Two sensible and much-needed ethics ordinances were proposed to the Carlsbad City Council by Councilman Mark Pettine on Oct. 11. The first proposal called for the registration of paid lobbyists, similar to the laws presently existing at the national, state and county level. The second proposal set rules for council members and commissioners who have actively solicited money from applicants in cases involving pending city decisions.
The reaction of the City Council to these proposals should inform every voter about the quality of the present council.
One councilman theatrically exited the chamber, declaring that the proposals were directed at him. It is indeed a bizarre twist when a lawgiver disqualifies himself from consideration of an ethics measure. I suppose we should be grateful for this spasm of honesty among politicians.
The remaining council members then considered the proposed measures, finding them untimely, troublesome and unnecessary.
The timeliness argument held that it is too close to the election to introduce such matters. In fact, similar measures were introduced by Mr. Pettine in January and again in September and were shelved by the council. Election time is actually a good time to consider ethics measures, so the electorate can assess their representatives while corrective action is possible.
The second argument, that of troublesomeness, was expressed by one council member who "would be afraid to vote on an ordinance for fear it would affect some citizen I had sold something to in the past." The eminent council member is confessing that he does not confidently understand the ethical boundary implied by the word solicitation, and defined by precise legislative language. The law proposed is in effect in widespread jurisdictions outside Carlsbad and does not present problems of the quoted perplexity to the several hundred thousand honest and intelligent public officials who follow it.
The third and final argument used to justify shelving the proposed ethics ordinances was that they are unnecessary. Is the councilman seriously asserting that Carlsbad is a moral island, not needing ethics laws found necessary almost everywhere else?
After the discussion, Councilman Pettine moved that the proposed measures be adopted. The council stonewalled and the motion died for lack of a second.
This woeful and embarrassing spectacle may have some benefit if it informs voters of the caliber of their City Council members.