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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Not gossip, but what do elected officials owe us?

Sue Black, Chris Abele, public relations,

When asked why Tosan Sue Black, Parks Director, was summarily fired, County Executive Chris Abele retorted "I don't owe you gossip."

Of course not. Gossip is a disservice to everyone.

But I think, Mr. Abele, you do owe us, citizens and reporters alike, a response that is civil. A response that respects people's right to ask what is going on and why. Better yet, one that respects people's right to know what is going on and why.

Questions about the facts are not assaults. They may be uncomfortable, but unless they are really accusations wrapped in question format (are you still beating your wife, sir?), they are value neutral.

"I don't owe you gossip" is a waspish, ill-considered response from someone who may not be used to having his decisions questioned. But the business of democratic goverment doesn't let you be king. It makes you be diplomat, if you're going to be any good at it.

I was once fired the way Black was fired. No warning, no cause given, the guard with a gun escorting me from my desk. I was not told what I'd done wrong (because of course I hadn't done anything wrong) but I was told darkly  I'd never work in this town again. 

That about destroyed me. It took half a year to discover the answer: a member of the board who was owed a big favor had a wife who thought my job would be perfect for her, and so I was gotten out of the way. And that was all. Nothing more, nothing less. I had nothing to do with it.

Today, they'd just eliminate the job and recreate it with a different name. I don't know if that's any more honest but it's a lot less hurtful. And it leads to far less uproar and litigation.

I don't want to debate Black's performance here. But the behavior of politicians being asked questions is fair game.

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