Big money, ethics violations, etc. in city government
The San Francisco Bay Guardian had a story, "The plutocrat," about a Silicon Valley financier, Ron Conway, throwing his money and influence around to make, in his eyes, SF more "business friendly." Not unlike how a lot of the conservative super PACs mostly wasted their money in the presidential election, mostly his money went for naught, at least in the most recent election cycle.
But that doesn't mean he and other like-minded peers don't have extra-normal influence. See "Ed Lee's cronies powerful, critics say" and "Ron Conway: SF mover and shaker" from the San Francisco Chronicle.
Given that they are motivated and have the resources and staying power and focus to maintain efforts on achieving their agenda, they're still in the game.
What's interesting to me and obvious of course is how the "Growth Machine" is operative in the same manner across the universe of cities. But the coverage of how "the system" works is very localized and perhaps less useful because of the hyper-local focus.
What's dissatisfying is that we don't build knowledge networks across cities and apply the knowledge and awareness to make the system(s) work better.
2. So in today's Post, columnist Colbert King writes, "What to expect in 2013," about his 2013 predictions including that two DC elected officials--he doesn't name them but likely he means Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham (his involvement in lottery shenanigans combined with real estate development shenanigans made this week's New York Times, "Fired, but firing back over dealings in Washington") and Mayor Vincent Gray. He also predicts that Chief Financial Officer Gandhi will resign over various management failures, and that there might be some improvements in ethics-related oversight.
3. I'm thinking that for the most part, the ethics infrastructure in the city is pretty weak and this is where looking at other cities could be useful. In Toronto, they have a broader range of ethics-related infrastructure than we do in DC. This has been discussed quite a bit in the local press in the context of the conflict of interest charges that were brought against Mayor Rob Ford, and the decision by the presiding judge that the Mayor was in fact guilty.
From "The mayor made his choices" in Now Magazine:
While it’s too early to declare the Ford era truly over, it has taught us a few things. One of the most important is the need for the accountability officers (lobbyist registrar, integrity commissioner, ombudsman and a strengthened auditor general) whose positions were established because of recommendations over 10 years ago by Justice Denise Bellamy, who presided over the probe into the computer leasing scandal.
DC's auditor general and the CFO office's auditor ("Ex-D.C. worker: Agency 'quarantined' audits," Post) seem weak. We don't have an independent ombudsperson position. I guess the new board of ethics, combined with the elections board, have integrity functions.
4. It remains to be seen how in 2014, the addition of an elected local Attorney General (although the federal government will still handle most criminal cases through the US Attorney General's office, which is a vestige of Washington's place as the "federal city") will begin to change the political infrastructure towards ethics.
5. Sadly, the Boss TV show was not renewed for a third season. See "Starz Cancels Kelsey Grammer's 'Boss' After Two Seasons" from Hollywood Reporter. Too bad it wasn't on HBO, likely then it would have not been cancelled.
-- World Bank book, Corrupt Cities: A Practical Guide to Cure and Prevention.
-- "The system of corruption: when you don't understand "systems", of corruption or anything else, you don't understand outcomes," a previous blog entry about the local media's inability to recognize the "system" of corruption in the city, rather than looking at each incident as somewhat disconnected from everything else.