The Kansas City Council should adopt a package of common-sense ethics reforms now on its docket.
The changes were offered in late June by Councilman Scott Taylor. That gives them a slight whiff of opportunism — Taylor is running for mayor — but just because something is political doesn't make it a bad idea.
And in this case, the plan is a welcome attempt to plug gaps in the city's ethics code.
Current law, for example, generally prohibits Kansas City's elected and administrative officials from lobbying the council for one year after leaving office or upon leaving the city's workforce. Taylor's proposal would extend that period to two years.
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That's a more acceptable time frame. A one-year "cooling off" period can be a potential conflict for council members in their final year of service. A two-year waiting period puts more distance between a member's votes and earning a living as a lobbyist.
The longer wait will increase the voters' faith in their elected representatives and high-ranking city employees. At the same time, it isn't a permanent ban on lobbying — a provision that might prove too onerous, reducing the pool of potential council candidates.
The Taylor ordinance also changes the travel policy for the council. It requires council authorization for travel by a member, or a member's aide, if city taxpayers are paying the bill. It also limits travel to conferences and conventions to two trips per four-year term, even if an outside group is picking up the tab.
Some council members will likely find this new policy too restrictive. If so, language could be put in the new ordinance allowing for a waiver of the two-trip policy if the council approves the travel in open session by resolution.
But the idea is sound: Council members should only travel when absolutely necessary and at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers. In the 21st century, learning lessons from other cities and elected officials is usually just a click or two away.
Finally, the Taylor proposal would change the rules for gifts to elected officials. Under the new ordinance, council members could not knowingly accept any gift worth more than $5 from any person or group with a "substantial" interest in city business.
A $5 limit on gifts will seem too low for some. Yet the message is clear: The people's representatives should not rely on personal gratuities and gifts from lobbyists while making decisions.
The ordinance does not affect campaign fundraising, so groups with an interest in City Hall can still make their preferences known. While the influence of money in council and mayoral campaigns is lamentable, we're not prepared to recommend public financing of them, either.
We're fully confident lobbyists and interest groups will still have a voice in the council's chambers. But a cap on personal gifts is a small step in the right direction.
The Taylor proposal will likely change before a final council vote. Kansas Citians will want to watch the process closely, with this in mind: The mayor and council should be as isolated from outside influence as possible.
The new ordinance moves the city in that direction.