Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Hell Yes

McAllen adopts an ethics ordinance that requires public officials to disclose conflicts of interest and abstain from voting on those matters. The McAllen City Commission also says officials have to disclose travel, lodging and meals from anyone doing business with the city.

This will go a long way toward eliminating conflicts of interest like we see in the McAllen school board, but one commissioner tells The Monitor the ordinance doesn't go far enough:
"On a scale of one to 10, I’d probably rate it a five, as a minimum ordinance, but it’s going to take time to get it better," Commissioner Marcus Barrera said. "I think it needs to go farther, but the problem is that every time in the past when we’ve brought it up, it’s always been debated to the point where we just never pass anything."
However, Mayor Richard Cortez tells the daily newspaper that the new rules might discourage some people from serving on municipal boards:
"A lot of people are very private people," he said. "If I’m asked to serve the city, and then as a requirement of serving the city would have to make certain financial disclosures, then some people may elect to say, 'You know what? It’s just not worth it for me to do that. I want to continue to be a private citizen'."
But as another politician once said: "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." Sure, some people just want to serve their community and give back to the city. But far too many are only in it for what they can get out of it.

This new policy is a good start at cutting down on the cronyism.


Blogger Shaine Mata said...

This is a step forward for the RGV. I hope other municipalities follow the example set by McAllen.

With respect to discouraging people from public service by airing out their business connections, you give that up in public service. Sooner or later somebody will find out whether you disclose or not. Why not simply come clean from the start? It looks worse when you appear to be hiding things.

10:01 PM  
Blogger JB said...

Those who serve the public should have their personal information disclosed. But, I do see Mayor Cortez's point of view: some persons may be discouraged from serving if you may it so burdensome on them. There should be some consideration from the public for persons who serve on advisory committees or ad hoc boards. For example, what if the city seeks expertise of say, airport personnel, for establishing good policies on how the city should manage the airport. Under the rules, Average Bag Handler Joe would need to meet the same financial disclosures that Mayor, Marcus Barrera and everyone else *elected* would need to disclose. They would have to inform the government of not just mailing address and contacts, but their salary, gift to charities, children's social security numbers, business interests. I'm not sure it's worth it for the Average Bag Handler Joe. Remember, as a city, we want and need expertise from the community as a whole, which cannot be provided from the *elected* officials, city management, and paid personnel. Yet, we would discourage their input if we make it unnecessarily onerous on them to give back to their communities.

7:52 AM  

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