Just because it shines, it’s NOT Stainless!
by Marion Marks
Stainless steel is not generally considered to be an exotic metal. Yet, it’s exotic in the same way we think of ethical public officials. The majority of public officials are ethical, and they work for the public good. Yet, Louisiana was still tenth in the most convicted officials in this report in the Washington Post. Locally we find incumbents who violated our trust and must be voted out of office.
Candidates file this week for November primary, and opposition filings speak volumes of the perception of incumbents. Shreveport City Marshal’s race features several challengers who began campaigning over a year ago.
The term “stainless steel” like “ethical politician” is responsible for notable myths. Contrary to myth, stainless steel does rust. And, ethical people, insert “politicians”, can and do make ethical errors of judgement – they RUST!
Political rust can be fatal in a campaign, and lapses in judgement or outright bad decisions by Shreveport City Marshal Charlie Caldwell should have consequences. Caldwell finds four faces new to politics already on the street. [Caldwell’s campaign reports HERE] The known challengers are, Don Otis, Jim Taliaferro, Joey Hester , and Anthony Johnson. Basic duties of the City Marshal are defined by the city and judges in Shreveport City Court.
Stainless steel is “corrosion-resistant” but not immune to corrosion. The term used by the US military – “corrosion- resistant steel” is an accurate description, but the military or any government agency can take a great product and abuse it. This elected official’s record is marked by repeated abusive actions the public should find objectionable. And like steel, lacking oxygen of transparency or openness, Caldwell’s corrosion has tarnished the image of his office.
The ethics regulatory framework in Louisiana was gutted by the Jindal administration, and many well-educated writers have independently evaluated and addressed this topic. At every level of the state we find unethical behavior and poor conduct that seems to be daily news. Unfortunately there is little will to punish other than the ballot box.
At the state level, clear guidelines of ethical behavior must exist and be enforceable for the governor’s office down to the lowest hourly worker. Transparency and “sunshine” must be the expected norm. Meetings and office documents should be easily accessible to the public. Guidelines of privacy and protections should have clear rationale under public scrutiny.
Beach extravaganzas for the Shreveport City Marshal, deputies and countless members of their families along with “training of an unspecified nature” has been a part of Caldwell’s questionable expenditures. A complete audit of the marshal’s office credit cards has never been made public. The Caldwell summer Boston educational program, cost taxpayers over $15,000 and the educational program was never completed by Caldwell. He never reimbursed the public, as Caldwell explained because “discretionary funds” paid for his folly. The Caldwell “D.A.R.E. vehicle” in itself is an embarrassment of serious proportions, as the office has NO D.A.R.E. certified deputies.
[2013 Destin Condos]
[2013 Destin Per Diems]
[Destin ALL Year Attendees]
[2012 audit issues]
Under scrutiny, being an election year, Caldwell cancelled the 2014 “beach party week!”
Much of citizen disappointment with government is because our standards have dropped lower and lower. As one writer repeats, “our ethics standards are so low even the cockroaches cross the bar.”
Not all officials are corrupt, yet many work “along the edges of the system,” seeming to be aligned to those who are buying or currying influence. And, along the edges we find “the usual suspects,” always expecting something for nothing. When there’s a prosecution, the low man on the totem pole gets caught rather than the truly guilty at the top. These always seem to be living off the public’s money.
John Porter, a pillar in our community, engaged the public every election season with a simple message: it was everyone’s responsibility to demand better conduct from government. His words, read by two other departed voices Buddy Flowers and Robin Patterson, ring true today:
“Porters Cleaners is proud to deliver your invitation to the big event
honoring our Uncle Sam.
Study the issues,
This event is sponsored by Americans who lived and died to protect our freedom.
Vote as you please, but please VOTE.” (Actual Radio Spots)
More citizens must heed this call to get involved. Make a difference as you accept the challenge to learn about those you reward with your vote. RSVP – Make a difference this fall.
Democracy only succeeds in an engaged community. Passive citizens fall prey to corruption when they fail to participate in the election process. Please RSVP – demand change! The Shreveport City Marshal’s office is a great place to start!