The Spokesman-Review's editorial on January 1 naming Coeur d'Alene Mayor Sandi Bloem as its 2006 exemplary citizen in government suggests the newspaper's editorial board willingly overlooks that she, the Coeur d'Alene City Council, and the City's urban renewal agency knowingly violate the Idaho Open Meeting Law. Does the newspaper's editorial board not believe exemplary citizenship includes obeying state laws passed to ensure the public’s business is conducted in public and not in secret?
A newspaper's value is measured by its ability and willingness to provide accurate, timely information to citizens. We, the People, are supposed to be the agents of change. The Spokesman-Review's failure to report the facts behind the Mayor's and Council's violations of the Idaho Open Meeting Law suggests the newspaper is unable or unwilling to inform the public about illegal acts committed by elected and appointed officials in Coeur d'Alene.
There are three points I thought The Spokesman-Review editorial board ought to have considered before making its decision to overlook the Mayor's and Council's transgressions:
- Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Douglas routinely dismisses Idaho Open Meeting Law complaints. Why would The Spokesman-Review and all the other area news media believe that Coeur d'Alene's Mayor and Council would not exploit this by knowingly and intentionally violating the Idaho Public Records Law as well? If the Prosecutor is willing to allow the public's business to be conducted in secret meetings, why should the press believe he will be less willing to allow misrepresentation in or concealment of meeting records and other public records as well?
- The Idaho Open Meeting Law is low on the list of Idaho offenses. It carries exceedingly minor penalties for conviction on first violation. If Coeur d'Alene's Mayor and City Council are so willing to continue rather than simply acknowledge and cease their violations of the Idaho Open Meeting Law, why should the people, the Prosecutor, and the news media not believe they would go to even greater lengths to conceal more serious offenses?
- The Spokesman-Review editorial board devalued the personally courageous and truly remarkable accomplishment of a genuinely exemplary citizen, Shannon Sullivan, when it compared her effort with the adequate but for the most part incomplete actions of Coeur d'Alene's Mayor Sandi Bloem. Then again, the newspaper had to name someone as this year's exemplary citizen in government. Sadly, Coeur d'Alene's Mayor was apparently the best it could come up with.