Flying Monkeys and Rainbows

There was a good comment to an earlier post, where the commenter contrasted litigation and politics.

He or she made the point, apt in the case of our dealings with the City, that in litigation there is always the potential for a large downside while there really is no big downside for local government employees if they choose to disregard their proper roles and act contrary to legal requirements.

I spent Monday in Bozeman in a settlement conference. I have attended many settlement conferences, both on behalf of plaintiffs and defendants. For the (thankfully) uninitiated, in the typical settlement conference the two parties are placed in separate rooms with their lawyers, and an unrelated third party, the mediator, shuttles between the two rooms talking with the two groups, trying to get them to agree to a mutually disagreeable settlement of their claims.

When preparing a client for a settlement conference, I tell them to expect the worst. In other words, if the mediator were to go back and forth between the two rooms and tell each side how great their case is, no case would ever settle. No, the mediator tells each side about the weaknesses in their case, not the strengths.

In other words, the mediator works us over with the downside. To that extent, the commenter is correct.

How about City management, then? Is it true that they can refuse to produce documents, make disclosures that are less than accurate, and generally operate in secret because they face no real downside? Unfortunately, I think it is true. The big question is "why is there no downside here?". There is obviously some downside in politics, just ask Sen. Larry Craig.

I think there is a systemic breakdown on a number of levels. In no particular order, I think we have a breakdown in the citizenry, the media, elected government, and the system itself.

Let's start with the media. What has happened to our once-great Great Falls Tribune? If one were to review the open government and right to know cases in this state, one would find that our paper has been a major player in developing this law. There was a time when the Tribune fought hard, with lawyers, to ensure the public's right to know. In this case, well...yawn. For whatever reason, the Tribune does not even seem to be asking the questions, let alone fighting for answers.

Next we have the citizens. "Did you see the way Britney Spears flopped at the Video Music Awards?" Any questions?

Elected officials in this community are under siege. Just watch a City Commission meeting and watch the people in the audience stand there and lambaste these volunteer, public servants for a couple hours. In some sort of weird perversion of the Stockholm Syndrome, all five of our Commissioners have reacted to the criticism by aligning themselves with the City Staff rather than allowing the camel's nose under the tent to consider that maybe, just maybe, some of what these pissed off people are hurling at them might be based in fact.

Finally, the system itself is at fault. We have five, part-time, volunteer elected officials trying to control an entrenched City administration, an administration led by an experienced, six-figure manager. Pick the winner.

So, those are my thoughts. What do you guys think?

(By the way, to the commenter: my Freedom of Information fight has only been going on since last December. I'm enough of a blowhard to write about lots of different things besides "flying monkeys and rainbows." That was a good one, though!)


david said...

I'm pretty disillusioned with the Trib...I just don't understand how the reporters can ignore the issues that you are raising, GeeGuy. Aren't they trained to be "investigative" to some degree? Don't they care?

Anonymous said...

Do you think that the trib is ignoring this story because you are writing about it, GG?

Anonymous said...

re: Your fight will continue-only because politics has no downside.

The great lie is politics has no downside.

It always has a "downside" as long as citizens fight to keep freedoms by actively participating in government. Politics is essential!

Great forces have been mobilized against the basic principles upon which this great nation founded. Political alliances are being forged to continuously strip power from voters nationally and Montana seems to be spearheading the drive.

We don't always know how this will be carried out but we live with the effects of terrible forces seeking to strip us of our Constitutional rights, and that the City Commission unanimously has done so in a lateral move to strip the citizen right to vote seems evidence of such treachery.

We cannot provide against every contingency. But we can provide against many contingencies.

1. We should keep reminding/educating people that our Constitution, The U.S. Constitution, was the first written constitution in the world.

2. We ought to acknowledge the Constitution a miracle, as did George Washington in a 1788 letter to Lafayette:

“It appears to me, then, little short of a miracle, that the delegates from so many different states (which states you know are also different from each other in their manners, circumstances, and prejudices) should unite in forming a system of national Government, so little liable to well-founded objections.”

3. We should discuss the Founding Fathers and how they believed in God, that they were a religious people from many faiths who called upon God. They trusted in God. They knew that Almighty God guided them to form this new land and a new form of government.

4. And we should actively work to lead people to read their words, and we should be able to cite references to discredit those who want to remove God or Godly principles from discussions.

5. We should continously promote the Constitution by being very familiar with its great fundamentals: the separation of powers, the individual guarantees in the Bill of Rights, the structure of federalism, the sovereignty of the people, and the principles of the rule of the law.

6. We should vehemently oppose any infringement of these inspired fundamentals by actively participating in Goverment by whatever means we have at our disposal.

The LEFT WING tells lies, or at best teaches near truths in order to deceive the ill-educated.

The RIGHT WING should simply tell the truth, teaching it over and over again and continuosly point back to the U.S. Constitution until our numbers swell.

Tell a lie until someone believes it or teach truth so someone knows where to find it for themselves? Which is more effective and which will supply the "downside" to scyhopantical politics?

Anonymous said...

Get out the banjo, boys, it's Montana's version of Deliverance. And it's us citizens paddling the canoes. We have small town, incestuous relationships, from the we'll-only-report-what-you-want-us to Trib, to the unanimous voting on the commission, all the way up to the "Special 20".