FUTILELY STRUGGLING TO ESCAPE THE CHORE
When I was 12 years old my mother told me that my chore was to wash the dinner dishes for the family every night.
Up until that point we had grandparents from both sides staying with us in rotation and my only chore was to look after and torment my two younger siblings.
Having to add doing the friggin dishes to doing homework meant my TV time was shortened.
I was PISSSSSED.
I’ll show her, I thought….she’ll regret making me do the dishes….and thus I embarked on my first willful compliance spree.
The first night I quickly cleared the table and sloppily did the dishes. Gotcha!
…………………….My mother made me do them over.
The next night I chipped a glass. Gotcha!
…………………….My mother said to be more careful.
The third night I broke a glass. The fourth night I broke yet another glass. Double Gotcha!!
I told my mother that having me do the dishes probably wasn’t a good idea since I was so clumsy.
My mother looked at me with what I thought was love in her eyes, but was actually the parental version of “hold my beer”, and opened the door to the adjacent utility room and said, “don’t worry sweetheart, I bought 3 cases of glasses so we’ll always have enough until you get it right”.
I’LL SEE YOUR GOTCHA !….AND RAISE YOU A NICE TRY
I was speechless. I gave up on the spot and just did the damn dishes. This foreshadowed the winner and loser of all future parental skirmishes that defined my teen years.
I saw that look many, many times just before going down in flames.
I learned so much…..I miss her every day.
I tell you this story because the county has the same “I’ll show you, gotcha” attitude that I had at age 12 when it comes to fulfilling their legal obligation to provide full transparency to the public. They too have embarked on a willful or even vicious compliance spree.
One of the ways that they are supposed to meet their legal obligation for transparency is by having open meetings and answering questions in those meetings. In the County Commissioners Commission meeting there is public comment after most agenda items, but for only THOSE items.
If the public has other questions of the Commission then they have to wait until the “Public Comment” agenda item. The Commission moved general Public Comment from the beginning of the meeting to the end of the meeting. GOTCHA!
The reason is that they have business to conduct and want to get thru it before the citizens get up to complain and eat up valuable time. There is a time limit for how long you have the floor which is reasonable since time does have to be managed.
Technically you can’t ask a question, only make a statement but at random times, unknown to anyone, you can actually ask questions. BUT…. if Commission Chair Marshall McBride is feeling particularly peevish or irritated he only allows comments since it’s Public Comment. GOTCHA!
They comply with the letter of the law ( allow public comment) but have it at the end which results in a barrier to citizens attending and asking questions on things not on the agenda. Who has the time to sit thru a 1-5 hour meeting to ask a general question?
So, there is a “Public Comment ” agenda item but it’s Russian roulette whether you get to ask questions or can only comment.
The Commission doesn’t seem to care about making it easy for people to participate, otherwise they would let people actually ask general questions at the beginning of the meeting like it used to be and value THEIR time as much as they value their own and that of the meeting presenters.
Additionally, Commission Chair Marshall McBride has shut people down mid-sentence if their questioning on an agenda item during a meeting wanders into some unknown forbidden territory in his mind….this happened to me while asking questions during the budget approval meeting. GOTCHA!
For the most part the meeting process is fairly consistent. However, Marshall has at times randomly decided to allow comments only, but no questions, on certain agenda items and allowed questions from SOME people…..but not others on the same topic in a meeting. You just never know….it’s a crap shoot. It seems like he makes up the rules as he goes along depending on how dicy the questions are. Rules made while you wait. GOTCHA!
Another way they are supposed to meet their legal obligation to provide transparency is by responding to Public Records Requests (PRR)…..
….or by not responding…GOTCHA!
….or by not responding in a timely fashion…GOTCHA!
….or by partially responding…GOTCHA!
….or by responding then disputing those very same facts when they are made public thru publications….DOUBLE GOTCHA!!
All of these things have happened to Sam Toll, editor of The Storey Teller, with various stories which he’s published in the last couple of years….and also to me.
One time was when Commissioner Marshall McBride called Sam, and me, liars for publishing the county’s budget deficit which was discussed in an open meeting and supported by the county’s own documents. GOTCHA!
More recently, Sam was called a liar when he published the fact that Tesla owed the county over a million dollars in back service fees on a services agreement which Tesla has avoided signing like the plague since the original one expired in 2018.
