Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Ethics in government: Michigan and DC

In some job interviews, I've been asked questions about how to handle policy disagreements, when the decision that was made is not what you preferred.  My response was, there is a difference between policy disagreements and unethical behavior, that I'd toe the line understanding within the executive branch that you're constrained by the decisions of the people in charge, but that in terms of doing something wrong or unethical, I wouldn't keep quiet.

This was an issue studied by Albert O. Hirschman in the book Exit, Voice or Loyalty and how people would react when faced with such a situation--would they stay, leave, or stay and speak out?

1.  This comes up in Michigan as a number of state government agency officials have been charged with crimes in association with their misfeasance and lawbreaking over the Flint water quality issues ("A look at the nine people facing charges in Flint's water crisis," Flint Journal), which were produced by the state and the local government when they changed the city's water source without treating the water with an appropriate mix of chemicals, unlike their previous provider (the Detroit water system).

Interestingly, with regard to the legal charges, it "helps" that in Michigan the Attorney General position is separately elected, although both the Governor, Rick Snyder, and the AG, Bill Schuette, are Republicans.  That's unusual.

2.  DC. Irrespective of the "pay for access" issue (e.g., "Bowser's $9000 in Trump change," Washington Post), it comes up with Councilmember Vincent Orange, who lost his bid for re-election, and in the interim, has been chosen to be President of the DC Chamber of Commerce, the city's trade and lobbying organization for the business community.  Mr. Orange intends to hold both jobs until he leaves office in January 2017 ("Vincent Orange on being the new D.C. Chamber CEO, conflicts of interest and his platform," Washington Business Journal.

DC law treats the Councilmember job as "part-time" even though typically a Councilmember works more than 40 hours per week and is compensated at the rate of not quite $135,000 per year.

Councilmember Orange is within the bounds of the law to take on another part-time job, as many other Councilmembers do, often for law firms, lobbying firms, or businesses doing work on government contracts.

It would be great if the outcry about this would lead to a change in the DC law so that outside employment would be disallowed.

I don't seem to be hearing that being suggested.

The Washington Business Journal editorializes, "Taking Inventory: Vincent Orange must resign now," that Mr. Orange should either resign his Councilmember upon taking the DC Chamber job, or defer his ascension to the position until his Council term ends.

The Post hasn't yet weighed in, although they did editorialize against the Prince George's County Council's proposed end-around term limits, by creating at-large positions that termed-out Councilmembers can run for ("A jobs plan for Prince George’s County council members").

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At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thought LL did some pretty good analysis of VO's new "side job"...

... also Pete Tucker did a piece for the Huffington Post that clearly lays out the long-term C-O-I dealings of Jack Evans--first in his part-time job at Patton Boggs and now with Mannatt Phelps sinecure--who led the charge to overturn the publicly-approved term limits vote...

Don't really have any answers. Seems to be the nature of politics.

At 5:37 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

so very handwringing. Interesting though about JE. The article you cite says he gets $60K/year at Mannatt Phelps. That doesn't seem like a whole lot of $.

At 1:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"That doesn't seem like a whole lot of $."
Exactly my initial thought. Subsequently, several folks have made the point that the $60K is the public consumption/due diligence aspect of the arrangement and who knows what non-monetary deals have been made out of public view. Lots of back-scratching and cronyism going on these days, especially when there are no watchdogs.


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