hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In Which We Discuss Transparency

Tonight's Fire Commissioner's meeting had a single purpose, to appoint a new Commissioner to replace Mr. Gellatly.   However, Chairman Meursing first offered a few bits of homely advice to the 20 or so attendees.  First, he was happy to see them there and hoped they would continue to attend in the future, though it was unfortunate that they had not shown up in the past.  This allowed him to segue into his main theme: "it would have helped with transparency."

Transparency, it turns out, is the Commissioners' hope for the future operation of the fire district.  They had, he said, never bothered much with it in the past, adding that that was probably because no one came to the meetings so there was no one there to be transparent to.  (I would like to add here how I understand transparency in this peculiar Washington format: it is to discuss and make decisions only in public session (with some exceptions for discussing personnel issues in Executive Session because of privacy concerns), and thus to establish a clear and publicly available record of the commissioners' actions.  It does not require the public to be there, although in most instances, the local news media represent the public's interests in the matter of transparency.)

Next, Mr. Meursing's desire for transparency led him to demand that in the future the All Point Bulletin's coverage of the Fire Commissioner meetings should no longer be slanted, subjective and inaccurate.  Such practices must be replaced by fairness and objectivity and presenting all sides.

And then we went on to the "transparent" act of appointing a new Commissioner.  Two individuals had applied for the post.  Each had sterling resumes, it was said by the Commissioners.  Each was "interviewed" which meant that they were asked whether they understood that "the Board acts as a unit, not as individuals" whatever that might mean.  Each was offered the opportunity to say what they had to offer to the position: one talked about the importance of listening to others; the other talked about applying his previous experience to this job.  We were offered brief summaries of their CV's.  At no point did either Commissioner ask either of the future Commisioners any insightful questions, or even how long they'd been in P.R., or whether they'd ever held public office of any kind, or had any comparable experience.  No questions were allowed by attendees.

And then: voila!  Mr. Riffle moved to name Candidate B as the new Commissioner and Mr. Meursing seconded the motion.  And lo, and behold, Candidate B became the new Commissioner.    Candidate A was the guy who irritated Meursing so much at the last meeting that he almost threatened to have him ejected.  But I don't know that that influenced the vote.

And then the public got to talk.  I felt the need to point out to Meursing that if you attack the newspaper for slanted, etc., coverage, you'd better have some examples of it because otherwise it is just his useless and loose opinion flopping around: and bad manners to boot.  The APB editor urged Meursing to write the paper anytime he had questions about the accuracy of its coverage, assuring him that his letter would be printed and any inaccuracies corrected.  Meursing, to my ear, seems to think that if HE thinks something is biased or slanted or inaccurate, then that's all there is to be said.  Meg Olson was only there for the last 5 minutes of the August 15 meeting, it was charged, and thus how could her coverage have been accurate?  Yet, the facts--based upon the minutes--were as I stated them in a blog post a few days ago: the meeting was in public session for only 3 or 4 minutes, so what would she have missed?  Well, said Meursing, she talked to Nick and she didn't talk to me so she got only one side.  Would you have talked to her about why you fired Nick, Meursing was asked.  No, he replied.  So....?????

Another run around about the re-paving of the fire station parking lot followed:

Q: At a July meeting, they had made one of those 1-2 motions to have Riffle contact somebody to prepare a request for bids for this $91,000 job.  Had that bidding request ever moved forward?
A:  No, says Mr. Riffle.  We decided not to go ahead with it because of the cost and not knowing how much money we'd be having this year.
Q: Ah, but in the interests of transparency, when was that decision not to go ahead made, since there is never any mention of it in the minutes after that July record?
A:  We didn't make a decision; we tabled it.
Q:  Well, to table it, don't you have to make a decision to do that?
A:  No, insisted Meursing.  We didn't make a decision.  We just tabled it.  That's Washington State rules.
And with that, the meeting ended.

I'm hoping that the new Commissioner, Jeff Wilmot, is going to get a quick lesson in "Washington State Rules" and share them with the rest of us.  Really soon.  To help the Transparency, at the very least.


Jan in Edmonds said...

I've actually been to Point Roberts and had the best onion soup at local restaurant. Maybe I got more transparency in the onions than you got at your meeting.

Love your tongue-in-cheek attitude, Judy.

Anonymous said...

It was mentioned in last nights Commissioners' meeting that we all needed to quit reading blogs and listen to what they have to say. Reading your blog makes clear why they don't want us reading your blog. Keep up the good work. Your voice is the only voice that seems to be somewhat truthful.

Anonymous said...

Did they hire themselves a "yes man" rather than one who would challenge them to think about their decisions?

Just wondering.

judy ross said...

As to Jeff Wilmott being a 'yes man.' I don't think so, although I don't know him personally. But those I know and trust who do know him speak very well of him.