Forcing Ethics onto the Mayoral Agenda

Former candidate Terry Gillen shows she can still influence the debate

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Terry Gillen may be out of the mayoral race, but it seems she can still shape the debate. In an Inquirer op-ed published yesterday, Gillen forcefully made the case that ethics ought to be a premier issue in the mayoral race. So far, it clearly hasn’t been.

Wrote Gillen:

We are less than five months from electing a new mayor and Council, and yet no Council members or good-government groups have put forth a platform of ethics initiatives that would prevent city government from backsliding into corruption. Council passed a law to make the Office of Sustainability permanent, but not the chief integrity officer. Last year, both Council and the Committee of Seventy unsuccessfully pushed a charter initiative that would have allowed Council members to run for mayor while retaining their current jobs, yet a bill to make the inspector general permanent under the charter has been lagging in committee for a year.

The silence on these issues has been deafening. Indeed, it has become chic in some circles to suggest that the city would be better off if Nutter were not quite so, well, ethical – an argument that could gain traction only in a city like Philadelphia. No one in New York, for example, would suggest that Mayor Bill de Blasio would have had a more effective start had he allowed a little bit of graft in his first year. But in Philadelphia, serious people make these arguments, and serous media outlets print them.

Gillen said voters should “demand that the city’s next elected leaders keep the Nutter administration’s ethics reforms in place.” That means, at minimum, making the Office of Inspector General permanent and doing the same for the position of Chief Integrity Officer, a post first held by the highly-regarded Joan Markman, who passed away last week.

Ken Trujillo’s campaign saw the opening and took it, sending out a statement to the press yesterday citing Gillen’s op-ed and committing to “fight not only to make those roles a part of the city charter, but also to fill those positions with people who will carry on [Markman’s] proud legacy.” This morning, the Inquirer’s Chris Brennan (that still sounds super weird) tried to pin down the other candidates on the same question, with mixed results.

It’s not just ethics that’s gotten short shrift so far in this mayoral race, of course. Many observers worry that education will drown out an array of important subjects this election.