making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
(Note: This post has been revised, based on a response from Steve Berlin, executive director of Chicago's ethics board. I had made the silly assumption that the underlined language in the ethics reform ordinance was new. It turns out that much of that language has been there for some time. So I've deleted some comments and made changes to others.)

Recently, the Chicago council passed a series of ethics reforms (attached; see below) in response to the first report of the city'...
Robert Wechsler
Update: August 9, 2012 (see below)

People tend to think that all good government people are alike. The thinking goes that those who favor the improvement of ethics programs also favor such things as term limits, referendums and initiatives, and pension forfeiture by those found to have violated the public's trust. As a matter of fact, I don't favor any of these other good government approaches.

The one I want to talk about in this blog post is referendums. They...
Robert Wechsler
According to an article in yesterday's Washington Post, new allegations have been made of a "shadow campaign" by which the District of Columbia's largest contractor (in contract dollars) supported the current mayor's 2010 campaign to the tune of about 650,000 unreported dollars. The money was allegedly spent on all the...
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
Independent agencies are more likely than regular government agencies to get into trouble, because they are usually more closed and less supervised. And yet officials too often listen to agencies' calls for independence from ethics programs, as if the "independence" meant something positive that should be respected, rather than that the agencies are unsupervised and unaccountable. An independent agency's independence is only something positive when it is a watchdog agency, like an ethics...
Robert Wechsler
According to the blog of Kansas City, MO's mayor, Sly James, the KC Commission on Ethics Reform will be holding a public hearing tomorrow on its draft ethics code.

It's clear from the draft that...