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Ethics in city government

Updated on December 6, 2013

Ethics and integrity in city governments is a question that needs to be asked by all citizens of all cities. Elections are held at various times and the issues are many especially when there are deficits looming on the horizon in many cities in this country. Cities who have properly managed their funds they receive whether from income tax or government need to be proud that they are not running a deficit. This however is not the case for all cities and for that matter for state governments.

At some point individuals in city governments across the country must make decisions about projects which they feel are necessary to benefit their citizens. These decisions must be based on sound financial decisions. Revenue anticipated from projects and the costs of maintaining a project must be considered before decisions are made to begin them. Poor decisions by city governments have consequences when individuals are up for re-election. Initiating projects which have statistics which will add to a deficit for a city is a poor decision.

Recently in Cincinnati, Ohio there was an issue on completing a street car project. Much money has been spent and additional costs will be required to operate and maintain the street car if it is completed. The recent election of city council members was clearly a message that the street car project should not be continued. The newly elected city council clearly had a majority of individuals against the project as those in favor of it lost by big margins. In an effort to affect decisions by the newly elected city council the administration in power before the new council was sworn in continued to spend thousands of dollars on work associated with the project. This action was clearly a waste of taxpayer money which could have been saved and raises questions of ethics by the old administration. This may not involve all individuals who served in the past administration but the decisions they made is affecting the current financial situation of the city.

True to their position during the election the project has now been paused until an independent review of the costs to cancel the project or continue it was a good decision to be made. Like Cincinnati, Ohio the economy of the city has problems with having enough money to fund the necessary services such as fire and police and pensions for city employees. Recently the city of Detroit, Michigan was given the ok to proceed with filing for bankruptcy based on their huge deficit in committed obligations. The city has lost businesses and citizens and as a result the income the city was receiving in the past has been greatly reduced.

Clearly other decisions have been raised about decisions and in some cases contractual or legislative actions will need to be addressed by the new Mayor and city council. As previously stated decisions made by elected officials and sometimes hired officials have consequences. City council’s that make poor decisions which are not popular or in some cases potentially illegal need to be cleaned up when they lose their positions of authority. Such is the case in the recent election of the city council of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Cities which are projected to have or have deficits in the revenue they will receive in future years should not tackle projects that will add to the financial woes of the city. Projects may well be worthy but if the general public is against a project city officials need to question their decisions. Decisions associated with the costs of any project with which a city is anticipating should logically look at the revenue a project may produce against the costs to be incurred to build and maintain it must be considered. What projects city council’s want for their city and the decisions to initiate them should not be based on what they want but whether the city can afford it. This is an example cities across the country face each day when issues are brought before them for resolution. Projects which will generate deficits take away from funds which could be applied to critical services affecting the safety of their cities such as firemen and policemen.

Voters in all cities when it comes time to re-elect city governments must decide whether individuals have performed their duties with integrity and ethics regarding the decisions they have made. Individuals whether elected or appointed in governments at all levels including city, state and federal must realize they are working for all the citizens that have elected them not a chosen group of individuals.


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