Corruption Watch: Suffer The People

Karen D Clements_Communities of Color

Karen D Clements, Publisher, Communities of Color

Corruption: Why They Do It and What Should We Do

By Karen D. Clements

The negative impact of corruption weighs heavily on any community but particularly on those that lack development and have high unemployment rates. Those communities have to lean more heavily on taxpayers programs when seeking success in an effort to overcome a legacy of institutional racism that has hindered the progress of its residents.

As the democratic culture lends itself to an expected inequality, it is important to find ways to solve, or more importantly, totally eliminate corruption. Some specific ways to accomplish this are: oversight, training, accountability, voting and imposing penalties.

Oversight is a no-brainer when it comes to solving the problem of corruption. With US Attorney Preet Bharara on the case, it seems there is a strict scrutiny in the area of oversight. Oversight is secondary, however, to perseverance and training to catch the person before his hand gets in the cookie jar (so to speak). That is how training comes into play. When rookies join the National Football League, they undergo rigorous training which includes how to spend their new paycheck, navigate the press and handle groupies. Elected officials should go through a similar rigorous training. They must be shown how they must wisely evaluate the many offers they will receive, make responsible decisions, file their per diems accounts and employ best ethical practices in all their affairs. There are many successful and corruption-free leaders who would seem more than amenable to educating freshmen lawmakers.

There should be a level of accountability demonstrated to constituents. Is the elected official doing what they are supposed to do, what they promised to do? President Obama is constantly being assessed against his campaign promises. Is [Councilman] Ruben Wills being similarly assessed? Does anyone even remember what he promised to do? How are we keeping track of that? Press outlets can assist with accountability. Communities of Color’s monthly tracker feature hopes to empower constituents to keep track of their elected officials and issues important to them.

Voting and imposing penalties are most important. We need to push for legislation that penalizes corruption and vote to ensure it passes. Who isn’t angry that [former Assembly Speaker] Sheldon Silver will collect a pension after allegations of [taking] millions were brought to light? Five years from now he will be on a Bahamian beach while many common people, who did their jobs responsibly, will be priced out of living in New York City. No taxpayer wants to continue to pay a corrupt elected officials salary or fund his retirement.  Every allegation deserves its day in court, so legislation will need to address account for that process, but there should be something that can be done.

There should be ways to penalize indicted representatives in a manner that does not jeopardize the community.

Right now, constituents are being punished. They are missing out on key services they could be receiving if an elected official was operating at full capacity.

Karen Clements is the publisher of ‘Communities of Color,’ a newspaper covering neighborhoods in Southeast Queens. In the last five years, that community has seen four elected officials charged with corruption: former state senators Shirley Huntley and Malcolm Smith, City Councilman Ruben Wills and Assemblyman Bill Scarborough. Ms. Clements will be an occasional contributor to our Corruption Watch feature.

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