FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 8, 1996
CONTACT: Kim Alexander
23 LAWMAKERS SIGN CITIZENS' PLEDGE TO ETHICAL CONDUCT
SACRAMENTO -- Members of the citizen watchdog group, Your Voices Count, rallied on the steps of the California State Capitol today and announced the initial results of their efforts to obtain signatures for their "Statement of Accountability", a pledge for legislators to adopt and follow ethical standards and conduct.
The statement was signed by 23 of the 118 lawmakers, most of them recently-elected members of the State Assembly. Karl Meyers, a San Jose engineer who spoke at today's rally, said he was encouraged by the number of legislators who have signed the pledge so far. "These lawmakers have shown that they are committed to public integrity," Meyers said, adding that he hoped the 95 other legislators would follow their lead.
The pledge was delivered twice to each legislator's Capitol office. Your Voices Count members also made follow-up phone calls to many legislators. The group is now mailing the Statement of Accountability to all legislative candidates, and will provide a progress report on the effort in early March. Project participants will be monitoring the status of pledges throughout the 1996 election season.
"This document represents our vision of how we want to see our State Legislature conduct its business," said Rosalie Wolff, an information-technology manager from Cupertino. "Through this Statement of Accountability, we hope to set a new tone for a new era in the State Legislature."
The Statement of Accountability pledges legislators to:
- Report colleagues who behave illegally or unethically to the appropriate authorities;
- Refuse to participate in action that would pose a conflict of interest;
- Decline gifts that appear to be linked to legislation;
- Support bipartisan efforts to reduce the influence of money in the Legislature;
- Treat colleagues and constituents with dignity and respect;
- Vote their conscience and put the interests of their districts before those of contributors;
- Conduct legislative business openly;
- Ensure that campaigning does not interfere with legislative duties;
- Avoid personal attacks while campaigning; and
- Take full responsibility for the actions of campaign staff.
The members of Your Voices Count drafted the Statement of Accountability with the hope that it will make legislators more responsive to constituents and less responsive to contributors.
"It seems that if you've got the money, you get the ear of the legislators," said Greg Sherwood, a computer programmer from San Jose. "We can address this problem by letting legislators know our expectations and holding them accountable. We will be watching lawmakers to make sure they keep their word, and we hope the news media and citizens throughout the state will help us monitor this effort and ensure that those who sign the statement stick to it."
The team of citizens who wrote the Statement of Accountability spent five months drafting it, and consulted with several Bay Area lawmakers during the drafting process. Wolff, who led the drafting effort, said that at the beginning of the process, team members "were all over the map in terms political persuasion and affiliation. It was exciting to discover that, despite our different viewpoints, we could agree on some basic expectations of our legislators."
Valli Sharpe-Geisler, a teacher from San Jose, said that "the Statement of Accountability shows that it's possible to make a difference, as long as citizens take the initiative. We hope that other citizens throughout the state will help us convince lawmakers and candidates to sign the Statement of Accountability." She encouraged interested citizens to visit the project's Internet web site, which features the full Statement of Accountability, an up-to-date list on the status of signatures, and related news articles.
The web page can be found on the California Voter Foundation's homepage at
Your Voices Count is a non-partisan effort to help the public get involved in the issue of the influence of money in the California State Legislature. Your Voices Count is sponsored by the non-profit California Voter Foundation, the San Jose Mercury News, and KNTV, San Jose's ABC affiliate. The project, funded by the Pew Center for Civic Journalism, is one of numerous efforts under way across the country seeking to involve citizens in the issues facing their communities.
Representatives of Your Voices Count will be available for interviews at the California Voter Foundation's office, (916) 325-2120, on Thursday, February 8th from 12:30 - 3:00 p.m. Copies of the Statement of Accountability and the Legislative Scorecard are available through the California Voter Foundation.
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