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Do Not Pass Go Ethics in California

Monopoly

 

At the end of this legislative session in California Governor Brown vetoed a few bills that, the legislature passed in Sacramento, which dealt with ethics. His reason was that he did not want to make the ethical practices the elected in Sacramento must follow to be made any more complex. Huh? Given that under his watch three separate Senators have been indicted on various federal and state charges ranging from voter fraud to gun running, how complicated are the current ethics rules?

This gave me pause as to how complicated it must be already for these guys given their current legal troubles, so I went looking for the complex ethics one must follow if ever elected in our great state. Listed below are some of the ethical behaviors expected of our great leaders serving the citizenry in Sacramento. This seems very doable; after all don’t we assume these people understand right from wrong? Yes, but if they need it spelled out, then so be it.

 

  • Each Senator shall conduct himself/herself so as to justify the high trust reposed in him/her by the people to promote confidence in the integrity of the Senate.

  • A Senator or officer or employee of the Senate shall not engage in unethical conduct or tolerate such conduct by others.
  • Each Senator and each officer or employee of the Senate has a responsibility to report any and apparent and substantial violation of the Standards.
  • Each Senator or officer or employee of the Senate has the right to consult with the Senate Committee on Legislative Ethics, or, at the option of the individual, the Senate Ombudsperson (see below) regarding the propriety of any conduct that may violate the Standards.
  • A Senator or officer or employee of the Senate shall not retaliate against a person who the reports possible violation of these Standards or against a person who the Senator, officer, or employee believes made such a report.
  • A Senator or an officer or employee of the Senate shall not discuss legislative business of any kind while attending or hosting an event at which campaign funds or contributions are solicited, provided, or discussed.

 

 Here is the ironic part of the story, so we have these 3 people indicted on various felony charges from both state and federal prosecutors and the California Senate leadership does nothing, and I mean nothing. Talk about standing by their men, Darrell Steinberg had nothing on Hilary Clinton.

Senator Rod Wright was indicted in September of 2010 and was eventually convicted and sentenced this year.  Leland Yee was indicted in March of this year and is still facing multiple federal charges including bribery and gun running. Senator Ron Calderon was indicted in February of 2014 and is still facing 24 counts also including bribery .None of these men lost their jobs. Period. They did not resign nor were they asked to resign; they actually took paid leave of absences on the taxpayer’s dime.

And what did the Senate do while these “boys” were off figuring out their legal strategy for staying out of prison rather than working on California’s pressing issues? Finally in July of this year they had a touchy feely class on ethics. I mean, they devoted a whole day to this work….see below explanation of said class.

On April 23, 2014, the State Senate devoted an entire day to a review and reflection of ethical issues and the Senate Standards of Conduct. The review of “Ethics in Principle and Practice” entailed separate group sessions for Senators only, and for Senate Office Chiefs of Staff, Office Directors and Committee Chief Consultants. Following those group sessions, the material was reviewed in individual office staff meetings.

The group sessions included a presentation on “Strengthening a Culture of Ethics” by Scott Raecker, CEO of the Josephson Institute of Ethics and executive director of Character Counts at Drake University. The nonprofit Josephson Institute in Los Angeles has worked with corporations, governmental agencies and professionals on strengthening standards of conduct in individual and institutional decision-making.

A separate segment involved a panel of local legal experts who presented a variety of hypothetical scenarios to facilitate discussion and dialogue on ethical and legal issues.

 

A day of reflection cost us greatly because every district these men represented went without representation the whole time they were committing illegal acts and afterwards because Darrell Steinberg and or Governor Brown would not do the right thing, the ethical thing which was to fire their butts.  You can find the little hypothetical situations they covered in this Ethics for Idiots class, oddly enough gun running issues or voter fraud were not covered.

So when the Governor says the ethics the folks have to follow in Sacramento are too complex, ask yourself if your child knows not to steal or to lie. Then ask yourself why a sitting Governor with the record numbers of indictments under his leadership would not want to shore up the ethical behavior of his team, hmmm?

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The Baby Boomer Olympics

sochi olympics logoBy now if you follow me you know I adore the Olympics, both winter and summer. The Olympics used to be one of the few places we had absolute amateur athletes competing on their merits of their abilities in sport. The 2014 Olympics in Sochi has brought a ton of attention to the competition not just for the sake of sports but politics and even gender discrimination. Personally I think all of these things take away from the pure love of sport that should be heralded in this competition. From the President outing Brian Boitano on Twitter to the “Auntie Mame” dressing Johnny Weir ,the Sochi Olympics have been plagued by talk that surrounds political policies not sport, which seems to get more  media attention than the actual scores or medal count.

NBC for all its attempts at showing a huge event stream like the Olympics is doing a fairly bad job of it. If you are watching it during prime time you never see the Olympic medaling ceremonies just the sporting events that were deemed interesting enough to show in prime time, that is a huge loss to the television watching crowd. The only good thing that NBC has done is getting rid of the eye oozing Bob Costas that lost a lot of credibility and fans over his need to speak out publicly if not stupidly about the gun debate. Matt Lauer is actually doing a pretty good job for guy who must not sleep now between his day job at the Today Show to his nightly stint for NBC on the Sochi Olympics.

What occurred to me last night while watching the women’s snowboarding event was how many “veteran” Olympians we have in these games. We used to see a few veteran athletes who made “come backs”  at the  Olympics games to finally win that medal that got away from them and they were always looked at with such great favor no matter the country they represented. Remember people love a great comeback story, but 2014 is looking like the Veteran Olympics or the Baby Boomer Olympics as we have people in almost every discipline who have been to two or three, sometimes four Olympic Games before Sochi. As I was watching the women shredding the half pipe the announcer was talking about how favorite Kelly Clark age 30,  had won her first medal at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City USA. That was in 2002, so for over 12- 14 years this women has been competing in snowboarding. How many of us can say we have done any job for that long?

Shani Davis age 31,the favorite for USA in the speed skating 1000m competes at these Olympic Games only to walk away without any medal, after being a medal winner in two previous Games. Bode Miller age 36, another major favorite from the USA competing in several skiing events saw his first Olympics in 1998! He has yet to medal but still has Friday’s competition to win an event. These are just a few of the “veterans’ of the Games that have been able to continue their competitive streaks and fold them into a career rather than a moment in their personal and country’s history. There are new faces but I wonder if each of the country’s represented are still putting money into their Olympic athlete programs. The United States is one of the only countries that don’t support its Olympic athlete program with taxpayer dollars but with corporate and private donations . And make no mistake being a professional athlete in the amateur sport scene costs money, huge money. You need to have financial support to give your life over to training so it really is a huge sacrifice to these folks, especially those that are older athletes with families.

I have always been critical of the “professional” athletes that come into Olympics Games as ringers for their country such as the Dream Team in basketball or the professional players for hockey who compete, but most of these athletes at the Olympic Games spend their years training and competing on national or international levels in their sport. As much as we love a veteran and fan favorite such as Russia’s  Yevgeny Plushenko’s  even he has seen the effects of being a veteran on his performance. He has withdrawn from the Games in Sochi due to injury and he is no spring chicken in Olympic terms. At 31 years old Plushenko has seen many injuries plague him throughout the years including a severe back injury, which may be the cause of this withdrawal. While new faces will come up through the sports ranks these “old “ favorites give my generation a huge rush to know that you are never too old to follow your dreams!