Wednesday, January 4, 2012

No news is just no news

Voters task elected officials to oversee the public's business and to ensure that taxpayer money is well spent.

When running for office, candidates beat their chests and claim that they will ensure that the public's business is conducted in public.

Yet after winning office, elected officials discover that operating in public where every word and action may be scrutinized is an uncomfortable business.

They find that forthrightness can land them in hot water. They learn that it's easy to be misunderstood. They find facing vocal opposition difficult.

So, elected officials too often erect barriers between themselves and the public. They offload public money and responsibilities to other organizations that can legally meet behind closed doors. They parse the Idaho Open Meeting Law to find murky exceptions in order to justify cozy meetings closed to the public.

The Legislature, for example, made it legal for party caucuses to meet in private. The Republican majority regularly closets itself to discuss strategies and line up votes on issues that otherwise would generate hot debate and divided votes on the floor of both houses.

This happens even though it's impossible to distinguish the Senate or House from their Republican caucuses. It leaves the public blind to the Legislature's inner workings.

Local governments have less leeway, but that doesn't stop them from slamming doors shut. City councils, county commissioners and school boards may legally hold closed meetings to receive legal advice on pending lawsuits, to purchase property and to discuss personnel matters. They are required to exit closed meetings to take action on any matter.

The Blaine County School Board last year used exceptions to the Idaho Open Meeting Law as an umbrella to obscure any specific reason that it met in private. This left the public in the dark unless action was taken.

The Ketchum and Sun Valley city councils deftly off-loaded responsibility for $800,000 of tax money to the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance, a private nonprofit that markets the area and operates a visitor center under contract with the city. Because the Marketing Alliance is private, the Idaho Open Meeting Law doesn't apply.

The cities operate on the assumption that the public needs nothing more than a quarterly report from the Marketing Alliance instead of access to its board's deliberations.

The old saw that "no news is good news" doesn't apply when the very officials whom voters elected leave them in the dark.

No news is just no news. How good is that?

About Comments

Comments with content that seeks to incite or inflame may be removed.

Comments that are in ALL CAPS may be removed.

Comments that are off-topic or that include profanity or personal attacks, libelous or other inappropriate material may be removed from the site. Entries that are unsigned or contain signatures by someone other than the actual author may be removed. We will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or any other policies governing this site. Use of this system denotes full acceptance of these conditions. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

The comments below are from the readers of and in no way represent the views of Express Publishing, Inc.

You may flag individual comments. You may also report an inappropriate or offensive comment by clicking here.

Flagging Comments: Flagging a comment tells a site administrator that a comment is inappropriate. You can find the flag option by pointing the mouse over the comment and clicking the 'Flag' link.

Flagging a comment is only counted once per person, and you won't need to do it multiple times.

Proper Flagging Guidelines: Every site has a different commenting policy - be sure to review the policy for this site before flagging comments. In general these types of comments should be flagged:

  • Spam
  • Ones violating this site's commenting policy
  • Clearly unrelated
  • Personal attacks on others
Comments should not be flagged for:
  • Disagreeing with the content
  • Being in a dispute with the commenter

Popular Comment Threads

 Local Weather 
Search archives:

Copyright © 2020 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.