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.