Bureaucrat Beat: Phone Call Rights, Talk, Talk,Talk and Shabby Digs

For those local officials who wonder why citizens call us with their problems and not you? We get answers for them. We put our heads together in the Bureaucrat Beat newsroom, and we all agreed that frequently local officials will accuses citizens (as if they had committed a crime) of calling the news media and not them.

We guarantee it’s because they have failed to get satisfaction from the officials earlier or they plain don’t trust them to give helpful assistance. Something to ponder, officialdom.

We also agreed among ourselves that sometimes officials resent citizens who fight the other bureaus. Are they control freaks? Afraid of bureaucracy? Resent uppity citizens? We don’t know. The First Amendment gives citizens the right to talk to whomever they please.

Seems in the case of Mono County, there was too little talking. The Supervisors felt shunned, neglected and downright left out of the August disaster drill. Supervisor Byng Hunt said he just sat around and read a newspaper.

Okay. First, we’ll quote George Bernard Shaw, who said, “The problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” First of all, the disaster drill was designed to flush out weak points in emergency response. Yes, there were some communication issues.

But, as Mono County Administrator Dave Wilbrecht aptly noted, perhaps communication with the board members should’ve taken place. Our favorite line of communication in that whole snit was Sheriff Rick Scholl who said that an emergency operations center is “no place for politicians.” Wherever their place, elected officials need to hear it from their staff who are the ones who must carry out the difficult disaster dealings.

In a way, it’s refreshing to hear top officials give their staff what for. Sometimes things seem a bit too chummy between staff and elected bodies. That makes the public uneasy.

Credit goes to Mammoth Lakes Postmaster Gary Fultz who heard about last week’s Bureaucrat Beat and the form that came from Mammoth Post Office directing customers to send mail to a street address. Fultz said the forms needed correction and that’s what will be done. Thanks to Mr. Fultz for caring about the public response to bureaucratic rules and for striving toward clear instructions.

Why are the offices of the Inyo Sheriff in Bishop and the Mammoth Police so tiny, cramped and somewhat shabby? Because that’s what the powers that be have relegated them to.

Other local government bureaucrats have nice offices with a bit of room. Is this the statement of Inyo and Mammoth – that law enforcement is a kind of stepchild that just has to make do with what’s left over?
How did Mammoth’s bear issue turn into a sticky wicket? Things do change. When Steve Searles started out, his efforts were more informal and very successful. Time moved on, a new chief took over. New officials sat on the Town Council and informality wasn’t good enough. Over cups of coffee in the Bureaucrat Beat newsroom we decided that change is inevitable and that maybe if everyone involved adopted an attitude of kindness toward each other, things will work out. Might help to keep their mouths shut a bit more, too.

Here’s another good quote. This one from Dr. Laurence J. Peter, an American educator and writer, who said, “Speak when you are angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”

With that, we’ll shut up and sign off For Bureaucrat Beat where we await your word on our lives in the Eastern Sierra and beyond.


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