RESOLUTION ON ETHICAL PRINCIPLES IN LAND-USE AND TRANSPORTATION PLANNING IN NORTH CAROLINA
WHEREAS, the intent of the State Government Ethics Act is to “further the public, not private or personal interest and to maintain the public trust of the citizens of North Carolina, and it is essential that government function honestly and fairly, free from all forms of impropriety and undue influence; and acceptance of authority granted by the people to elected and appointed officials imposes a commitment of fidelity to the public interest and such power cannot be used to advance narrow interest for oneself, other persons or groups; and self interest, partiality, and prejudice have no place in decision making for the public”. And “officials must be prepared to remove themselves immediately from decisions, votes or processes where even the appearance of a conflict of interest exists”; and
WHEREAS, the State Government Ethics Act does not cover local elected and appointed officials, yet these officials may have personal development interests, hold positions on multiple decision-making boards, and exercise great authority over private and public development, including the use of eminent domain to seize private property; and
WHEREAS, most county and municipal governments do not have ethics or conflicts of interest policies for elected and appointed officials; and
WHEREAS, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), Rural Planning Organizations (RPOs), planning and zoning boards and committees, Transportation Advisory Committees (TACs) and Technical Coordinating Committees (TCCs) and other entities involved in transportation and land-use planning are not subject to ethical principles and do not function with transparency and accountability to the people or abide by a set of ethical guidelines (e.g. Ethical Principles of the American Planning Association); and
WHEREAS, as an example of the need for local codes of ethical conduct is the formation of a Regional Transportation Authority in the Triad. In 1997, the NC General Assembly passed Article 27, GS160A authorizing formation of a Regional Transportation Authority. The Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART) and the Piedmont International Airport Authority (PTIA) that began as an oversight group for the airport, have both evolved into facilitators for land-use and economic development. PTIA is promoting the “Aerotropolis” concept, described as “a powerful engine of economic development” and PART has come under scrutiny for coordinating the “Heart of the Triad” effort as a result of corporate appeal. Significantly, both Authorities have used eminent domain, yet they are not subject to an ethical code; and
WHEREAS, in another example, Session Law 2008-164 H-2318 authorizes the NC Department of Transportation to enter into private partnership agreements for construction of transportation infrastructure but it does not define an ethical standard for the development and implementation of these agreements; and
WHEREAS, the undue influence of property developers, corporate interests and a lack of transparency and accountability in land-use and transportation planning is not representative of the population at large and diminishes the public trust and threatens private property rights, agricultural vitality and environmental stability of North Carolina; and
WHEREAS, financial systems and democratic government are ultimately based on trust of the administrators, and clearly can and will collapse when administered by avaricious, unethical individuals.
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the North Carolina Alliance for Transportation Reform (NCATR) meeting on January 19, 2009 urges the Executive and Legislative branches of state government to modify the State Government Ethics Act to cover all local elected and appointed officials, as well as all boards, committees and entities with authority over land-use and transportation planning decisions. Alternatively, we urge the Executive and Legislative branches to enact a statute to require all such local officials and organizations to create local codes of ethical conduct that address conflict of interest issues and include rigorous enforcement provisions.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this ethical policy includes planners for roads or transportation projects constructed through any public/private partnership arrangement (such as under provisions of H-2318), or through any arrangement where public funds are used.
Governor Beverly Perdue
Secretary, North Carolina Department of Transportation
NC General Assembly