Democracy Behind Closed Doors
By Samuel Bergeron
March 30, 2004
Note: Comments published
on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
It has been said by those wiser than me that democracy behind
closed doors is dead. There is no better example of that than
Ever since I've been paying attention to the goings on at KIC
it has all happened behind closed doors. There never has been
a meaningful way to keep our members informed of their government,
what the issues facing them are and how their representatives
(council members) go about making the policy that has a huge
effect on their lives and the lives of all of us who live and
work in Ketchikan. Most people don't know that KIC's budget exceeds
the Ketchikan Gateway Borough's. What we do affects more that
125 full time employees and 4950 enrolled members. Yet nobody
knows what we do and why. It all happens behind closed doors.
Consequently, they, (the majority) feel empowered to do whatever
they want, whether it is in your best interest or not. Tribal
council travel is a good example. We spend lots of money on travel.
Can anyone tell you or me how it has made your life better?
I can't and I'm on the tribal council. Yet we continue to use
telephone poll votes to travel or to try to fire individual members
of staff who we have no direct control over. Personal vendettas
at KIC are sometimes handled by telephone poll votes as well
as non-essential travel. When decisions are made behind closed
doors there is no accountability to the members. Having a constituency
that is kept in the dark, allows this council to make the decisions
they are making unfettered.
Telephone poll votes are an abuse of power and have been used
mostly to squander money or to intimidate staff. Yet, when they
have one, none of you know about it. I think that's wrong. I
think all meetings, including telephone poll votes and agendas
should be advertised in the newspaper and action agendas (what
action we took) should be in the paper as well. Everything we
do should pass the "red face" test. Doing our business
in the open, in the light of day, allows all of our members the
opportunity to be informed what we are doing on their behalf
and comment if they choose to.
We've strived to keep our business in-house. What it has gotten
us besides the most fractured council known to man is staff demoralization.
Most of the staff lives in dread from the council because of
the constant in-fighting and a fear of losing their jobs. We
choose to involve staff to the point that business comes to a
near standstill and no meaningful policy happens either. So
what do we do? We start by having an open government, for better
or worse we must do it. All of our foibles must be laid on the
table for all to see. How can we fix a problem if we don't face
it? The problems we have now can only continue behind closed
doors. I've said this many times "If we operated like we
were in front of all 4950 members, we would be doing a better
job". The council has gone ballistic since I've started
talking to all of you. They want nothing more than to go back
to the days when nobody said anything about what we are doing
at KIC. Those days are gone. The decision for freedom of speech
was made for this council and all Americans when we adopted the
Bill of Rights back in 1791. Watch this council try to abridge
my 1st amendment rights with a censure. Get involved.
Ketchikan, AK - USA
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