making local government more ethical
Local government officials often defend halfway ethics reforms by saying that they're just the beginning, and that something is better than nothing. But halfway reforms are often effectively little more than nothing, especially in the area of enforcement. "Window dressing" is one term for such reforms. "Paper tiger" is another.

Massachusetts has an interesting, but I think limited ethics provision that applies to local government board members and jobs under their board's supervision:

Requiring supermajority votes by ethics commissions to find probable cause or a violation is probably the best obstacle elected officials can place in the way of effective ethics enforcement. This is especially true of the probable cause phase, if there is one.


If I am corrupt, it is because I take care of my district.

—Rep. John P. Murtha (PA)

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Here's an ethics story from Orlando with a good ending. It emphasizes what I wrote recently, that government ethics involves dealing responsibly with conflict situations.

See Update Below
At a University of Washington panel on Thursday, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, known most recently for his investigation and arrest of Gov. Blagojevich, spoke about corruption in government and what can be done about it.

According to an article in the Seattle Times, Fitzgerald said some worthwhile things about government ethics and corruption. Here are some samples: