Tough Ethics Lesson in Oakland: Appearances Count

In Oakland California we have a prime example of why it’s not enough for public officials to avoid actual unethical conduct, and why they have to avoid the appearance of impropriety as well.

Last  summer, Oakland, California decided to address its increasing budgetary problems with a more aggressive parking ticket policy and extended parking meter hours. The City Council rescinded the meter-hour extension after protests from business owners and shop patrons, but the mercilessly enforced parking tickets continued.
Some narrow streets, however, posed special problems. Residents had parked the wrong way or on the sidewalk for years, because it was difficult and even dangerous to try to turn their cars around. If they didn’t park up on the sidewalk, emergency vehicles couldn’t pass. It didn’t seem fair to ticket the cars in these neighborhoods, so with the urging of the City Council, the police began instituting a policy of issuing courtesy warnings instead of tickets on those especially narrow streets. Continue reading