Tag Archives: Christine Scales

An Ethics Question

In yesterday’s Star, Matt Tully reminded readers of a longstanding problem in the Indiana General Assembly–the multiple conflicts of interest that influence lawmaking in the Hoosier state, and the disinclination to do anything about it.

In fact, if quotes from state lawmakers are any indication, we’ve elected a fair number of people who wouldn’t recognize a conflict if it bit them on the you-know-what.

City government is evidently not exempt from that problem.

City-County Councilor Christine Scales has raised an question about the ethics of a proposal that certainly deserves more consideration than it has gotten thus far: a pending ordinance would require property owners to purchase smoke alarms with non-removable, non-replaceable “sealed” batteries with a ten-year life. On the surface, this is a reasonable safety measure, since many homeowners fail to replace shorter-lived batteries, and are thus unprotected if a fire occurs.

However, according to Counselor Scales, not only are the smoke alarms in question relatively expensive, the technology that would be required by the ordinance (a) has some safety issues of its own, which have been the subject of previous televised investigative reports; and (b) is proprietary to one company, which means the ordinance would have the effect of giving that company a monopoly on sales in Indianapolis. It further appears that the company in question has promised IFD “free smoke detectors, payment for TV and radio public-service announcements, press events and donations to IFD-favored charities” in exchange for IFD’s support for the ordinance.

I know absolutely nothing about smoke alarm technology. Perhaps the Councilor’s safety concerns are unfounded. But the ethics questions she raises are troubling and entirely legitimate, and deserve airing, and they aren’t being addressed. Instead, she reports that her questions have been met with stonewalling and silence.

Is Marion County proposing to hand a manufacturer a monopoly in return for a quid pro quo?