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Urban Political Science: Questions and Answers
MIAMI-DADE ETHICS COMMISSION:
Miami-Dade County is seeking a new chief for its ethics board.
What is the primary purpose of this ethics board?
The ethics committee was first enacted to change the Miami home rule charter. It was set up as an committee that has semi-judicial powers and it is independent of all other government offices in the county for the purpose of maintaining its ability to look into the ethical practices of government offices with an unbiased view (Miami Dade.gov).
What issues has the Commission handled that do NOT relate to the member of the Board itself?
Since the board is now just conducting the search for a new boss (Hiaasen, 2011) it is not doing any business save that. It has recently worked to create a new ordinance on conflict of interest standard because it has had an issue with the county commissioner violating the conflict of interest clause. This was first discussed in the February meeting according to the Miami Herald editorial board (Miami Herald, 2011).
3: What issues have arisen in the last year that relate to Board members and staff?
The commission has taken the initiative to select a new chief from among a list of 39 applicants (Hiaasen, 2011). They have also worked on solidifying the conflict of interest law because a county commissioner has possibly violated the statute.
RESEARCH QUESTION #2: STATE BUDGET REDUCTIONS IMPACT PUBLIC SCHOOLS
The state legislature and Governor Scott recently budget-cutting policies which will impact teachers and public schools. Discuss at least two of these budget-cutting policies, including an analysis of the impact each will have. Do you agree or disagree with the legislation? (A: Agree)
The main thing that Governor Scott proposes is that the education budget for the state should be pared by 10% (Phillips-Sandy, 2011). He has also proposed to cut at least 1.1 million state jobs which could impact both teachers and administrators (Caputo, 2011).
Both of these proposals are supposedly needed because the state of the Florida budget, like most states, is in such disarray that there have to be dramatic cuts to make sure that the government can continue to function. The impact of the cuts (which could be as much as $4.6 million (Caputo, 2011)) would cause children who need services that the schools now provide to suffer. However, it has been seen in other states and municipalities that cutting the education budget forces schools to become more lean, and get rid of unnecessary programs and schools that are no longer serving the state's educational goals. I agree with this one.
Cutting the state jobs is necessary because there are too many people entrenched in jobs that offer high salaries for very little work. This act will help the government tighten its belt also, and only keep the employees that truly are superior in performance. I agree with this one also.
RESEARCH QUESTION #3: HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY COMMISSION -- "TERMINATION OF CONTRACTS
The Hillsborough County Commissioners is seeking termination of employment for former county administrator, Pat Bean, and is involved in possible litigation with a number of other employees and a former Commissioner.
1: What events provided the basis for each of the alleged wrongdoings?
The commissioners fired Pat Bean because she apparently gave herself a raise while other people were being terminated because the county did not have the money to pay them. She was fired from the commission, with cause, which meant that she would not be able to receive the severance she sought, but she would get almost $500,000 in other payments (Varian & Sanders, 2010). Another charge was that she and another person were snooping into private emails from other employees of the county.
2: If terminated for cause, should these employees be entitled to severance pay? (A: No)
No, they should not. The employees that were involved in the wrongdoing were fired with cause because they were found guilty of indiscretion and they should not be allowed to have a severance which should only be given to employees who have a good record with a company. The company, in this case Hillsborough county, held a commission that looked into the ethical violations and they determined that they were founded. Thus, there should be no reward fro the wrongdoing that she committed, an those that other people did with her.
RESEARCH QUESTION #4: PROPERTY TAX IMPLOSIONu
Property taxes owed to Hillsborough County have declined by 21% in the last three years, and 42% of property owners owe no property tax at all.
1: How did this happen?
The fact that delinquent property tax numbers have declined is a mystery to the county tax collectors (Varian, 2010). It seems that property taxes "skyrocketed" starting in 2005 because there was such an increase in property values for the region, but the cause of the decline is more of a mystery. Actually the reporter seemed to answer the question himself because he talked about the property value bubble bursting in 2008. With declining property values, people would owe less money just as they owed much more when property values were on the rise. The Tampa/St. Pete area was one of the hardest hit by the bubble bursting as many people who lost their homes were foreclosed upon. When people went to buy those homes they sometimes paid as much as only one third of what they had been previously valued at. They also attribute some of the decline to banks and lenders paying off the property taxes (Wade, 2011).
2: What impacts does it have on county services?
Any government entity runs on its tax revenue. Thus, when the revenue declines the county may have to cut some non-essential social services and look into cutting the number of police and fire personnel. They may also have to cut back on city staff.
3: What, if anything, should be done to change this situation?
The property values should be brought back to a minimum situation that guarantees that at least the essential services are able to be manned. This means that even though there are lower property values, these tax should be re-evaluated to see if it is enough to maintain county services. It could be readjusted and the tax payers informed that the cause for raising their tax rate is because of the need to maintain essential services.
RESEARCH QUESTION #5: DRUG TESTING FOR WELFARE RECIPIENTS
Yesterday, Florida Governor Rick Scott, signed a new law that will require welfare recipients to undergo random screenings for illegal drug use.
1: What procedures will be used and who will pay for the drug screening?
The first issue is that the person who is applying for the assistance will be required to pay for the screening themselves (CNN, 2011). This means that a person who does not have the means to clothe and feed themselves or their children will be required to come up with the money needed to pay for a drug screening that could be humiliating and cause the person some amount of depression. However, the governor says that the people of the state should not be required to fund someone's drug habit which sounds reasonable. The person who applies for aid through the Florida DCFS will have to first undergo a drug screening before they are allowed to gain the aid for them and their family.
2: What policies will be followed in the welfare recipient tests positive for illegal drugs?
The bill that the governor signed says that the people who test positive for the illicit drugs will not be able to reapply for one year or until they have taken some form of treatment for their addiction (Shahid, 2011). This seems invasive to some people and to some groups also. It also raises some ethical questions it would seem. The people are having to undergo the drug testing because they need some form of assistance from the government in order to be able to feed and house themselves and their children. This drug screening sounds good on paper, but it also could make it much more difficult for people to have the basic necessities. The best way for the person to get back their eligibility would be to go through immediate treatment, but because they need the money to live, they may not have the money for treatment either (Shahid, 2011).
RESEARCH QUESTION #6: CONTROVERSY OVER COUNTED-FUNDED COMMUNITY CENTER
Controversy has arisen over the costs and opulence of a new community center built by Hillsborough County and deeded to Hillsborough Community College upon the completion of construction.
1: Who approved the county expenditures and the building design?
The expenditures from the county came from the Hillsborough County board of commissioners and they used county tax funds, along with funds from the Florida Division of Emergency Management to secure the building (Petzoldt, 2011). The building design was also okayed by the board (Varian, 2011).
2: What is the stated purpose for the center?
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