making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
Defining what lobbying is is one of the most important parts of a lobbying law. Not only are many definitions of lobbying unclear or full of loopholes, but it is difficult to get even a good definition across, because the popular concept of lobbying is different from what lobbying really is.

This can be clearly seen in what has recently happened in the Orange County, FL school district. According to...
Robert Wechsler
They have various names, such as councils of governments (COGs), joint powers authorities (JPAs), and regional councils or commissions, but whatever names they have, these local government associations are often left outside of both local and state government ethics programs. And yet, as the term "joint powers authorities" implies, they do wield power and do spend or affect the spending of money, often huge amounts of money in transportation, water, and other construction projects.

Robert Wechsler
Providing incentives to attract companies or get them to expand their operations in a city or county has always been a controversial issue. Incentives are seen as necessary to attract, keep, or expand jobs locally, but they can also be an unnecessary way to get local governments into bidding wars (or what is presented to them as a bidding war) with other local governments, to the benefit of companies who are going to build or expand no matter what local governments offer.

Robert Wechsler
I recently read Judith N. Shklar's book The Faces of Injustice (Yale U.P., 1990). This excellent essay about the difference between misfortune and injustice would not appear to have much to do with government ethics. But there turns out to be much relevant...
Robert Wechsler
What is the worst thing a government official can do when a conflict situation becomes public? Is it worse to misrepresent the law, to make accusations against those making the conflict situation public, or to ignore the situation and hope nobody notices?

New York governor Andrew Cuomo has done all of the above with respect to the exposure of a secret gift of $2 million by an association of gambling companies to a 501(c)(4) organization closely associated with the governor...
Robert Wechsler
Update: July 17, 2012 (see end of this post)

Here's an interesting conflict situation from Concord, NH. According to a recent article in the Concord Patch, a state representative filed ethics complaints against Concord's mayor and one of the city's council members. Since the mayor and city manager had not selected members for the city's ethics board, which was...