By Mary Souza, Dec.23, 2008
The Slippery Slope of Greed and Corruption
Like a nasty black mold growing behind a wall, it can go unnoticed for years. Maybe there are hints, a slight bulge here, an odd smell there, but all easily ignored in the race of daily events. Then, apparently without warning, the wall falls open, revealing the corrosion within. And the more you probe, hoping the problem is small, the more depth of decay is discovered.
The black mold of greed and corruption has been at work behind the scenes in our country for many years. In our national housing policies, on Wall Street and in Chicago politics. National pundits are reporting the slow economy is exposing illegal schemes in hedge funds and financial markets; the walls hiding their corruption are crumbling and the decay is seeping out. Will the extent of the rot ever be found?
Last spring, Gonzaga University President, Robert Spitzer, S.J., spoke to our downtown CdA Rotary club about ethics. Father Spitzer captivated the audience with a high-energy, entertaining, intellectual lesson about doing the right thing. He reported that our culture today is in crisis because we have moved away from the solid, dependable ethics of our forefathers.
Parents are not teaching their children about basic right and wrong; they equivocate and excuse problem behavior. Similar thinking is found in business and public leadership, Fr. Spitzer told us, where decisions are rationalized based on the harm vs. good they will produce, rather than whether they are ethical and proper choices. He referred to the Enron fiasco. Sad to think it was the most outrageous example of irresponsible leadership last spring, we have so many more now.
Fr. Spitzer explained how small decisions that may be only somewhat wrong, but are done for seemingly good reasons, eat away our ethical foundations and produce the slippery slope of greed, sending folks sliding on that black mold of corruption.
His words sent my head spinning. I was reminded of an email conversation I had with a local official who is connected with the power players in our town. We were discussing my concerns about transparency and disclosure from some people serving on local boards or commissions, and the official wrote these words to me: "They need to have the passion to continue to do what they do and the incentives to continue. So, if they help themselves or their friends once in a while, that is natural."
Is the black mold of greed and corruption growing here in our lovely city? We may not see it, and many haven't been paying attention during our recently robust economy. But now things are slow; the economy has tightened and hiding irregularities from view will be more difficult.
Notice the behavior of our community leaders. Are they pro-actively making plans to accommodate critical financial needs? Are they openly adapting to public concerns? Or are they digging in, refusing to change course and trying to cover their actions with well-worn excuses and platitudes?
Take note of citizen behavior as well. When you see citizens stand to call for public accountability, they are following Fr. Spitzer's advice; they are doing the right thing. Post Falls City Administrator, Eric Keck did just that. He took a risk to write the strong letter published in last Sunday's Press, calling for protection of the taxpayers. It's time to pay close attention, my fellow citizens. We must support each other. We can no longer assume all national and local leadership has our best interest at heart. Let's get back to basics, clean up any rot and decay, and demand high ethical standards from those we elect.
Dear Newsletter Readers:
Our four children, all young adults, have finally made it home from various regions of the country, in spite of many delays, cancellations and rerouting. They are home now and we realize they are the best Christmas present of all. We are so blessed. Warm wishes to you and yours on this very white Christmas! --Mary
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Mary Souza has been a concerned citizen
of CdA for over 20 years. She's a local small business owner,
former P&Z Commissioner
and wrote an opinion column in the CdA Press on local issues. Her
opinions are her own.
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