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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Legislative Ethics Need Honor Code

Legislative Ethics Need Honor Code Like U.S. Military Academy

Idaho’s legislature has a crisis in confidence following numerous ethical lapses on the part of members–some have been convicted, some have lost leadership roles, and others have lost face.
Exterior dome of the Idaho State Capitol building located in Boise, Idaho, USA.
On the third day of the 2013 session they have devoted considerable time to “ethics training,” and they hired outside counsel.
The GUARDIAN has offered perhaps the easiest and most logical solution in the form of the U.S. Military Academy (West Point) HONOR CODE. The code says “a Cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” The code in some form has served the Academy since 1802 with the final tweak adopted in 1970 to “not tolerate those who do.”

We have suggested the plan to a Senator and a Representative–both Dems–who scoffed at the suggestion and walked away.

It seems like a pretty simple ethics policy for the members of the Idaho House and Senate to adopt. Just change “cadet” to “member” and it’s ready to adopt.
Three rules of thumb:
1. Does this action attempt to deceive anyone or allow anyone to be deceived?

2. Does this action gain or allow the gain of privilege or advantage to which I or someone else would not otherwise be entitled?

3. Would I be dissatisfied by the outcome if I were on the receiving end of this action?

We would suggest they use modified guidelines similar to West Point when it comes to adjudicating violations. They are tried by a jury of their peers (ethics committee). If they are found guilty, the case will go up to the (full House or Senate) who will give a recommendation to either impose sanctions (strip the member of committee assignments) or recommend impeachment.

Definitions of the tenets of the Honor Code:

LYING: Cadets violate the Honor Code by lying if they deliberately deceive another by stating an untruth or by any direct form of communication to include the telling of a partial truth and the vague or ambiguous use of information or language with the intent to deceive or mislead.

CHEATING: A violation of cheating would occur if a Cadet fraudulently acted out of self-interest or assisted another to do so with the intent to gain or to give an unfair advantage. Cheating includes such acts as plagiarism (presenting someone else’s ideas, words, data, or work as one’s own without documentation), misrepresentation (failing to document the assistance of another in the preparation, revision, or proofreading of an assignment), and using unauthorized notes.

STEALING: The wrongful taking, obtaining, or withholding by any means from the possession of the owner or any other person any money, personal property, article, or service of value of any kind, with intent to permanently deprive or defraud another person of the use and benefit of the property, or to appropriate it to either their own use or the use of any person other than the owner.

TOLERATION: Cadets violate the Honor Code by tolerating if they fail to report an unresolved incident with honor implications to proper authority within a reasonable length of time. “Proper authority” includes the Commandant, the Assistant Commandant, the Director of Military Training, the Athletic Director, a tactical officer, teacher or coach. A “reasonable length of time” is the time it takes to confront the Cadet candidate suspected of the honor violation and decide whether the incident was a misunderstanding or a possible violation of the Honor Code. A reasonable length of time is usually considered not to exceed 24 hours.

To have violated the honor code, a Cadet must have lied, cheated, stolen, or attempted to do so, or tolerated such action on the part of another Cadet. The procedural element of the Honor System examines the two elements that must be present for a Cadet to have committed an honor violation: the act and the intent to commit that act. The latter does not mean intent to violate the Honor Code, but rather the intent to commit the act itself.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mental Health Hospitals or Gun Control??

THE GUARDIAN has watched the media frenzy over the latest killing of all the beautiful little children and adults at the Sandy Hook School to the point I can't watch or listen to it anymore.  The media has latched onto this and is trying to make it a "tipping point" for more gun laws and that will do nothing to reduce the killing by mentally ill people.  They will simply figure out another way to carry out their well thought out plans to kill others.

The real issue in my mind is more and better control of people with serious mental issues.  Most people with mental problems are not violent.  However, there are a few that do and we need more and better protection from them and for them.

I am old enough to remember when President Reagan shut down the mental hospitals back in 1986 in an effort to control the federal budget.  Mental hospitals were painted as torture chambers and places not fit for human occupancy in order to sell this to the public.  The media bought it hook line and sinker as did the public. 

