well as officials or employees who advised them to use specific subcontractors in order to meet the city's minority business requirements.

All that information would have to be attached to a no-bid contract before it is awarded. Then the city would have to publicize on its Web site the name of the firm receiving the work and the basis for the award.

In addition, Nutter's pay-to-play legislation would bar anyone who gives a city officeholder or candidate more than $1,000 in campaign donations in a year from receiving a no-bid or professional-services contract worth more than $10,000. Companies giving more than $5,000 would likewise be barred.
So, what do we get out of this whole corruption scandal? A watered down ethics bill. Two questions emerge: 1) Is this a situation where a bill is passed that it is so watered down that it in fact does more harm than good? (For example, because it lets lawmakers say they dealt with a problem, and we are left with satisfied lawmakers and only a pittance of reform to show for our efforts.) And 2) Is this all we are supposed to expect out of our government?

Vern Anastasio, a former candidate for City Council, had this to say, from a column from Hallwatch:
Over the course of six months during 2002, over two hundred civic association presidents and other community leaders, representing hundreds of thousands of Philadelphians, gathered together to discuss all issues related to City Hall's relationship with the people it is charged with serving. During the deliberations a platform of public policy suggestions was constructed to guide office holders in leading this City in the future. The foundation of that platform can be summed up in one word: Reform.

From his lips to all of our ears: REFORM. It has become a simple buzzword amongst those of us on the internet who see so many obstacles to decent government, both nationally and locally. Democrats of all ideologies, be they moderate or liberal, have to realize that so many things about the way Democrats operate must be shaken up in a big way. If we look around in 20 years, and the same families that run the Philly patronage mill continue to do so, our long-term mission will have failed. We pay these people for the privelege to serve. We deserve better.

Because I cannot say it any better than he does, I will finish with more about the bill, and our City's leaders, from Anastasio's piece:

This single prohibition does little to end the deep-rooted culture of unethical behavior in City Hall. A more comprehensive approach would treat city-owned real estate and zoning variances just like no-bid contracts. Large campaign contributors should not be able to rely on writing checks to grab taxpayer owned property in the future or seek city council approval for variances that violate neighborhood zoning regulations. And a complete overhaul of the system would also require the executive and legislative branches to clean up its act with prohibitions on nepotism, moonlighting, gifts and meals. The fact that even the most enlightened members of our council still cling to the old-school status quo perks that other modern first-class cities have abolished breaks the heart and kills the hope of those of us who long for the better angels of our government's nature to take hold.


So much for the Neighborhood Bill of Rights and the time, energy and volunteer efforts of hundreds of Philadelphians who took the time to work together to advance a positive agenda of reform policies and present it to those we elected to serve. With no municipal elections in sight, it appears that while City Hall may have heard us, no one was actually listening.


At 1:22 PM, Blogger ACM said...

So, what do we get out of this whole corruption scandal? A watered down ethics bill.I share your disappointment over the meekness of this legislation. But that may not be the only result of the scandal; look at what's happening to the venerable (but lately rather passive) Committee of Seventy. We may get watchdogs of quite different spots...


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