What drives closed process and misinformation?
The town of Coulee Dam recently held a meeting regarding the problematic sewer treatment plant project. The meeting was closed to the public and the mayor directed that “Greg Wilder was not to be admitted.” When I asked what would happen if I just showed up, I was told that I would be kept away by physical force if necessary. The meeting was held in the basement of Town Hall — tucked away from the eyes and ears of the public. The town schedules these meetings with virtually no meaningful notice, they schedule them on national holidays, and they schedule them in other communities and post the mayor at the door to block access, and now in the basement of town hall under guard and the threat of “physical” intervention! And I thought they worked “for” us … sometimes I’m underwhelmed by my own naiveté!
On the other hand, the town of Coulee Dam was recently invited to attend an important meeting sponsored by the Indian Health Services (IHS) in Spokane wherein the discussion of Tribal/IHS funding assistance for the project was on the agenda — Mayor Snow refused to attend or to even send a town representative. Elmer City, the Tribes, the Washington State Department of Ecology, the IHS and I were all there. All were welcome, including the press. To some, fresh and different ideas help make a project better – to Mayor Snow and his engineer, they are viewed as an intervention to their wisdom!
There have been a number of other meetings that Mayor Snow has refused to attend because he would lack the control over the agenda, the venue, and the participants. The town is only now involved in a serious search for “grant” funds because of community activism. The town heretofore has discounted virtually every other source of funds (other than borrowing the money) and documented those excuses in the Facility Plan as “too difficult,” “too uncertain,” “too time-consuming,” or requiring “the uncertainty of public involvement!”
Last Wednesday at the Town Council meeting, even more misinformation was being tossed about by the Town Council as part of their efforts to avoid the promise they made to review “alternatives.” As one council member put it, “We’s been looking at this for a long time and I know them engineers and such with the IHS already looked this design over and agreed with it two and a half or three years ago.” Personally, I was dumfounded by the comment. All that I can say is that you’ve just got to wonder about the magic of time travel — for as it actually is, the IHS got their first look at the project on August 14, 2012, about seven months ago!
Add to all of this, the recent efforts of Mayor Snow and Councilman Hjorten (among others) to “look into Wilder’s background,” replete with a “whisper campaign” and you just have to wonder about the frightened mentality. I challenge any one of them to compare resumes, work, or personal histories … or for that matter, publically debate the issues.
What is it that’s driving the misinformation, closed meetings, the reluctance to consider or even look for alternatives? Is it simply inept management and leadership (an unwillingness to admit a mistake)? Is it the greed (or pride) of an engineer? How much do we have to pay because they insist on being unreasonable … at least $4,000,000 and likely more!