The California Ethics & Democracy Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that explores the City Clerk’s role in fostering good government programs. It does so in partnership with local communities, City Councils, City Managers and the City Clerks Association of California.
At the core of the City Clerk profession is the impartiality of the office: “To be ever mindful of my neutrality and impartiality, rendering equal service to all and to extend the same treatment I wish to receive myself.” (IIMC Code of Ethics). This unbiased nature provides the bedrock on which City Clerks can increase public engagement in democracy while avoiding the perception of undue influence in the process.
There are both moral and practical reasons for the California Ethics & Democracy Project. The moral reasons are those of fairness in the process of government and the community pride that comes along with it. The practical reasons are seen in the increased caliber of public service and stability that these programs yield in our municipal leaders.
Focus: As indicated by the title, the two main foci of the project are ethics and democracy:
Ethics in this context are those that surround the process of governance. The program seeks to identify models of codes of ethics and values, and the processes around which communities have created them. At their best, these codes are derived through active public involvement and focus on what government at its best looks like for the unique nature of each community. To be clear, City Clerks do not seek to define or mandate ethics, but to provide a basis from which each person can consider the actions of public servants through their own individual moral lens.
The democracy portion of the program focuses on ways in which the public can be more robustly engaged in a fair and honest elections process. Examples of these programs include, but are not limited to: campaign finance reform, forum development, policy and fundraising research, direct mail and collateral assessment, and other practical skills necessary to properly assess political candidates. At their best, these programs enable good candidates to seek election in a manner which they would be proud, with a little more security that the public will not be swayed by misleading or dishonest tactics from their opponents. They also allow voters to more effectively vet candidates, fostering a stronger and more transparent democracy.
Goals: The tangible goals of the program are simple:
- To formulate a set of best practices through research and collaboration.
- To provide a venue for sharing resources and examples of good government efforts.
- To formulate educational curricula regarding the skills to implement these programs.
While these goals are simple, the long-term benefits of a more productive body politic will be immeasurable. Please see more information and occasional updates on this website, and feel free to contact us directly.