Saturday, November 15, 2008

Public perception is the District's only priority.

While many in public service are only interested in how things look at the surface, there are many of us that poke and prod at issues that casual observers care not to explore.

For instance, the State Auditor is currently using a Google-supported script to generate an email every time his name surfaces in a blog entry. My logs show that he doesn't really spend much time reading, just staying long enough to see how others might perceive him. He isn't reading for substance, just trying to glean the manner in which his name is being used.

What makes this habit terribly unfortunate is that public agencies lose their ability to delve into topics in a meaningful way. They begin to evaluate issues by limiting themselves to how the public may see them. Obsession with public perception is at the root of what is eroding our public agencies. As public interest and analytical abilities wane and vanish, the public agencies being "held accountable" slip further and further from their assigned path of due diligence.

When forced to contend with an adversarial relationship, they only see opponents in very simple terms. Enemies of the organization are pounded into pre-defined roles that are better understood by the public. From hours of watching television, the public knows that opponents tend to wear dark clothing, have facial scars and are most active in the evening hours.

Public agencies have adopted a strategy of illusion. Dazzle your constituents with simple trickery and slight of hand maneuvers and no one will cast an unfavorable glance in your direction.

Fortunately, there are still a lot of public agencies that believe in their organizational mission. Unfortunately, the Edmonds School District is not one of them.


Anonymous said...

Maybe the Board is a true and accurate depiction of your community. I would bet that your community as a whole doesn't care about schools and therefore couldn't be bothered by what the school board does.

Corruption is everywhere. Why would your precious school district be the sole exception.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous--Perhaps you are correct. And yet, 32,000 people voted in the last school board election and 25,000 voted in last spring's Tech Levy. So, people are willing to cast a ballot and yet not willing to participate much further. I do agree that the average parent doesn't have much power to change things in the Edmonds School District--unless they really get involved in a specific "cause". (Although Ken Schram--the Schrammie--seems to have a lot of power to change things!) That's why people need to run for school board positions--so they actually do have a vote that counts.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the board and those at the top of ESD are a true and accurate depiction of how this country has been run into the ground for the last 8 years. Maybe you need to get off your couch and take a deep breath and figure out you are still a human being and can have a positive effect on matters of real concern. Maybe you drink to much beer, eat to much junk food and watch to much sports. Maybe you don't care that this country wealth is being stolen right out from under your fat butt by fat cats.

Wake up from your medicated slumber. Be brain alive instead of brain dead!

It is time to live again!

Anonymous said...

OK. If the Google support search is turned on, State Auditor Brian Sonntag should see this.

Interesting article in our local paper on the sparcely populated side of the state. Seems the State Auditor is concerned with travel costs paid by Washington school district for professional meetings. Spending too much money on hotel rooms, not renting economy cars, etc. Now, we are talking about 1/3 of 1% of the total amount of money spent on schools, but "reducing travel costs...would free up more dollars to educate kids." (Tri-City Herald, 11/17/08, B1)

Paying the school superintendent less than the governor would have the same effect. Not purchasing contaminated land would have the same effect. Not lease/purchasing pianos through a purposefully convoluted process (and not being able to find the paperwork or checks) would have the same effect. Not paying relatives above the standard pay grade would have the same effect. The list is extensive, Mr Sonntag.

Yes, it was the bean counters who finally got Al Capone, but it seems that our Auditor's office is missing the big picture here. Knocking a district for staying at the hotel/convention center rather than the Motel 6 at the edge of town (and having to perhaps rent a car to get to the conference) while ignoring the waste of millions of dollars on the purchase of contaminated property that the district has refused for years to purchase (or any of the dozen or so issues placed before the Auditor's office) seems myopic.

But perhaps, if the Auditor can get an article in the paper every once in a while that "shows" he is doing "something," that would satisfy his goal of looking productive even if the big fish get away.