Castro's New Ethics Code

By Gilbert Garcia

Councilman Phil Cortez called it "the first major initiative" of Mayor Julián Castro's new administration. At the very least, Castro's proposed changes to the city's Ethics and Municipal Campaign Finance Codes â?? approved this afternoon by the Council's Governance Committee â?? can be viewed as the mayor's first fulfilled campaign promise.

That said, the changes offered by Castro merely expand the range of â?? or bring greater clarity to â?? existing provisions, rather than dramatically altering the City's ethics rules. Up to now, for example, signatories to high-profile contracts with the City (those in excess of $1 million, with a high degree of community interest) could not contribute to the campaigns or political-action committees of Council candidates from the day they applied for a contract until 30 days after the contract is awarded. Castro's revision will enable contributions until 10 business after the City has released the Request for Proposal and will, in addition to signatories, apply to company executives and their spouses, as well as lobbyists hired on behalf of the entities.

Under Castro's plan, these standards will also apply, for the first time, to zoning cases. He also intends to ban entertainment, lodging, and travel gifts, which are currently allowed up to $500. (The Council is expected to vote on the revisions on April 25.)

Now if Castro can devise a way to keep his friend, peek-a-boo lobbyist Gerardo Menchaca, out of City business, we'll really be getting somewhere.