Ethics commission. The very name sounds fierce and daunting: A metaphorical principal’s office where Glendale’s leaders go to be scolded. The name is, of course, a misnomer.
But such a commission — tasked with investigating violations of campaign finance and lobbying laws — would greatly increase trust in government and its elected officials.
Campaign contributions purchase access, a prized commodity in a down economy. Those able to make the right friends in City Hall now will realize substantial returns once the market invariably rights itself. The citizens of this city — now more than ever — need to know their business is being conducted honestly. An ethics commission would be invaluable in ensuring this.
The council this week decided to look into shedding light on campaign donors, but cooled to the idea of an ethics commission, believing the potential for abuse too great and cost of such a body to be too high. We disagree. Glendale would hardly be the first city in California to create such a commission. The lessons from similar commissions in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Oakland can be studied and used here.
We also believe complaints about the price of such a commission to be spurious. A staff report states the cost of a Glendale commission would be unknown, but notes Los Angeles spends about $2 million per year on its commission. Fair enough. But Glendale’s population is one-twentieth the size of its larger neighbor, and it is grossly unfair to compare the two.
We understand the potential for abuse exists with an ethics commission, and we further understand its creation will hardly be free. Neither hurdle is insurmountable, and neither should keep the council from doing the right thing.