Ethics matter: The morality and justice principles of elected city officials and their impact on urban issues

Paul Schumaker, University of Kansas, Lawrence
Marisa Kelly, Ithaca College


This article pursues the thesis that ethics matter in urban policymaking. Interviews with 95 elected officials in 12 cities revealed the officials' support for-and opposition to-many principles of political morality and political justice. Officials regarded their ethical principles as almost ais mportant as economic constraints on their policy decisions, and much more important than political, legal, jurisdictional, and cultural considerations. The role of ethics in the resolution of 93 issues that arose in their communities varied from minimal to decisive. On some occasions ethical considerations served mainly as justifications for policy decisions made primarily on other grounds. But more often, significant numbers of officials drew largely, and even primarily, on their own moral judgments when casting their votes on community issues, and some policies were driven by consensual moral understandings. © 2011 Urban Affairs Association.