Letter to the Editor: Message was loud and clear

Saturday, April 27, 2013

To the Editor:

At 7:00 on the evening of April 23rd, the Lake Forest Park Gov Watch group held a meeting in the LFP Library meeting room.

According to their website, “Gov Watch was founded to encourage, support, and promote a responsible and effective City Government, while sharing accurate information with our citizens about what they can do to support that process.”

As an interested and involved community volunteer, I felt this was a great opportunity to educate myself about this local group. This was a chance to learn firsthand what message Gov Watch was trying to deliver.

Upon entering the meeting room, I was immediately told that this was a “private meeting” and that I had to leave. When I explained that I simply wanted to listen and learn, the members present insisted again that I leave. Trying one more time, I noted that this was a public meeting room and that according to the Library staff, members of the public could not be excluded. This fell on deaf ears, and I was forcefully told to leave, which I reluctantly did.

For a group whose Mission Statement insists upon our local government “being transparent and responsive to citizens”, I find it interesting that they feel the need to meet privately behind closed and locked doors. I heard their real message loud and clear.

George Piano
Lake Forest Park


Anonymous,  April 28, 2013 at 4:49 AM  

I know nothing about the organization in your case, but I have studied others. I suspect that pseudo-watchdog organizations exist. Think about it. You got all this energy building up in opposition to some key political issue somewhere or against some government body who is out of control. The energy has nowhere to go. The government wants to relieve the tension. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a pseudo-watchdog is born. All the opposition energy pours into the new group.

Hope springs ephemeral. Tension is relieved because, hey, now you've got a group, right? You can relax, resume your daily lives, because your watchdog will take care of everthing, right? Wrong!

The pseudo-watchdog's unstated mission is to be deliberately ineffective, to give the appearance of taking action without actually doing so. Oh sure, they may achieve a few minor victories, but nothing you can really sink your teeth into.

So the problem goes unsolved. The behavior continues unchecked. You might expect a second, bona fide watchdog to rise up in frustration. Except that never happens, because the energy never builds to the necessary critical mass, thanks to the existence of the pseudo-watchdog. The energy just gets channeled into the existing group. We already got an advocate, people will say. They're working real hard for us, they will say.

So how do you know if yours is a pseudo-watchdog? Who knows? Is there ongoing recruitment, or did that cease after the kickoff? Has their website gone stale? Are their leaders publicly active, or do they engage in closed, undocumented meetings with government officials and staff? Are you able to ask your own questions at its meetings, or are you forced to write them on cards, where they are then cherry-picked by someone else? Do they let their guest bureaucrats yammer on during the Q&A, so that only a few questions are actually fielded?

Do they tell you early on there is still plenty of time, that this will take years, only to later say time is of the essence and donations are critical? Do they prepare you to accept failure, to face realities? When you raise concern over the lack of progress, do they offer lame excuses, like saying they are all volunteers with day jobs? Do they never ask for your help?

Now of course, none of this is proof you got yourself a pseudo-watchdog. It could be a genuine, sincere group. Its leaders may just be incompetent. Perhaps they are star-struck. Or perhaps they have let their guard down and allowed themselves to be duped by the very critters the watchdog is supposed to be watching? Or perhaps I have it all wrong. Perhaps this is the proper way to achieve results.

But then you should be able to see results, right?

Anonymous,  April 28, 2013 at 8:07 AM  

Wow, I live in Shoreline, but I went and found the LFP Gov Watch website and found their platform with their mission statement.

Mission: LFP GOV WATCH is dedicated to insure that the City of Lake Forest Park remains livable, affordable, and sustainable by encouraging, supporting and promoting a responsible and effective City government.

Maybe transparency is listed elsewhere, but private groups don't have to be transparent to the government, Mr. Piano. Pro Shoreline regularly holds meetings where the public isn't invited, and they are similar to LFP Gov Watch, they meet in the Shoreline Center (owned by the Shoreline Public School District).

George Piano, the LFP tempest in a teapot.

Anonymous,  April 28, 2013 at 9:30 AM  

Shoreline Center is a rental. The LFP Library is not. But that is all beside the point, Cosmo.

Anonymous,  April 28, 2013 at 12:01 PM  

So does this mean I can crash any party in the library I want to just because I want to, and disrupt it?

Cosmo - did Pro Shoreline pay the Shoreline Fire Department for using their meeting room, or the Shoreline Historical Museum? Were those rentals too -- just asking.

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