Ethics and the Greens
In regards to the ongoing discussions on e-lists and elsewhere about the Greens, the Zimmermann trial and ethical standards, I feel the need to make a public comment.
I am proud and honored to be a Minneapolis City Council Member, Green Party member and Green Party endorsed elected official.
One of the things that first drew me to the Green Party was that it was based on principles, not personalities, and put its platform and grassroots democracy before politicians and party leaders. One of the things that helped me make it my political home is the fact that it is part of a larger global movement to transform humanity and make the Earth a more peaceful, just, democratic and sustainable place.
Recently, with the trial and conviction of one of our members and a local party leader we are being challenged with something the Greens, as a political party, have not faced in Minnesota before.
I know that this is an incredibly delicate situation, perhaps more so for me than other people in the party and in the City.
A primary challenge for me concerns finding an honest way to be supportive and loving towards a long time friend and ally, while also helping to heal injuries to the Greens and to Minneapolis, as well as be true to my own values, convictions and ethical standards.
I care a great deal about Dean and his family. I have known Dean for decades. I admire a great deal about him and will continue to be his friend.
At the same time, I think that it is very important that I and the Greens be clear with ourselves and the public that we do not condone unethical, or even the appearance of unethical, behavior.
For me, doing that involves reflecting on my own standards and behavior.
For me, that must include taking personal responsibility for my actions and setting crystal clear standards to guide my behavior so that there can be no doubt about when and if those standards are violated.
I believe that as a Minneapolis City Council Member and Green Party-endorsed elected official I have entered into a solemn trust to be honest and maintain the highest possible ethical principles to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Here are some of the ethical guidelines I have set for myself and I think the public should be able to expect from every Green Party-endorsed candidate and elected official:
1) I have never and will never knowingly take any money from developers, or anyone who has business pending before the City Council, campaign contributions or otherwise. I support changing Minneapolis campaign finance rules to prohibit candidates from knowingly taking money from people with business before the City.
2) I do not let anyone else, or any group (other than my family or the City for legitimate business reasons), pay for a meal, trip or admission to any event.
3) While in office, I will never accept contributions for any entity other than my campaign committee.
4) While in office, I will not serve on the board of any outside organization except in my official capacity as a City Council Member.
5) I will never advise anyone about how to “get around” campaign finance rules. I demand that my campaign volunteers and contributors follow the exact letter and spirit of campaign finance rules and I reject any contributions that I find questionable.
6) I will work within the Minneapolis/5th District Green Party to clarify and raise our expectations of our candidates and elected officials, including stipulating that no endorsed Green should accept money from people with business before the City.
The Green Party is committed to changing the ethical culture in public affairs, and reducing the influence of money in politics. As the highest Green elected official in Minneapolis, I will not only do my best to personally exemplify ethical representation, but I will push to strengthen the ethical standards by which we measure all Minneapolis officials.
I will continue to work to strengthen our Ethics Code, improve ethics education in the City and reform campaign finance rules. I welcome you to join me in taking part in future discussions about how to improve and reform the ethical culture of our political parties, our City and our state.
For your reference, I include the following excerpts from the City of Minneapolis Ethics Code:
“Minneapolis government exists to serve the people of Minneapolis. In order to do so effectively, the people must have confidence and trust in the integrity of their city government. They deserve elected and appointed officials, city employees and volunteers who maintain the highest ethical principles and avoid misconduct and conflicts of interest, apparent or real.
Effective democracy depends on a government that is fair, ethical and accountable to the people it serves.”
….We put the public interest ahead of our own personal advancement and financial interests. We disclose conflicts of interest and refrain from participating in decisions where we have a financial interest. We avoid actions that might impair independence of judgment or give the appearance of impropriety or a conflict of interest. We do not use our positions to gain privileges or special treatment and do not use public property or personnel for private or personal purposes….
….We act honestly, fairly, and openly so that others can rely in good faith on our words and actions….