Letter to the Editor: Silberberg advocated for substantive ethics reform

Letter to the Editor: Silberberg advocated for substantive ethics reform
Allison Silberberg on the dais during FY2018 budget add/deletes (File photo)

To the editor:

In response to Frank Shafroth’s letter to the editor “Ethics in Alexandria do need strengthening” in the Jan. 17 Alexandria Times, I agree with his praise for the Times’ editorial that advocated for more ethics reform. This has been an issue of particular interest to me. Allison Silberberg put forward an important ethics initiative when she started her term as mayor in 2016, and city council voted unanimously for ethics reform, albeit watered down by her colleagues. But it was a start. And she has never given up the cause.

Where I respectfully differ with Shafroth is his mentioning that Silberberg dismissed the recommendation to require elected officials to speak to students for an hour per year about ethics. Actually, she did not dismiss this idea, but this requirement of speaking to students was not a major tenet of her ethics proposal.

Throughout her term, Silberberg spoke to numerous student groups at city hall about government and the importance of ethics. More importantly, she was, and is, very focused on tightening the financial disclosure and recus- al requirements for elected of- ficials and candidates, and she strongly advocated for these substantive recommendations. I agree with her that this is a critical matter.

At the last public hearing of 2018 when council did an end-of-term review of ethics, Silberberg spoke boldly about what is needed to create a more ethical culture in our city. As always, she stated that we need to push for any elected official or candidate not to accept contributions from donors who bring business before the city. This has been her personal policy since she began her public service.

Second, she urged the next council to require full disclosure of all financial interest in development projects and close the loophole that currently allows elected officials to have a 3 percent interest in a project before council. Until that loophole is closed, elected officials with any interest should disclose and recuse.

Third, she urged the next council to create a permanent ethics commission. At the con- clusion of her remarks, not a single member of council had a response nor spoke one word about their thoughts on ethics. To me, this deafening silence spokevolumes.

I agree with former Mayor Silberberg’s proposals, and I share her hope that the new council will take steps to push for more ethics reform in our city.

-John K. Frost, Alexandria