making local government more ethical
Last's week's Economist provides a look at a new form of local government ethics enforcement in China, which exists because local governments have failed to institute ethics programs. That form of enforcement is murder, and it appears to be increasingly accepted by the courts.

If you want to encourage unethical behavior, give individual officials independent power over the sorts of decisions where people have the greatest incentive to tempt officials, and officials are in the best position to enforce pay-to-play.

Here's an interesting potential conflict. Chicago's Civic Federation, a "non-partisan government research organization working to maximize the quality and cost-effectiveness of government services in the Chicago region and State of Illinois," is asked by the city council to evaluate the city's 2016 Olympics bid, to make sure that Mayor Daley's Olympic committee has a reasonable financial plan, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune.

Most of the work on the Civic Federation's report was done by L.E.K. Consulting. The report's conclusion was "that the operating budget provides adequate protection for taxpayers, but the development of the Olympic Village exposes the City of Chicago to continuing real estate risks that must be managed." In other words, the report essentially approved of Chicago's Olympic bid.

This morning the Jacksonville City Council finance committee continued their deliberations on each line item of the city's budget. This morning's agenda begins with the Office of General Counsel, which includes the budget for the City's Ethics Officer.

Saturday, August 29 is the day when the Jacksonville City Council's finance committee will consider the budget for the city's ethics office, a big $95,000. There has been talk of using the city's budget crisis to get rid of the ethics office, but the newspapers and the city's civic organizations want to preserve the office.

The city's ethics officer, who will be making a presentation, is Carla Miller, president of City Ethics. The budget hearing can be viewed live on Saturday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (break from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.) at Minutes will be available a few days later at

Here's a mind-twister of a situation, from St. Marys City (GA; pop 17,000). According to an article on, four members of the city council wrote the state attorney general asking for a ruling on whether a fifth council member violated state law by refusing to disqualify himself from voting on the proposed relocation of the St. Marys Airport (he owns a business there).