Here’s a simple question.
Should Yukon politicians solicit cash from constituents?
At least one is.
And it raises interesting questions.
John Steins’ website is the Mayor’s Blog: Mayor John Stein’s private thoughts and opinions.
With it, Steins is in the forefront of public governance.
As mayor, he’s a public figure. Through his blog he can communicate, easily and without filter, with his constituents.
However, on his blog, above very public discussions about municipal issues, Steins has posted a for-sale sign.
“Advertise in this space,” it says.
As well, on the left-hand column of his site he allows Google to post ads. There, you will find links to a Yukon restaurant that is being sold, to the Downtown Hotel and to Dawson City itself.
The search engine pays him a quarter for every person who clicks the link from his website.
By offering advertising on his site, Steins may be crossing a line.
Steins is a paid public official. He’s responsible for public money.
Should he be collecting ad money from his personal website?
Imagine, for a minute, if a prominent construction company took out an ad on his site, and shortly thereafter won a contract to pave a side street.
As well, the money raised from the website is beyond public scrutiny.
It isn’t the first time Steins used the site for revenue. Two months ago, the site allowed visitors to buy the guy a beer.
There was a link called Beer Fund.
“You can treat the mayor to a pint!” it read.
The link opened to PayPal.
“Please enter your donation and click Update Total,” it read. “Purpose: Why? Because the mayor is thirsty.”
We don’t know how thirsty Steins was, but we know a contributor could, for a time, give the mayor as much money as they wanted as quick as a click.
The whole procedure was, again, outside the public sphere. There was, to our knowledge, no way to track how much money Steins received, nor who has contributed to his “beer fund.”
There probably should have been.
The beer fund link vanished, quick as a wink, a couple of months ago. That was a good decision on Steins’ part.
But the ads remain.
With Steins leading a municipality that tenders contracts, his foray into the ad market through his Mayor’s Blog is questionable.
Who has promised Steins ad money?
How much were they charged for their ad?
Are there conditions to the payment? Has it influenced public policy, or city decisions?
These questions are not insignificant. By selling ads on his site, Steins has brought them front and centre.
Municipal politicians are paid to do their jobs. They don’t make a ton of dough, but they probably shouldn’t be supplementing their salary through ad sales on their municipal blogs.
Public officials who accept money from constituents open themselves to allegations of bribes and influence peddling.
They shouldn’t accept cash from constituents while in office. (Richard Mostyn)