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THE NEW ETHICS: CoMo Mayor, State Auditor, County Clerk embrace youth-inspired trend

Paying down the bill previous generations left

COLUMBIA, Mo  12/7/17 (Beat Byte) -- Columbia's Gen X Mayor and two Millennials, Missouri's State Auditor, and Boone County's Clerk, are rising examples of an important trend. 

Young generations are embracing a new ethics, as they face skyrocketing costs for basic necessities like education, housing, health care, and government rooted in earlier self dealing.  

You'd have to live under a rock not to have heard about Nicole Galloway's hard-charging audits, forcing local governments around Missouri to clean up their fiscal acts.

Sullivan County is "improving" after the 35-year-old Columbia resident gave it a "poor" rating last year.  Greene County officials might have used taxpayer dollars to advocate for a tax hike, a legal and ethical no-no. Galloway (center) wants an audit to investigate

Pay growth for school superintendents outpaces teachers, part of a national "CEO pay" trend throttling corporations and institutions (e.g. Mizzou) by choking morale and the drive to innovate.   Galloway and her office analyzed the top-heavy superintendent salaries from 2012-2016 statewide and released a report critical of both Missouri's education department and charter schools. 

Closer to home, Columbia Mayor Brian Treece (top) has become as well-known for his pointed, ethics-inspired questions during public testimony at City Council meetings.

Have you registered as a lobbyist? he asks developer representatives like Mark Farnen and Robert Hollis. Treece, 48, is a state and Federal lobbyist.  Registration with the Missouri Ethics Commission is a legally-required way voters and taxpayers can track who is speaking for which special interests.  For decades, City Hall mouthpieces haven't registered. Many still don't. 

"I'm not comfortable with that," the Mayor said about a developer offering to donate park land during a hearing about city approval for his projects, a move constituents could perceive as a shady quid pro quo.

Though it's still early, newly-appointed Boone County Clerk Taylor Burks, 29, is making all the right moves.

He urged combining this year's special "use tax" election -- which cost taxpayers two hundred thousand dollars -- with other issues like City Council and School Board races.  But city and county leaders ignored his pleas, forging ahead with a failed gambit widely panned as "poorly planned."

Burks (bottom photo) presided over vote tallying as the tax went down to narrow defeat.   Slender margins are among the most important acts voters entrust to public servants. Guarding their validity as Burks did -- especially when the vote count runs counter to establishment wishes -- is a powerful signal of ethical dealings ahead. 

We've heard about it for years: the "bill" Baby Boomers and their parents were leaving for their children to pay.  Spiraling national debt and sky-high living costs have reduced an expectation most Americans took for granted:  that their children would be better off than they were. 

Self dealing, conflicts of interest, shady secrets, and unwarranted greed among the powerful and well-connected have contributed mightily to this bill, allowing undeserving unethical types to take what they want while offering little in return.   

But as Scarlett O'Hara famously said, "Tomorrow is another day." As young policy makers move toward a new ethics, tomorrow promises to be a better day, too. 

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