Friday, May 13, 2011

Bonanza Column 236 - Dissent in a Civil Society

All over the world governments that have been entrenched for many years are being challenged. In almost every case, those mounting the challenge have lived under the regime for most or all of their lives and have only recently awakened to possibilities that they had not imagined.
Here in the US the unrest is less dramatic, and yet our government seems to be clear that to ignore all but the fringes of, for example, the Tea Party movement would be a risky business. And the pressure is not one-sided – the protests in Wisconsin were very much in that state’s progressive tradition. All told, these seem to be times of great change, and as Bob Dylan said, it’s probably best not to “speak too soon, for the wheel’s still in spin.”
And of course here in Incline Village/Crystal Bay we have our own small-scale unrest, though the agenda behind the unrest seems unclear, at least to me. We had the long-running resistance to the Boulder Bay project which hopefully will subside now. We have Mr. Katz and his “organization” The Village People mounting challenge after challenge to the IVGID Board of Trustees, claiming to speak for many people, most of whom have not identified themselves. If such support exists, they seem content to remain in the shadows and let The Village People and a couple of others speak for them. Or, of course, the support doesn’t exist. You can’t prove a negative, so as long as this supposed group remains silent, the issue will remain in doubt.
For about twenty years a lot of (publicly identified) people have advocated a change in IVGID’s structure and governance. There have been attempts to form a county and a town, and other options have been researched, publicly discussed, and deemed unlikely to be better than the GID formed under NRS 318. In all these efforts local residents have made it clear that a majority prefer the GID system, so that’s what we have.
There is a widespread view that NRS 318 restricts GIDs to managing water, sewer, trash, and recreation, and it’s true that these four areas are called out specifically, NRS 318.116 lists 21 separate areas that are available for GIDs to manage, and 318.015 mandates that GIDs “serve a public use and will promote the health, safety, prosperity, security and general welfare of the inhabitants thereof,” which seems to include a great deal of latitude. The IVGID Board, like all GID boards, operates under the Nevada Open Meeting Law, which among other things means meetings are open to the public, include public comment, and agendas are published in advance.
Somehow, for The Village People, this amounts to a “lack of transparency,” which I understand according to the following definition: “Transparency is a general quality. It is implemented by a set of policies, practices and procedures that allow citizens to have accessibility, usability, utility, understandability and auditability of information and process held by centers of authority. Feedback mechanisms are necessary to fulfill the goal of transparency.” It seems to me that both the Nevada Open Meeting Law and the practices of the IVGID Board meet this standard, so I wonder what the so-called Village People want.
More disturbing is the constant imputation of dark, and by implication criminal, motives to the IVGID Trustees and the IVGID Staff. I don’t always agree with the Trustees – as is the case in most areas of politics, I agree with some of them most of the time, some of them some of the time, and some of them never. However, having gone through the process of running for the Board some years ago and knowing many current and former Trustees, I cannot imagine what nefarious motives anyone would have or what they would stand to gain by serving in this largely thankless job. Similarly over the past 15 years I have gotten to know many IVGID staff members and to a person have found them to be hard-working, dedicated, and honest, from the Executive Director to those staff who work “on the line” at facilities, etc.
Every citizen has the right to question their government and to hold officials to account. In a civil society, though, it behooves each of us to do this in a civil manner, and in that the recent activities of The Village People have fallen short.

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