Monday, December 22, 2008

Ethics Laws & Punchlines

I don't know if I could find a better example of how not to administer a law. Selective and inappropriate enforcement of ordinances is the quickest way to make said ordinances ineffective.

Like the Mid-City bonfire issue, where "public safety" is being used as an excuse to shut down a holiday tradition while crime and violence continue to plauge several New Orleans neighborhoods, state officials are now saying state ethics laws do not allow patrons to give library staff cookies for Christmas. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if government is to be effective and cost efficient, the administrators who decide what work government does must be able to prioritize their efforts.

On "public safety" issues, go after the worst criminals and the high crime areas first. On "ethics" issues, prosecute high ranking government officials for things like cash in the freezer, take home cars, and paying for private events (like wedding receptions) out of public monies. Long after such large issues have been addressed reasonably in the eyes of the public, adhering to the letter and the spirit of the law, can smaller, less pressing issues be addressed. Sweating the small stuff erodes the faith that we are a nation of laws.

The punchline? You can't give library workers cookies and gift cards because those things have "economic value," but this year, you can give them an American-made automobile!

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