Monday, November 16, 2009

Nov. 16: Corruption Cleanup Requires Engagement At All Levels

By Sylvia Gurinsky

As long as there have been elections and politicians, there has likely been political corruption. But the level can depend on how much is done not only to fight it when it happens, but to prevent it from happening in the first place.

In Florida, it's been persistent. On the heels of the recent arrests of three politicians in Broward County on corruption charges comes the resignation of one Miami city commissioner and the suspension of another. Gov. Charlie Crist is calling for a statewide grand jury to investigate political corruption and ethics issues.

Crist, incidentally, is one of a number of politicians giving back campaign donations from Broward County attorney Scott Rothstein, who is accused of running a Ponzi scheme.

At the same time, former Florida Sen. (and Gov.) Bob Graham has published a book, "America, the Owner's Manual: Making Government Work For You," encouraging citizens to get involved in the government process. In speaking about the book (including a recent appearance at the Miami Book Fair), Graham, whose first "workdays" were spent as a civics teacher at Cooper City High School in 1974, criticized the reduction in the number of civics classes in public schools.

Low ethics and fewer civics classes. Likely, it's not by coincidence.

Rather than appointing a grand jury on taxpayers' money to repeat what we already know, Crist should tap Graham and other respected leaders in Florida to study and report on how to avoid corruption in the future. Likely at the top of that report will be recommendations for engaging citizens in the process - starting with close attention to whom they vote for and what the ties of those candidates are.

Clean government must begin with those who build it.

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