Local election reform way overdue

There is a real fine line when it comes to rules and ethics in local elections.

For example, should a candidate accept donations from businesses or organizations that will in all likelihood be involved in a matter requiring that candidate’s vote?

Many times what is accepted is left up to the integrity of the candidate as long as it falls within the limitations allowed by law.

Should a county council candidate accept donations from local Realtors/developers that will, and have had, projects before council?

Many would argue that accepting those donations sets up a candidate for public scrutiny for conflict of interest. Candidates always say they will not let a donation influence their decisions. Even so, the hint of impropriety is always out there.

Should county council members be allowed to work for other candidates at other levels of government?

It’s hard for an elected official to take off his or her council hat and be John Q. Citizen when supporting another candidate. The moniker of being a sitting council member is hard to shake off.

In the District 5 council race, Republican winner Vance Phillips received several donations; most are from Realtors/developers. Although some of the donations are open to scrutiny, he did the right thing with one donation. He returned a $600 donation from planning and zoning commissioner Marty Ross, whom he appointed to the commission.

Kudos to Phillips for taking that action.

The whole issue points to a major flaw in how campaign finances work. Because most candidates will not police themselves, in a perfect world there would be strict campaign regulations in place that disallow donations from anyone in the housing industry in county council races. It only makes sense because the bulk of county revenue and most decisions by council members involve development and land use.

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