Your View: State’s delay on ethics proves the importance of local action

Your View: State’s delay on ethics proves the importance of local action
Alexandria City Hall. (file photo)

By Michael Campilongo, Alexandria (File photo)

To the editor:
Mayor Allison Silberberg and city council should be commended for starting an effort to adopt an ethics pledge for the city’s elected officials and code in about nine weeks. But I regret that councilors did not follow her proposal to its full — and logical — extent.

An action last Thursday in the Virginia House of Delegates illustrates the reason Alexandria should not await whatever our state legislature may do. HB 6, which would bar candidates from putting campaign funds to personal use, was carried over to the General Assembly’s 2017 legislative session. The reason given is to allow more study.

This proposal was among Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) recommendations this year, cited in his State of the Commonwealth address last month. His own study began in early 2014. This is not a complex change.

Basically, it codifies common sense: candidates should not use campaign funds to buy golf clubs or tuxedos.

This is a good example of what makes reform more difficult than it should be, and has an added advantage of not pointing at anyone in Alexandria. Silberberg is clear in stating her proposals should not be considered a rebuke. They aim to improve an environment that already fosters good behavior.

It is evident from this example that the General Assembly may get an incomplete grade on ethics for 2016. So it will help for the ad hoc committee to take up other proposals, some of which may become part of Alexandria’s 2017 legislative agenda in Richmond. At a minimum, it will reinforce the governor’s continuing efforts.

Our city is not the only locality seeking to improve ethics. It can add its voice to others around Virginia to insist the General Assembly be prompt, as well as studious, in deliberating changes to improve transparency. Otherwise, the slow walking of good ideas toward the next cut-off date will go on.