Sam published his story based on the information that the county had given him but without the information that came in ten days after his request date….and was called a liar. GOTCHA!
“Liar” seems to be shorthand for “ I don’t like what you said” …How inconvenient for them that we have a First Amendment.
They’re pissed that people/ Sam want to know things
….pissed that they have to spend time looking for it
….pissed that they can’t control how it’s used
…..pissed if their own actions make them look bad
….pissed when secret sausage making is made public
…. pissed at having their actions and decisions questioned or challenged
….pissed at the expression of opinions contrary to their world view
…..and strangely enough….pissed when something they say on the public record gets circulated!
Thanks to Sam, and others, the residents of Storey County got insight into numerous activities that would otherwise have never seen the light of day…off the top of my head there is:
- Gary Hames raising Community Development fees without Commission approval and being walked out for doing it
- The unapproved bonuses that Pat Whitten gave his friends
- The sweetheart crony contracts for highly paid retired county management
- Tesla not paying its bills and avoiding negotiations for new service agreement for pricing
- County giveaway of future revenues for the TRIC pipeline
- and much, much more…..
These were all local things that the county was engaged in that would have stayed under the radar, and in the dark were it not for The Storey Teller. These are all things that the public has a right to know since it involves public funds and resources. Obviously, personnel or legal issues still in process can’t be disclosed but everything else can.
Except when it can’t….because they say that they signed a “non-disclosure” agreement with a private company. GOTCHA! Really? Since when does a “non-disclosure” agreement trump NRS? There are lawsuits winding their way thru courts on this one….nationwide. Let’s see how this plays out.
Meanwhile, County manager Austin Osborn proudly declared in a sworn legal deposition that altho he meets Sam Toll’s PRR he DOES NOT answer his questions. He refuses to speak to Sam. So when Sam publishes information that he gets from Austin ….there’s “no comment” from the county to explain it. GOTCHA!
The result is that a particular story looks worse than it may actually be since the county refuses to provide ANY explanation. The narrative is in Sam’s hands….not theirs. I’LL SEE YOUR GOTCHA !….AND RAISE YOU A DOUBLE GOTCHA back ATCHA!!!
A self-inflicted wound. How’s that working for you Austin?
All they need to do is provide the information and take the call or interview and explain the data….or find out what Sam or anyone else is working on and actually help them get the right data to do the article.
But no, they have dug their heels in …they don’t want ANY of the secret information of how the stinkin sausage is made to get out and so, they willfully comply with the letter of the law when people ask for PRR with little further comment or explanation.
This is the exact opposite of what competent management at companies in the real world does. In the real world, they build relationships with the press. Bring them inside the tent and attempt to at least add to the narrative that the reporter is weaving.
Management will frequently provide the rationale, the various options considered, the pros AND cons of a decision and how it will affect the company. While they don’t give away the store ……they are smart enough not to make enemies of the press.
I just gotta say it…..Commissioner, brothel owner, TRI principal, former BLOCKCHAINS worker, aspiring hemp grower and new best friend to the city of Fernley Lance Gilman knows how to do this well with his brothel, TRIC and his spin on his personal brand. Props to Lance.
If the county won’t make it easy for people to know what’s actually going on then a vacuum of information exists. Sam and other journalists will fill that vacuum.
When the county makes a decision or he hears about a pending action Sam asks the county for information and digs into it to find all of the pieces and to see how or if it will affect the residents of this county.
He tries to provide details and context to the story that the county may not have disclosed if they disclosed anything at all. That’s his job.
The County’s job is to be accountable to the people they serve and disclose what is going on honestly and give the rationale for their actions either thru direct communication or by meeting the intent of PRR. The County’s job is to be forthcoming, truthful and accurate in their disclosures.
If they are so thin-skinned and delicate that they can’t handle the criticism that might come from these disclosures then they need to get the hell out of there, they aren’t suited for management or leadership jobs.
Instead of doing their job and helping to get all aspects of the information out there, they dig in, meeting the letter but not the intent of the law, provide no comments whatsoever…..then pitch a fit calling people “liars” when their own data makes them look bad. Defense by offense is their only strategy.
I’ve just got one thing to say to the County’s leaders……unclench, button-up…and just do the damn dishes…