Now that we leave the holiday season behind with all the kind greetings and promises of a new year, I follow through with my promise to readers to address inadequacies among our local government agencies.
Those of you new to Idyllwild, or those who neglected in the past to follow the goings on of your water district, fire department or other agency who affects you, may I make a suggestion for those of you? Keep tabs on those goings on.
Read the stories in the newspaper. We attend local meetings and cover them for you. The majority of you hate attending meetings; that’s why we do it.
We facilitate your First Amendment rights. We investigate, research, write and publish the information equally available to you. You depend on us to be there, to sort it out, to tell you about government actions that affect you, your family, your pocketbook, your safety, etc.
Even if you only read a story once in a while, just do it. Don’t take the gift of your local press for granted. Many local government officials would like you to take us for granted. They think we get in the way of them making decisions.
In truth, we just remind them of transparency laws that prevent underhanded, self-benefiting and/or vengeful actions not in your interest or the interest of future generations on the Hill.
That said, we also know that sometimes actions boards take are simply uninformed or come from inexperience.
Take the Idyllwild Water District board at last week’s special meeting. The agenda contained one agenda item, and only one: To decide the contractor to study IWD’s water rates.
Two Brown Act violations occurred at that meeting. (California’s open-meeting law is called the Ralph M. Brown Act.)
One, a member of the public was allowed to speak on other topics, including a water rights study and questioning the commitment of one of the directors to his position. Under Brown Act provisions, during a special meeting, no one — including the public or public officials — is allowed to speak on any topic except the ones on the agenda.
The president should have lifted the gavel and stopped the violation.
So when two directors spoke about what the rate structure might look like, that took the special meeting off topic and into another Brown Act violation.
The president should have lifted the gavel and stopped that violation, to.
If directors wanted to speak about the nitty-gritty of the rate structure instead of the contract decision, that item should have been on the agenda.
I know these directors are new to the IWD board, having very recently taken seats following a mass upheaval of board and general manager in a highly controversial and well-publicized 2016 year.
I know very few people attend these meetings unless something controversial — as in 2016 —occurs.
This board speaks of transparency and strives for it. But the board needs not become complacent. Complacency leads to sloppiness and to such things as serial meetings. The Brown Act goes far beyond Robert’s Rules of Order.
IWD’s violations can be challenged. Anyone can do so. When a controversial subject brings the public to meetings — and it will — IWD needs to be well-versed in its transparency laws.
Becky Clark, Editor