Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The "Hobbyist" Citizen

On Tuesday, August 23, I attended the workshop on the Idaho Open Meetings Law and the Idaho Public Records Law sponsored by the Idahoans for Openness in Government and The Spokesman-Review. Thanks to their efforts, with individual thanks to Betsy Russell and Susan Drumheller of The Spokesman-Review, approximately 90 people attended the Coeur d'Alene session and came away much better informed about these two laws. Dean Miller, Managing Editor of The Post-Register in Idaho Falls gets a special and sincere pat on the back for moderating the event and for injecting encouragement and common sense into what could easily have become a legal lecture suitable only for the attorneys present.

And finally, thanks to Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Deputy Attorney General William von Tagen for making the trek northward to Coeur d'Alene and Sandpoint. Their presence, coupled with the information the AG makes available via his office's website, added personal emphasis to the importance of the open meetings and public records laws.

However, I and at least one other attendee were mildly irritated by Mr. von Tagen's twice referring to private citizens (contrasted with elected officials, appointed officials, journalists, and attorneys?) as "hobbyists" with too much time on our hands and too many grey cells when we exercise the laws. Perhaps Mr. von Tagen intended his characterization to apply only to those who file frivolous requests explicitly to aggravate offcials rather than to gain helpful information. That's not how it sounded, though.

My only real disappointment with this remarkable educational opportunity? The absence of several elected and appointed officials. Although Coeur d'Alene City Attorney Mike Gridley and Deputy City Attorney Wes Somerton were there, Coeur d'Alene's mayor, city council members, and city clerk were all conspicuously absent. Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas sat in the front row, but I did not see any other elected county officials.

I don't think it is possible to overstate the significance and value of the Idaho Open Meeting / Public Record Workshops. That Attorney General Wasden, Deputy Attorney General von Tagen, Managing Editor Miller, and the staff of The Spokesman Review were willing to assemble in Coeur d'Alene to meet and talk with us for over two hours is a testament to the significance and value they place in those laws. The least we "hobbyists" can do is read and study the literature they provided and then exercise our duties of citizenship responsibly and skillfully.


Blogger stebbijo said...

Dear Bill McCrory:

I am so glad you blogged on this. I would have liked to have been there but unfortunately I am not a "hobbyist" with too much time on my hands. I would have so loved to meet Wasden face to face. He embarassed himself when I tried to mediate my unfortunate circumstances with the State of Idaho out of Oklahoma. (too long for this blog)

As far as "frivolous complaints" that the attorney general's office complains about? Well, any 'citizen' that complains is deemed frivolous by those pathetic bunch of scumbags. Oh yes, SCUMBAGS! (yes, I am namecalling)

BTW -- where are those PUBLIC emails of Mr. Douglas'? Well, my guess since he was sitting in the FRONT row, he is being very well protected by the AG's office. (they are all stickn' together!) After all that big Groene case will put the 'ole prosecuter on the map -- that is if he can survive his PUBLIC emails that are supposed to be PUBLIC INFORMATION.

I am so glad I was not there. I am sure I would have become quite ill and most likely would have vomited all over.

They truely make my stomach turn!

Joanne Stebbins

6:28 PM, August 25, 2005  

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