DN Editorial: Tax and other scofflaws running for office

DEMOCRACY is a beautiful thing. We think that pretty much every day, but especially around election time. For the purposes of making endorsements, this board meets one-on-one with candidates. We are always impressed with how wildly varied the candidates are - ranging from sophisticated attorneys to rowhouse laborers - most of whom share a commitment to the city that, at the risk of getting mushy, is inspiring.

Running for office, especially here, is not for the faint of heart. But generally, the more people who try, the better we are. Still, it's not unreasonable to suggest there should be some basic standards for fitness to serve. The first cut is usually proper filing of paperwork and signatures.

That's why we're concerned about a report that about half of the candidates for the May primary have failed to file required documentation to the city Ethics Board of campaign-committee addresses and campaign bank accounts. WHYY's Dave Davies checked for proper filings two weeks ago, and again this week, finding that only a few more had complied. The Ethics Board could slap a $1,000 fine on each of these violations, but there's no word on whether it will. We understand that the paperwork could be daunting, but we think that everyone should be taking these bare minimums seriously - including those who enforce the rules.

If our officials don't take elections seriously, candidates won't. We may end up, for example, with a candidate for mayor who owes the city $383,000 in back city taxes.

Oops: We do. That's what Milton Street, who served two years on federal tax evasion, owes the city, which won a judgment against him in 2007. Given the city's fiscal woes, we wish someone would establish a new standard that would keep high-balance tax scofflaws - say, $50,000 and over - from being able to run for elected office, especially for mayor. *