Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Tonight We See Whether Ethics Matters In Metro Council

It is hard to believe that it has been a little over 3 months since Metro Council member Charlie Tygard introduced a resolution (which passed by six votes) to defer consideration of the independent Ethics Task Force's reforms until now because he preferred to focus all of his energy on the budget fight. But the time is upon us as the Metro Council has the bill in its sights on second reading tonight.

According to the Tennessean, Council member Tygard (along with 12 other members) could not be reached for comment on how he intends to vote tonight, but he did not seem too concerned about Council ethics in his June speech in support of deferral, as he claimed that most members seemed to be "behaving" themselves. However, he may have been a little distracted at the time by his focus on leveraging money in the Capital Budget from neighborhood-friendly repair of sidewalks in the Urban Services District to car-snarl-friendly street improvements in the General Services District. He eventually did succeed in persuading the Council to move $2 million from repair of city infrastructure to outlying parts of the county to spend on road repairs.

As for other Council members, the Tennessean score card has 12 as uncommitted and 14 as pledging to vote for ethics reform. One of the uncommitted, Council member Ronnie Greer, seems to believe that his appetite is more important than the mere appearance of favoritism in Council's feedbag initiative, which I have affectionately called, "Meals for Deals." I don't want to make too much of Meals for Deals, since it is one of the more minor improprieties of gift-giving, but Council member Greer's response to the Tennessean--"I ain’t voting for nothing that’s going to keep me from eating, That’s crazy, see, rich people can do that kind of stuff, see"--does not exactly inspire us to put him in the ethics reform column, especially if Council member David Briley moves to add the prohibition against Meals for Deals to the ethics bill, which he sponsors. I'm not sure where Mr. Greer gets off thinking that Council membership entitles him to a free meal, even if it makes him reproachable, but that attitude is a bit hard to swallow.

Our District 19 Council member, Ludye Wallace is one of the uncommitted, and he told the Tennessean that the ethics bill is
just a lot of paperwork. I think it’s creating an opportunity for members of the council to violate, because I don’t think some of the areas of the ethics bill, you’ll be able to police them, all the reporting, all of what you can accept, what you can’t accept.
That does not sound hopeful for those of us who desire ethics reform. I still am unable to fathom why the whole "we-cannot-police-this" argument seems to keep popping up in this Council. That excuse has become a worn-out mantra during various bill debates. Look for it tonight, too. But every time you hear it just keep asking the rhetorical question, "If the Council cannot police its own members, then how can we possibly expect Council members to police themselves in the absence of ethics reforms?"

09/20/2005, 4:05 Update: Bruce Barry over at PiTW also reflects on tonight's consideration of ethics reform and another Council member's stupid comments as reported in the Tennessean.


  1. Did you see Bruce Barry's item in Pith in the Wind about Councilman Toler.

    His comment is as goofy as his picture.

    After what has been going on in the state legislature, I'm surprised the Council is not scrambling to pass this legislation, but then again, this is our 'we-don't-need-term-limits' elected body and they are always good for a laugh, if not for a few more tears.