It has been a long time since I read a letter to the editor in the Clipper. I took a look on Thursday and found one of the most disingenuous letters by local officials attacking a government watchdog/citizen. The letter was penned by Bountiful City Council members Marc Knight and Beth Holbrook.
The letter begins by stating that Mr. Novak (their target) is ignorant and intimate that Novak stated they conducted meetings “behind closed doors” in response to this recent article. Read the article and you will find Mr. Novak was referring to himself and making a pledge regarding an ethics committee. The authors simply seem to be attempting to twist Mr. Novak’s pledge to smear him. However, if Novak had made such statement, he would have had precedent – just take a look at how the recycling and El Matador liquor license issues were handled.
Next, they use the specious argument that Novak hasn’t attended enough city council meetings and other community activities. This, I think, was the most disingenuous portion of their rant. From what I have seen/read, Novak has attended council meetings and, as I recall, was key in getting the council to pass the break for deployed families on their utility bill. Furthermore, when did the authors start taking attendance at the meetings and how many did they attend before they, themselves, ran for office?
The standard they attempt to use is simply fallacious. For someone who has attended various council, legislative, and other public meetings, I know that they are time consuming and most people can not attend the vast majority of meetings but must prioritize and pick which meetings are worth their time away from family and other activities. I’ve seen this argument from other government officials and it always falls flat on its face since it presents a false standard they didn’t adhere to either. It implies that citizens must attend a requisite number of ‘recognized’ events to have their opinion heard and that is wrong.
Additionally, those they attend tend to be a total waste of time. City council meetings frequently have no public comment (there are exceptions, some cities provide public comment time in each meeting; Bountiful is not one of those). Additionally, decisions are, typically, already made before the meeting – that applies to all levels of government, not just city councils. If you want to make your voice heard and have an impact on the decision, you need to start before the public hearing.
Next, the authors, inexplicably denigrate the local American Legion Post (Novak is a member) by implying that it doesn’t do anything in the community. It is a petty swipe that also shows their lack on knowledge about the American Legion which includes “Boys State” and placing crosses on every veteran’s grave on Memorial Day at the Bountiful Cemetery. Is it because the American Legion doesn’t coordinate/confer with government or hasn’t pumped money into government pet projects that they are ignored by the authors?
The authors then tout the City’s web page and utility newsletter for use regarding events and activities. The newsletter and web page are good for “activities” but quite lacking on executive/council transparency. Just go to the city website and look at how outdated the city council meeting minutes are before they are posted (the newest is from April, when I checked).
The letter then states Novak’s suggestion that the city council should have “more open communication with citizens” is “absurd”. Interestingly, it appears Novak was proposing setting aside public comment time in each council meeting as some cities already do (I mentioned it above). Is that really “absurd”?
Finally, the authors seem angry that Novak’s group endorsed him. Usually if you are a member of a group and agree with its principles, you get the endorsement. Are they saying that you shouldn’t be endorsed by a group you are a part of? I didn’t see anything saying that the current Mayor and City Council were excluded from seeking the group’s endorsement. Why get your ‘tidy-whities’ in a wad over that?
I find it unfathomable how many of Novak’s statements directed toward himself, the letter’s authors attempt to spin into personal attacks. It looks to me like they are attempting manufacture personal attacks which are simply nonexistent and do so by actually using personal attacks and labels themselves.