Thursday, September 20, 2007

Governance By Intimidation

Sometimes my time in the morning with coffee and papers makes me feel like a Roman watching an arena full of gladiators. Thumbs up or thumbs down and the fight is over.

It's not quite so simple, however, when trying to sort through the two papers during election season. Each fronts an opposing point of view . You have to read everything thoroughly then check Huckleberries blog, the Spokesman Review's answer to news coverage in northern Idaho and the often contentious opposition on the CDA Press blogs.

The latest political brouhaha began on the blogs last evening with the report that outgoing councilwoman Dixie Reid chastised in her own inimitable way, the departure from the meeting by several council want-to-be's. The fact that the meeting started at six and dragged on to eleven was not mentioned nor the fact that many of the candidates hadn't been in attendance at all. Were there reasons; were they legitimate? Maybe yes, maybe no. It would appear that Ms Reid did not know when she lit into them. Singling them out to embarrass? Picking and choosing those you don't want on the council Ms Reid? Hmmm?

Then there was the city attorney besmirching a speaker for being an "amateur" practicing law when he challenged the budget process. Another hmmmm. The "city" attorney defending the city's actions. How novel. That doesn't mean he's correct in his interpretation of law. On the other hand, those who wish to challenge need to fight fire with fire. Good intentions aren't enough. In this case perhaps another attorney to present and explain the statute in question from the challengers viewpoint might have carried more weight. I've taken a local opinion columnist/activist to task for the same sins of omission. The lack of substantiation for the views put forth. Community activists take note!

There was an ironic accompanying column in this morning's Press headlined Healthy government requires balance in which the columnist quotes a law professor as saying "Remember this: power corrupts".

There are times, by their demeanor, it would appear "power" has gone to the heads of the sitting council members. Is corruption in play? I'm making no accusation here, but "power" is definitely in play.

The video clips are out of context I'm sure, but the demeanor of the council members is not. Mr. Kennedy questioning Mr. Spencer's educational credentials in asking his questions. I dare ask, Mr. Kennedy, what are yours? Or is your opinion based on something you've been told by someone who is beholden to the city or the project?

And Ms. Reid, you're finger wagging. Tsk, tsk. And embarrassing candidates for office. Class act it was not. Any more than the scouring by the council to find candidates to oppose them. Of course all the name calling, and the lumping together of everyone who dares ask a question as being against everything is just as distasteful. It is rampant on both paper's blogs. No middle ground. And, as is this, only and all opinion.

Then too I found it interesting the only mention of all the above in the Spokesman was in the Huckleberries print column while it rated headlines in the Press. Does that mean no Spokesman reporter covered the meeting?

Ahhh, as Hub said, "Thank heavens we hicks out here in the county only have three of 'em (commissioners/politicians) to deal with. That's quite enough."


Word Tosser said...

Once again... great post...
As with most things, there are two sides of the story.
And like Paul Harvey use to say... and then there is the rest of the story...
What ever happen to the news being printed in balance, not from either side...but what actually happen? What a rarity it is now.

Bill McCrory said...

Sometimes what doesn't happen and should is as telling as what does happen but shouldn't. (That sounded positively Rumsfeldian, didn't it?)

Council person/woman Dixie Reid's comments about citizens who attended the meeting and spoke and about citizens who left before sunrise should have evoked some things that didn't happen. What Reid said is relatively meaningless. What should have happened but didn't was far more meaningful.

The Mayor, Sandi Bloem, has a duty to maintain decorum in the Council meeting. She should have gaveled Reid's comment down and told Reid she was out of order. By her expression, body language, and inaction, the Mayor appeared to be endorsing Reid's outburst which named several citizens, condemned their candidacies for city council, and alleged they would harm the city if elected. Reid's comments were inappropriate. Mayor Bloem's failure to act as the duties of her office require was intolerable.

Equally revealing: None of the other Council members (Mike Kennedy, Al Hassell, Woody McEvers, Deanna Goodlander, and Ron Edinger) had either the courage or the integrity to object to Reid's inappropriate comments. Their cowardice, their unwillingness to defend and stand up for citizens who speak out at a public hearing, their passive endorsement of Reid's comments, all seem to validate the premise of Gookin's Google Video post.

Public comment appears to be tolerated (at best)by Coeur d'Alene's Mayor and City Council only when it lavishes praise on them or a member of the city staff or when it agrees with their decision to act. Let someone offer a dissenting view, let someone dare to point out that City staff may have badly served the council and the city, and it's "Let the finger wagging and tongue-lashing begin!"

Anonymous said...

I can't say it any better than Bill has above. This is not the first time the Mayor has abrogated her duty. Dixie Reid's prior appalling finger waving behavior was not sanctioned by the Mayor. Then the Huckleberry blog actually complimented Reid for her behavior. No surprise there. I believe Reid stated that she wasn't running for re-election and could say what she pleased. I have previously stated that this council, voting in a block, is the quintessential example of absolute power. And their absolute power has done that which it always does...corrupted.