I just finished reading the classic political science book Who Governs?
Democracy and Power in an American City
by Robert A. Dahl
(Yale University Press, 1961). It might have been the second time
around, because I did take an Urban Politics course forty years ago. The book happens to focus on
New Haven, the city in whose suburbs I live and whose public
campaign financing program I used to administer.
Who governs? is a question that is too rarely asked by those
involved in government ethics. It is assumed that the only
individuals who should be under an ethics program's jurisdiction are
those currently in government office or with a government job. Often
excluded from jurisdiction are numerous individuals who may be very
important to the management of the community, including former
officials, candidates, consultants and hired professionals
(including outside auditors), advisers, party officers, power
brokers and fixers, bidders on contracts, grant and permit
applicants, those who own and manage contractors that do government
work, such as charter schools and waste management companies, and
those who work for independent, semi-independent, and public-private
offices, agencies, and authorities. All of these people should be included in a local government ethics program.