With all of the talk regarding campaign donations and conflict of interest
regarding the Klodt development, I felt like asking a few questions and
making some pointed comments on conflict of interest in the development
I'll preface this by saying that there definite questions regarding the
Klodt donations, such as: why the vote was cast, was the candidate aware of
the donations, was the candidate partaking in illegal practices, etc.
Without having these answers, accusations should be treated as such - since
we live in a country where you are innocent until proven guilty. All this
said it brings up the question of Conflict of Interest: both ethical and
This will be tailored towards development. And I really am looking for
honest answers, as I have some thoughts on this, but others' opinions on the
matter really help develop your own no matter the direction.
1 A - What is a conflict of interest and how should they be handled for
elected or appointed officials regarding development projects that come
before a governmental board? Is it campaign contributions, personal friends
who do development, living next to the development, etc?
1 B - Is it unethical for a governmental official to act on a development in
which they've received campaign contributions from a developer? If it
depends, then what does it depend on?
2 A - What is a conflict of interest and how should they be handled for
those contacting government bodies regarding development? (Such as
residents, business owners/managers, property owners). Is it those who work
in real estate who have an interest in the area, is it residents who live a
block away who fear property tax decreases, etc?
2 B - Is it unethical for real estate professionals (agents, developers,
etc) to be involved in the process, specifically when development occurs in
the area they have interest in?
Why I ask those questions is because of this:
I recently began working at a real estate firm that is involved in
development in my area. I've been really active with my neighborhood at
varying levels for a long time and have been asked many of times what my
conflict of interest is lately. At times, I've felt that people think my
opinion shouldn't count on development issues because of my job, even though
the developments don't involve my company or its partners. It's really a
matter of education, as when I've informed people of the conflict, the issue
tends to get resolved.
BUT, then I hear people say things like "my property values will go down"
(my perspective is quite the opposite), which to me is a direct conflict of
interest - but just because it's a conflict of interest, it doesn't mean one
can't be involved and be fully a part of the process.
I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with a developer and some of
its staff donating to a political campaign, specifically if the developer
owns significant amounts of land in the jurisdiction or if they live there.
It's a grey zone in my opinion, because people like me who've been active
and want to see Minneapolis grow and succeed on many levels - who work for a
developer/property manager may want to support a candidate who shares (or
comes close) their *personal* vision for the city. My decision to support a
candidate because of their view may very well line up with how my company
feels. But a company obviously shouldn't have their employees contribute if
they weren't going to already based upon their own personal interests.
I hope we can have a reasonable discussion, one that can highlight
disagreements - for I'm trying to see how we can better understand conflicts
of interest.because it seems to me that there are too many generalizations
being made. Let's be proactive and find specific ways to improve the system.
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