Thursday, January 22, 2009

How to Help Bring Ethics to Jackson County

I've been on a bit of a roll lately, directing attention to the false arguments and nasty implications of the Jackson County legislature's refusal to submit to local ethics oversight. The attention is having an impact - KKFI has done a show on the topic, the Star has condemned the bad behavior, and, for the first time ever, the Jackson County Courthouse has climbed into my Top 10 sources of visitors! Folks, that's a lot of hits from one location, and I can't help but wonder if they're reading my coverage of their lack of ethics, or if they're checking out my "99 Bottles of Beer on the Blog" series. Either way, welcome!

While that's all been fun and good, a bunch of people have asked me in person and through email what they can do to help. People are sincerely angry that the Jackson County legislature is violating the County Charter and refusing to submit to local ethical oversight. By popular demand, here are a couple ways you can help in the effort to bring ethics to County government.

1. Write the legislators! This whole scandal stems from a belief that they could get away with this ugly subterfuge without anybody paying attention. They almost succeeded - if the members of the Jackson County Ethics Commission had not all resigned in response to the ethical shenanigans of the legislature, this whole issue might have escaped notice. Now, we need to let the legislators know we're paying attention. Here are their email addresses:
Scott Burnett - sburnett@jacksongov.org
Theresa Garza Ruiz - tgarza@jacksongov.org
Henry Rizzo - hrizzo@jacksongov.org
Fred Arbanas - farbanas@jacksongov.org
James Tindall - jtindall@jacksongov.org
Dennis Waits - dwaits@jacksongov.org
Dan Tarwater - dtarwater@jacksongov.org
Greg Grounds - ggrounds@jacksongov.org
Bob Spence - bspence@jacksongov.org
If you would prefer to call their offices or use old fashioned mail, you can find their phone numbers and addresses by clicking on their names on this page. Please contact them and let them know that you want ethics in Jackson County.

2. Talk to them. If you see them out someplace, like in a store or at a neighborhood event, politely mention your concern to them. Most of them are quite nice people, and most are unlikely to take a swing at you if you are polite and sincere. Truly, they are (mostly) fine public servants who are doing this job for good reasons, so the tone to take is one of gratitude for the many good things they do, but concern about this uncharacteristically unethical move.

3. Educate yourself about the County. I've posted links to the Jackson County Charter, the Ethics Ordinance and the Missouri Ethics Commission site on this website already, and, if you want your own copies, email me and I'll be happy to get them to you. The Jackson County Government does not get nearly the attention in the press that the City government gets, but it has a huge budget and impacts a broader geographical area.

4. Educate yourself about the Ethics issue. Unfortunately, if past behavior is a predictor of future performance, if you do contact one of our legislators about this issue, they will try to fool you with bad arguments, half-truths or outright lies. They may claim they are covered by the Code, or that the Missouri Ethics Commission has laws that apply to them. Ask them if they will be subject to ethics discipline if they show up to a meeting drunk, and that should stop them in their tracks.

5. Start talking to someone about running for the Jackson County Legislature. I mentioned above that the County doesn't get much press scrutiny, and the flip side of that coin is that none of the Legislators is all that well-known or popular. On top of that, every single one of them signed onto a law that exempts them from local ethical oversight! How simple will it be to pound on that fact in an election? How many voters (and donors) will respond to a simple promise to support an amendment of our Ethics ordinance so that it will apply to the legislators? How will any of the incumbents get around the fact that they supported the exemption? If you know someone who ran for office, but didn't make it, this is a grand opportunity for him or her to give it another try, with a built-in advantage. Call him or her and suggest this opportunity to run in 2010.

6. Write a letter to the editor. If you want to lift a line or an argument from this blog, have at it. The Star doesn't have anyone assigned to cover the County fulltime, so, if this issue is going to make it into ink, the letters page is the most likely candidate.

7. Talk about the issue to everyone you know with an interest in politics. Right now, this issue is generating a fair amount of buzz in the political community, and a few things are rumored to be coming up soon to keep it there. That's the kind of pressure that politicians respond to, so keep up the good work!

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7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep Garza and Grounds but get rid of the rest of those jokers, including Sanders, who has sold out to them.

1/22/2009 9:17 AM  
Anonymous DKC said...

I agree completely with Anonymous.

1/22/2009 10:15 AM  
Anonymous Sign of the Times said...

Garza is brainless. She voted for it and has done nothing to reverse the situation.

Out with the trash she goes!

1/22/2009 4:54 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

While I disagree strongly with their votes on this issue, Garcia and Grounds are two of the bright spots on the legislature.

But, seriously, have you emailed the legislators? Please don't waste your time posting comments until AFTER you've emailed the legislators. Bitching here might make you feel good, but emailing them might change things.

1/22/2009 7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am just waiting for you to cross over to LIBEL, Dan.

And then I will laugh my old ass off at your delusions of grandeur.


Muni Court Hack ready to blow the whistle.

1/22/2009 7:48 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Whatever, Muni.

1/22/2009 7:51 PM  
Anonymous Doc said...

Good luck with the Financial Preparedness Forum

1/23/2009 7:42 AM  

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