A Very Good Step

I get positively giddy when I actually get to blog about something positive, and these days, those opportunities are rare. But what do you know–Indianapolis’ new Mayor, Joe Hogsett, has provided me with that opportunity!

According to the Indianapolis Star, the Mayor is moving aggressively to close the gaping loopholes in the City’s ethics ordinance.

Today when a lobbyist wines and dines a City-County Council member, he or she has to disclose the cost of the meal, but not who ate it.

This is among a number of loopholes in the city ethics code that Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett is attempting to close with a package of reforms introduced at this week’s council meeting.

Co-sponsored by Democratic Councilmen Blake Johnson and Leroy Robinson, the ordinance would strengthen reporting requirements, impose stronger penalties for violations and create a web portal for easier public access to ethics disclosures. It would also establish a cooling-off period similar to that for state employees.

Many of the provisions contained in the ethics overhaul were introduced last year by then-Councilor Kip Tew. For reasons I have never understood, the Council declined to pass Tew’s version, which was very similar to the one introduced on behalf of Mayor Hogsett. Now, they will have another chance.

Under the pending proposal, lobbyists who repeatedly break the rules could find themselves and their firms subjected to lifetime bans. Contractors who violate the ordinance could be banned for a single offense.

These changes are long overdue. In the six years the current ordinance has been in effect, there has not been a single effort to enforce it, despite multiple accusations of “cozy” relationships between elected officials and those doing business with the city.

Giving the rules real teeth, making them clearer, and making access to documentation easier, will go a long way toward restoring trust in local government.

Now if we could just do something about ethical standards at the General Assembly….

15 thoughts on “A Very Good Step

  1. I don’t understand putting this on lobbyists. Went aren’t the*Councillors* expected to report that they have been wined and dined and by whom? They are they ones who answer to the voters and it would be a lot easier to track (there being far fewer of them than lobbyists).

  2. Great news for Indy. I hope the council passes it. My thought has always been if you aren’t doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to hide.

    Regarding our general assembly, Sheila, how could we citizens get changes made there? I would absolutely be willing to put my time and effort into making a change there if a path to make it happen is known.

  3. I hope this passes. Let us also hope your state legislature does not follow No. Carolina’s lead and strip cities in the state from passing progressive laws.

  4. Blake Johnson is doing a fantastic job as a freshman councilor. He is donating a portion of his pay to set up scholarships for students in his district. An outstanding reason for Sheila to get giddy – giddy up Sheila.

  5. Nice to see something good for a change. Still reading “Dark Money”, so this brings a little light of relief.

  6. Exceptional. It is indeed nice when Hoosiers may find praise for elected official for not only being a conscientious citizen but an honest politician. 🙂

  7. I am reading “Dark Money” as well. It is chilling and very revealing. It may be too late to heed the warnings the author provides. It is to all of our detriment if we don’t fight back.
    The ethics “loopholes” have been built into our system by those who would profit from them. To see the Mayor take the lead in this matter is gratifying. I do also agree that councilors and other public officials should be required to report if for no other reason than to know who is most likely to take advantage of privilege.
    To those who are celebrating today, peace to you. I wish the same for us all.
    Thanks to Sheila for bringing light to an often dark place.

  8. Hmm. In the long list of lawyers registered this year to lobby City government, you will find Ahmed Young, a vice president with Bose McKinney & Evans, included as one of the many who will lobby on zoning matters. Young is also currently employed as Hogsett’s director of education innovation. This is just one example. It seems to me that there are some more important ethical loopholes to be closed by Mayor Hogsett than who is having lunch with whom.

  9. State employees who must report are underlings, not administrative types appointed by the Governor. Actually, reporting of free tickets and meals, trips- any gift really should be required by both lobbyists and government officials, if not outright banned.

  10. I’ve never had a significant elected job but it strikes me that if I did I would be anxious to take away any power or potential undue influence by removing any secrecy. If you want to buy this dinner I’ll buy the next like we’re friends but don’t expect secrecy on my part. I agree with whoever said it that that should be the obligation of the elected official. Transparency.

    I worked with suppliers in my real life and entertaining was part of relationship building. It was a social thing not a power thing and accomplished more good than harm or even risk of harm.

    PAC’s though are a different thing. The donors and amounts ought to be very public and done by whoever has accounting responsibility for the funds.

    It’s good to hear of positive political happenings in Hoosier Land. Perhaps the threat of oligarchy taking over democracy are starting the downhill slide to oblivion where they belong.

  11. I guess we won’t hold our breath for the state legislature to man up and disclose such relationships.

  12. Nancy, I doubt anyone has a plan which will answer your question. Several election cycles are necessary to rid the legislature of those responsible for this mess. ALEC comes to town this summer. Read the 100s of goals they have on their web site to learn how they want to control our country. It’ll make you lose sleep.

  13. JD; to fully resolve this problem, Mayor Hogsett would have to create a Loophole Division of the Mayor’s Office to do nothing but address this issue on all levels. He would then be called to task for creating an additional government division, thus enlarging what Republicans already believe needs to be made smaller. The issues referred to in this blog should already come under the demand for transparency but is overlooked till someone brings specific instances to the public attention.

    It seems we must create rules, ordinances and laws to govern day-to-day operation of government local and national. Being overlooked or misunderstood we must then create rules, ordinances and laws to explain the meaning of rules, ordinances and laws being ignored. Maintaining a fully operational government has become like raising a brood of unruly children who must constantly be reminded there are rules, ordinances and laws to be followed.

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