Op/Ed: Time for legislative candidates to take the ‘No Nonsense’ pledge

By Susan Rzucidlo, Special to The Times

Susan Rzucidlo

Ethics in politics. It’s not an oxymoron or at least, it shouldn’t be. However, given Pennsylvania’s long and recent history of corruption scandals among members of both parties, well, sometimes I wonder. Will they ever learn? Will we – the voters – ever learn?

All too often, it seems like integrity is the exception to the norm in Harrisburg. How many times have you read news reports about epic lapses in judgment, embarrassing misdeeds, and greed-driven crimes committed by elected officials at nearly every level of state government?

Meanwhile, measures to tighten our laws and ensure that our leaders do their jobs the right way, on time, and in line with their Constitutional duties languish year after year. Instead, we get more of the same – partisan gridlock, childish political feuds, districts that are gerrymandered to oblivion, budgets that run weeks or months late, pitifully lax campaign finance regulations, no ban on gifts, ongoing efforts to suppress the vote, secret payouts to cover up sexual misconduct, and endless perks.

And yet, I still have faith in the system (and I hope you do, too). I believe that “we the people” have the power to enact change through the election process. That is why I am asking every candidate for state office in 2018 to sign the following pledge:

  • I pledge to conduct myself professionally, with honesty, accuracy, transparency and an understanding of my responsibility to serve all of the people Pennsylvania. 
  • I pledge to post my expenses and my votes on my website for the public to view. 
  • I pledge to adhere to the articles and values of Pennsylvania Constitution.
  • I pledge to accept no gifts and to support legislation to ban gifts to all Legislators and their staff.
  • I pledge to work earnestly, with transparency, and across partisan lines to pass a budget that serves the people of Pennsylvania justly, fairly and on time.
  • I pledge to support legislation to take away the responsibility for the redistricting process from the partisan inclinations of the Legislature, and instead, deliver it to a non-partisan citizens commission. 
  • I pledge to treat all of my colleagues, staff, voters, and visitors with dignity and respect; creating a discrimination and harassment-free environment for all.
  • I pledge to support legislation that would ban pay-to-play and no-bid contracts and enact restrictions on campaign finance.
  • I pledge to support legislation to ensure that every citizen has a fair and equal opportunity to vote.
  • I pledge to only accept reimbursement for actual expenses, submit receipts, and not request any unvouchered per diem payments. 
  • I pledge all of this as a sign of my dedication to honest government, to bring back to public service, and to embody the values of civility, compromise and common sense on which this great nation was founded. Furthermore, I ask my constituents to hold me accountable to this pledge. 

Yes, it’s that simple. There’ a “No Tax Pledge.” Why not have a “No-Nonsense Pledge?” Call me idealistic, but I believe we can and should demand that every candidate sign it. And whatever your party affiliation or lack thereof, I ask that you join me in in this movement. Even in an era of political division, we ought to be able to agree on the need for candidates to adhere to basic principles. In fact, if there’s one thing we can all agree on, I have to believe this is it.

That’s why the pledge is not affiliated with any political party, agenda, or organization.

Candidates’ political affiliations will not be listed on the pledge, nor will their status as incumbents or challengers. And no donations for this project will be accepted.

Finally, in the interest of full disclosure, I did unsuccessfully run for office as a Democrat in the past. I will not run again. In fact, when I brought the idea of such a pledge to my own party, the silence was deafening. Later, when I pitched it to well established and respected nonpartisan groups like Common Cause and the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters, the lack of action was disheartening.

Still, I remain committed to this pledge and undeterred in seeing this through. Let’s demand that candidates for state office be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. Let’s make honesty, transparency, and accountability the campaign issues they need to be. And let’s challenge our leaders to prove that ethics in politics is not an oxymoron after all.

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