North Ogden’s circle of paranoia

When I was a kid I liked to read Creepy and Eerie, monthly pulp-style black-and-white comic magazines. They were full of campy horror tales, more comical than scary. For some reason, this memory popped into my head today as I was reading Rachel Trotter’s story in the Standard-Examiner about the latest buffoonery in North Ogden city government.

The city actually has a media policy requiring elected officials to copy in other city officials when they exchange emails with members of the public, including nosy reporters. This way, the city fathers note, they’re standing up for “transparency.” But in my view it’s actually a creepy tool to attempt to crush any dissent by inhibiting and channeling an individual council member’s communications with the outside.

Individual city council members are elected to represent the residents, not serve as part of a unified cadre operating under policy controls designed to squelch any discussion that strays off the party line. It’s eerie, even Nixonian, for the majority on the council that imposed this policy to attempt to monitor and guide the communications of a lone council member who is chafing under the limitation.

City council member Brent Taylor said he sees the policy as a suppression of his free speech rights. The rest of the council won’t budge on the email collating policy, so he’ll take his conversations to phone calls instead of email. Meantime, the city has been served with an open-records request for release of the emails in which Taylor was chewed out by his colleagues for having an email conversation out of school with a news reporter.

It’s creepy, it’s eerie, and it’s a sad situation when a local government suffers from such internal and external paranoia.

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10 Responses to North Ogden’s circle of paranoia

  1. Myth Buster says:

    What do you expect from people who committed taxpayer funds to UTOPIA?

  2. Fact Check says:

    From Wikipedia:

    Brigham City
    Cedar City (Non-pledging)
    Cedar Hills (Non-pledging)
    Centerville
    Layton
    Lindon
    Midvale
    Murray
    Orem
    Payson
    Perry
    Riverton (Non-pledging)
    Tremonton
    Vineyard (Non-pledging)
    Washington City (Non-pledging)
    West Valley City

    North Ogden is not associated.

  3. Brent Glines says:

    This is an argument where I can see both sides of the issue. Based on the article I read in SE recently, it does sound like the council is more interested in concealing their foibles than that they are in informing the public. And yet, if you work in government, there are procedures you should follow, and if you disagree with those procedures, perhaps you shouldn’t be working in government.

    In this case, however, I find the argument presented by the city council to be unconvincing. From the article Mark linked, “City Councilman Wade Bigler said it is a matter of transparency. We have nothing to hide. It’s not about us, it’s about the residents knowing the truth,” Bigler said.”

    That is nonsense. Taylor spoke to a reporter, the reporter printed the story, so in what way is the truth being withheld from residents? If Bigler disputes the details presented in the story, he should be given an oppurtunity for rebuttal, but his complaint appears not to be related to the accuracy of the article, but with the fact that residents read about it before he and the rest of the city council had a chance to kill the story.

    If the council is worried about transparency, they should encourage free and frequent communication between city officials and the public. If someone inadvertantly says something that is incorrect, that can be corrected, and if someone intentionally gives out disinformation, that can be dealt with as well.

    But the policy doesn’t seem to be designed with ‘transparency’ in mind. Instead, I’m seeing a lot of ‘cover our butts’ going on here.

  4. ScottH says:

    As per my comment on Ms. Trotter’s story, I suggest a thought experiment. Would anyone think that a policy of this nature would be proper in any other legislative body, such as the U.S. Congress or the state legislature? If the answer is no, what makes the policy right for a municipality?

    What can the council do if Mr. Taylor refuses to follow the policy? His position differs from that of a city employee, since he has been elected by voters. I suppose the council could impose a fine or even seek his removal. But such a hard line approach would likely prove politically untenable. Thus, it would seem that the policy has no teeth as far as it relates to elected officials, leaving Mr. Taylor free to follow his conscience on the matter.

  5. Mark Shenefelt says:

    Scott and Brent, thanks for adding hefty beef to my argument. These are elected officials who by default, I would think, have freedom to pop off whenever they want. The city policy is a power-freak measure attempting to control discussion. It will be interesting to see how long they choose to dig in with this.

    Myth, sorry, as Fact Check reports, you’re all wet on this one.

  6. Laura Warburton says:

    You know, often reality follows science fiction. There’s this really nifty TV series called Star Trek where a group of aliens are of one mind. They are called the Borg. “Resistance is futile” is their motto. Maybe, just maybe, North Ogden wants to follow in their footsteps? Bad idea? After all, the Borg often claim their method of inclusion is far more efficient.

    Things that make you go…Hmmmmm.

  7. Frank says:

    Made all the worst by the fact that Bigler and his group was voted onto the council by stirring up a firestorm of criticism of the Mayor and the old council. Once in, of course, comes the new song of ….” don’t criticize me or my hommies, we won’t stand for it! ”
    Hopefully they appreciate being on the receiving end!

  8. Mark Sparkman says:

    Mark–Creepy and Eerie rule! Their success was due in large part to magnificent covers by Frank Frazzetta. Lots of speculative fiction deals with groupthink and mind-control, eh? Let’s start a movement to rename North Ogden as “Stepford.”

  9. Preston says:

    Order. Efficiency. The standard arguments of totalitarian governments.

    Free government is not orderly or efficient, but it still trumps tyranny because it’s free. This is a chilling issue because it shows that these elected officials do not either understand, or care for, principles of free government.

  10. David Hultgren says:

    What or who actually started this North Ogden problem? If it is proven to be an elected/appointed official, then he or she should resign immediately. All public trust is gone. Thanks Dave H

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