Corruption at the hands of public officials in Albany is longstanding; certainly, it predates the current culprits. But does the culture of institutional corruption that is being steadfastly cultivated and manifested at city hall really matter? Is the criminalization of Albany city hall worth fighting?
Everyone with a conscious, which clearly leaves out city hall’s “leadership”, realizes that corruption is a wrong behavior. Or, as Mayor Willie Adam puts it, in Albany, corruption is “just politics.”
It’s hard for us to do, but let’s put morality aside for a moment, and review the ill-effects of corruption solely from a business perspective. As such, we feel that corruption must be rooted out in Albany, and everywhere in government, because it:
1. Misallocates resources. When contracts are awarded due to cronyism or other sinister means, resources are not used most efficiently and the cost of providing public services is higher. Further, funds for licenses or tax income, instead of contributing to the budget, may end up in the pockets of corrupt government employees. Case in point: Mayor Willie Adams managed to get a consultant a $350,000 contract to develop a strategic plan without the city soliciting bids for the work. The money was wasted; the plan was largely scrapped by City Manager Alfred Lott with the City Commission’s blessing. That money could have paid for six new police officers to patrol the city for a year.
2. Fosters misguided and unresponsive policies and regulations. In Albany, there are direct examples of policies and regulations that are not intended to improve the community but to benefit people who are close to the decision makers or those who bribe government officials to pass a favorable regulation. Case in point is the campaign contribution that netted L’Jua’s restaurant owner Lajuana Woods an alcohol license, placement on the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority, an illegal $50,000 gift from taxpayers, and immunity from prosecution once the gift was revealed.
3. Lowers investment levels. Companies that would otherwise invest in the community avoid environments where corruption is rampant because, among other reasons, it increases the cost of doing business and undermines the rule of law. Corruption also is often associated with a high degree of uncertainty, which drives investors away. Cases in point: Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., Merck Chemical Co., Bobs Candies, etc., etc., etc.
4. Increases public spending and, thus, taxes. The net result of the above is that government beset with corruption costs more, which results in reduced services or higher taxes – or in Albany’s cases, both.
But that’s not all. Corruption is more far-reaching than the economics involved.
5. Exacerbates poverty and inequality. Corruption limits access to government jobs and contracts to those who have lined government officials’ pockets. Civil rights, thus, are set aside.
6. Undermines the rules of law. This is the perhaps most blatant outcome of corruption in Albany. Corruption has created a culture where government officials are not held accountable for their actions, while laws and regulations on paper are not enforced consistently and fairly. From the Albany’s ongoing sign ordinance fiasco to the lawlessness of the city manager, downtown manager and former police chief, what matters in Albany and other corrupt communities is not the law but whom you know and how much you are willing to pay.
7. Contributes to high crime rates. Corruption fosters a system with a high disregard for the rule of law and creates a society where legal, judicial and enforcement institutions are ineffective. In corrupt systems, it is easy for crooks to buy their way out of punishment and for wayward government officials to be quietly dismissed rather than be fired and jailed for their actions.
The bottom line, if there is one, is that corruption not only is morally wrong, it is expensive — and it fosters lawlessness and organized crime. Since there’s really no such thing as Buford T. Pusser, the only real-life answers that we know of to what’s happening in Albany are indictments and elections.
Here’s hoping that somehow and some way, our community will be walking tall and good government will prevail in Albany sooner rather than later.
By Kevin Hogencamp