Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Star Backs Ban On Municipal Workers Holding Elected Office

An Indianapolis Star editorial weighs in on the side of legislation sponsored by Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) which would bar local government employees from running for elected public office. The editorial reads, in part:

Instance after instance of municipal employees getting elected or appointed to city and county councils and then voting themselves pay raises and other benefits have prompted a state legislator to propose a ban on that double service . . .

The principal arguments against DeLaney's legislation are that the public gains from the special knowledge of firefighters and police officers and such; and that these workers have the same right to be citizen-legislators as do members of the General Assembly, who may vote on matters that affect them as teachers, chiropractors or (in DeLaney's case) lawyers.

The answer is that potential conflict outweighs expertise in these credibility-challenged times, and state legislators vote only indirectly on matters affecting their livelihoods. The difference is in degree, but the difference matters.

The editorial reminds us of the conflicts created by firefighter councilor Monroe Gray, but it also raises one that has been largely ignored by the local media, Lincoln Plowman. The editorial takes this swipe at him:

In the meantime, The Star found examples of public employees voting themselves pay hikes and otherwise raising conflict issues throughout the state -- including here, where City-County Council member Lincoln Plowman was named by Mayor Greg Ballard to a command position in the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, where he is an officer.

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