History will show that George W. Bush was a bad president. From domestic to foreign policy, to his unyielding, repugnant, and regressive stances on homosexual marriage, gun control, and the environment, the President is a divisive, ineffectual, uninspiring leader. However, when he was first elected, I thought that if there was anything positive that his presidency could do for our great City, it would be to commence federal corruption investigations of those local public officials that our loyal partisan District Attorney would never go after. A few years later – while I don’t claim any credit/blame – news of a bug planted in the Mayor’s office revealed that the Feds had in fact been conducting a massive fraud/corruption investigation for several years. That bug (and others) led to the City Hall corruption case and recent convictions (and guilty pleas) of over a dozen political operatives. Assisted by a network of cooperating witnesses and 60,000 secretly recorded conversations, FBI agents indicate that they are far from completing their corruption-busting work in Philadelphia. "I see this case as being open when I retire in a few years," said FBI agent James K. Welch, supervisor of the public-corruption squad in Philadelphia. "We're not halfway done yet." Welch did not elaborate, but it has been reported that the Feds are examining City contracts related to insurance, Penn's Landing, minority contracting, and the Philadelphia International Airport. According to the article in last Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, the FBI hopes for changes, such as proposed ethics reforms, in "what we see as a corrupt system." While the investigation and subsequent guilty pleas and convictions don’t guarantee positive changes to our political/government systems and culture, there are hopeful signs that Philadelphia residents and politicians are taking the issue seriously. The City’s Board of Ethics has staffed up and Councilman Nutter’s anti pay-to-play bills will become law, pending voter approval. While there’s certainly a downside to the corruption investigation – who needs the bad press and notoriety – the ongoing investigation will keep this issue in the public’s mind heading into the next mayoral elections and will no doubt shape the outcome, hopefully in favor of a candidate who will provide strong ethical leadership and improve the quality and focus of governance in Philadelphia.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
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