Interest in Conflict of Interest Ordinance Heats Up Across California
Interest has sparked across the state towards adoption of conflict of interest initiatives passed in five California cities by the all-volunteer Oaks Project. In the Southern California city of Santa Clarita, the Democratic Alliance for Action will vote on endorsing the anti-kickback reform. The measure prevents public officials from accepting money, jobs or gifts from entities they award a public benefit.
“We want to hold our officials in Santa Clarita to the highest standards,” says Tom DiCioccio, treasurer for the Democratic Alliance for Action, a Santa Clarita-based democratic club. “The Oaks Project anti-kickback reform will give us the tool we need to hold them accountable. It is time the rules of the game change so City Hall works to benefit taxpayers and voters, and not to line a politician’s pockets.”
The Oaks Project conflict-of-interest reform is currently being considered in Irvine as well. Volunteers missed qualifying the measure for the November 2000 city ballot by just 81 signatures. However, a kickback scandal involving a local councilmember ingnited city interest in adopting the conflict-of-interest reform. Oaks Project volunteers are working with a special city subcommittee to send an ordinance to the Irvine City Council for a vote.
Citizens from all over California are burning to institute the reform in their towns. “WeÃƒÂ•ve received calls from people up and down the state who want to learn how to enact these protections in their city,” states Carmen Balber, Director of the Oaks Project. “Citizens see this as a way to take back the democratic process from special interest influence.”
Oaks Project volunteers gathered nearly 70,000 signatures to qualify the anti-kickback initiatives for the ballot in five cities where they passed handily: San Francisco, Santa Monica, Pasadena, Claremont and Vista.
Politicians’ opposition to this reform is fiery. The City of Santa Monica has sued itself in an attempt to evade implementation of the law passed by 59% of the voters. Santa Monica has positioned itself as both plaintiff and defendant in the case, denying the public an adequate defense of the popular law. Pasadena and Claremont are attempting to intervene in the case as well.
In stark contrast, the measure has gone into full effect in San Francisco, the largest of the cities where the reform passed with an overwhelming 82% of the vote.
The Oaks Project
The non-profit, non-partisan Oaks Project was founded in 1997 by consumer advocates Ralph Nader and Harvey Rosenfield to train citizens to participate more effectively in CaliforniaÃƒÂ•s democracy. The Oaks Project played a decisive role in passing HMO patient protections in the California legislature last year and spearheaded the 1998 drive to lower utility rates for California ratepayers by co-sponsoring Proposition 9.