One question we have been asked, as Berlin Council candidate Steve Green’s competitors in the newspaper business, is whether we think he has a conflict of interest as both a chronicler of and participant in local government and politics. The second question is whether we think it’s appropriate for him to serve.
The short answers are he does and we do.
The reality is people whose businesses and occupations are intertwined in local affairs hold office in small towns all the time. The real difference in this instance is that Green acknowledges his situation and expects scrutiny, whereas other office holders with competing interests might not be that forthcoming and would protest were their ethics to be questioned.
Such conflicts are almost impossible to avoid in small towns, which don’t have vast pools of qualified candidates from which to draw. This explains why boards and commissions in many communities are often populated by officials whose work and other pursuits would preclude them from serving in the same capacity in larger jurisdictions.
Nevertheless, local newspapers, which are often the only informational link between government and the public, are a special case. Candidate Green clearly understands that, which is why he should be taken at his word when he says Editor Green will separate himself from his paper’s coverage of the town.
Obviously, it’s a moot point because he has no opposition in his district. But even if he did, we don’t believe his involvement in the local press should prevent him from serving any more than someone in the real estate industry should be disqualified from sitting on a planning commission.
Besides, people are always looking for that one real or imagined slip-up to justify their suspicions, and Green appears to be keenly aware of that. With qualified candidates so difficult to find, we believe he would be a good addition to the council.