Lakewood Must Commit to Ethics Reform, Unity

While being trained as a Public Administrator at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, one of the most rigorous programs in the country, the University made sure we left our studies prepared, not only to be efficient and effective public administrators, but also fully understanding the weight and role of leadership ethics in the public process.

I take those lessons to heart and firmly believe that the stewardship of ethics is a responsibility to dutifully be upheld by all public officials engaging in the public's business. At no level of our political system can accountability and the public policy process be as closely scrutinized or directly affect so many than at the local level.

So, what are leadership ethics? Very simply put, they are actions, values and beliefs that influence how laws are implemented and made; they are what your local officials and representatives understand about fairness and public access to the political system.

On the microscopic level, they are how a public official or council representative conducts your business, both in and outside of city hall. For example: Have you ever called your council person and never received a call back? That's leadership ethics.

Did you ever wonder if you had enough information on a law or resolution to understand a multimillion-dollar real estate purchase, or department closure, or change in traffic pattern?

o you feel that your concerns are taken seriously enough that when you have a question or concern that your council representative will listen to you or pick up the phone? That's leadership ethics. Ethics in leadership almost always boils down to - Is this the right thing to do?

The leadership ethics reforms proposed by Councilperson Rader would impact the lives of residents much more than people may realize. It would ensure a balanced resident-led ethics commission as a check on city council and the mayor's office.

It would create an avenue for direct feedback and oversight on laws by the community, and ensure our public officials are actively engaged in getting things done for Lakewood's residents.

It would also restore balance in our local elections by capping contributions to local candidates at the Federally established level of $2,700 per person.

Possibly even more directly noticeable to residents is the establishment of a two-day turnaround time for public records requests, a process standard that has been the Federal law for requests by the public to the Federal government via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for over 50 years.

Public information and policy belong to our residents and they have a right and a civic responsibility to audit the public process.

Probably the biggest elephant in the room of Lakewood politics and government is the hospital closure. No matter where you stand on this issue, most people agree that a better job could have been done to include and inform the public in the decision-making process.

The great thing about ethics is that is works all ways for all people. Ethics is the great unifier in the public process. Ethics in how our government addresses issues, spends money, levies taxes, and shares information reduces opportunities for corruption and impropriety by public officials and protects the public investment.

Corruption and mismanagement can color public perceptions of the legitimacy and quality of government action and it is important that Lakewood is united at the government level and at the neighborhood level to seek the greater good for this community.

I firmly believe that we are in a time in Lakewood where we need to unify and fight for equity in laws to govern our application of ethics in the public arena and that a social environment inclusive of community-centered input and participation dominate our policy conversations and decision-making.

We must also provide a process to hold any and all elected officials accountable to the residents, whom they work for, and this legislation provides a foundation for that. That's why I wholeheartedly support Councilperson Rader's ethics legislation and will work in earnest on city council to pass it.

It is important to the future of Lakewood that we work to rebuild trust between our residents and our local government. Establishing ethics reform locally that is already the law of the land nationally will help us do this and is an important foundation for coming together as a community no matter what challenges face us as neighbors.

Laura Rodriguez-Carbone