Perhaps the most important thing that those in public life can do is to teach the next generation that honesty and playing by the rules are vitally important.
That is why corruption and dishonesty in politics is more corrosive than we realize. If our elected leaders, whose job it is to write legislation and enforce laws, do not play by the rules, then why should anyone else?
In New York, more than 30 elected leaders have either been indicted, convicted or censured in the last decade. While we debate "stop and frisk" overuse, we probably should consider "stopping and frisking" all legislators who are given taxpayer dollars to dole out to neighborhood groups.
In New York's City Council and New York State's legislature, we have seen a constant stream of officials who have been caught funneling these precious tax dollars to their families and cronies.
By the way, sometimes complex problems have simple solutions: perhaps the New York City Council Speaker's office should have a watchdog apparatus in place to protect the city's precious tax dollars.
What kind of message are we sending, especially to our children, when we allow this to happen again and again?
A lobbyist in city and state government, Richard Lipsky, who was convicted of fraud and bribery, just received a light three-month sentence and words of praise from the sentencing judge.
Might this canary have sung so loud and so long that a municipal corruption crackdown is about to hit New York the size of which we have not seen since the 1980s and the "City for Sale" saga?
All I know is, systemic corruption in government calls for radical reform and we have a proud history in New York of crusaders like Theodore Roosevelt and Rudy Giuliani who have cleaned up the government cesspools of the past.
Who will step up today to do this?
We have in New York City, at least four officials who are nothing better than scofflaws -- they owe hundreds of thousands of dollars to the city for fines incurred more than three years ago.
Three of these men -- Bill Thompson, Bill De Blasio and John Liu -- are likely candidates for mayor next year and don't forget the current Democratic County leader Mr. Wright. How do you run as police commander-in-chief while, at the same time, you are ducking fines and believing you are above the law?
We have recently witnessed a widespread cheating scandal at our city's most prestigious high school -- Stuyvesant. Why should we wonder where these students are learning the wrong lessons?
In a society where people, especially elected leaders, commit or tolerate systemic corruption, law and order suffers.
As a society we cannot allow ourselves to become anesthetized to what is right and wrong. More importantly, anyone running for public office should ask themselves: Am I qualified to hold the public's trust?
Let's commit to a zero tolerance policy. If you commit the crime -- pay the fine.
Tom Allon is a 2013 Republican and Liberal Party candidate for mayor of New York City.