I can think of no instance where people were shot in wholesale manner by anyone who was not dealing with mental issues.  Additionally, shootings like what we all have seen in recent times were very rare before 1986 when mental hospitals were up and running to accomodate those with mental issues.

 President Reagan was shot by a citizen with mental issues.  Just think of all the instances recently involving people with mental issues and the consequences of not keeping them in a safe haven and controlled environment. 

In every instance shootings of people by people with mental issues were thought out in well planned detail.  Parents of the people who did these horrible acts were at the end of their rope on what to do and very few options to deal with their children who carried out these unthinkable acts.

I can remember when you could see advertisements for war surplus guns of all makes and kinds in comic books, Sports Afield, and other magazines for as little as $10 each.  President Kennedy was shot by a mentally unstable person with just such a gun.  The reaction was to shut down mail order gun sales of cheap guns and not deal with the mental health aspects of this terrible acts.

Today, we have the media in lock-step trying to get more and tougher gun control laws on the books as a result of the Sandy Hook School shootings.  I would offer we need more and better mental health laws and facilities in this country.  Right now the only place most cities and counties have are jails and prisons for these folks.  This is a very costly environment and it does nothing to address the problems of mental health confinement needs.  The mother of the young man who did the killings was at her wits end on how to deal with her son.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Caldwell Code Enforcement Dissolved!

THE GUARDIAN has long been a supporter of Code Enforcement in Caldwell.  There are a certain number of people and property owners who simply consider it a right to create BLIGHT.  Weeds, trash, junk cars, and you name it all over their property.  I learned yesterday the people doing this job will be gone as of the first of the new year.  Here's the reply I received from the City Finance Director, Eljay Waite:

"Code enforcement is being streamlined, overlapping responsibilities are being removed or consolidated, unnecessary duties are being removed and several city departments will share the responsibility of code enforcement. Government is downsizing and combining resources to become more efficient. Great idea. An official announcement will be coming soon. "

Back in the bad old days the junior officer on the Caldwell Police Department was the sole code enforcement officer for the city.  They knew it was a short time they would be in this position so, for a lack of a better description, they did a lousy job of it.  About 10 years ago the city of Caldwell looked like a dump site.  The Mayor and City Councilors decided to get some political will to clean up Caldwell and hired dedicated people to this effort.  It was an uphill battle for the first couple of years but today, Caldwell is anything but what it used to be.  This can only be attributed to the people working for Caldwell Code Enforcement.  Trash, weeds and junk cars all over town are gone for the most part.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Another Legislative Year To Repeal Urban Renewal

This year there are about 25 new members of the Idaho Legislature.  It presents another opportunity to get URA's reformed to allow voters to weigh in on bonding debt or continue down the road we have been on with all the tax and spend abuses and NO Voter Oversight. 

The latest abuse of URA law in Idaho is in Nampa where they want to create a one block UR District to accommodate a Caldwell developer.  The site is the old Mercy Hospital and is nothing more than an effort to cut taxpayers out of the funding decisions for this very questionable project.  Make no mistake the developer is not in this to restore a piece of Nampa's history.  He is there to make money on the backs of Nampa and Canyon County taxpayers and federal taxpayers. 

There was plenty of evidence of taxpayer abuse presented last year at the Idaho Legislature but the political will to actually do anything was severely lacking.  The pro URA people launched a statewide organization of URA's headed up by former CCDC head Phil Kushlan.  Mr. Kushlan is funded by annual dues from all state URA's via a $500.00 fee from each URA in Idaho.  Once again using taxpayer dollars to lobby state legislators to keep URA laws as they are and promote all the taxpayer abuse intact.

The best solution for all this is to simply abolish Urban Renewal Districts statewide.  They are allowed to pick "winners and losers" in how cities get developed.  They do almost zero urban renewal and promote crony capitalism in the process.  The answer to all this is to level the playing field in Idaho Cities and get local levy rates low enough to give all potential developers and their projects and equal opportunity.  And in the process let capital investments go where the best opportunities lie in our communities.

What you can do is get on the Idaho Legislature web pages and let your local legislators know how you feel about URA's.  The total lack of voter oversight of URA's in Idaho is simply wrong and it won't change without your help.