Recall about holding officials accountable

  • By Kesha Etzwiler
  • Sunday, May 21, 2017 1:25pm
  • News

In middle school we were taught to use critical thinking skills to research a topic, or debate, to analyze the facts as they present themselves and to come to a conclusion based on the facts presented, to analyze a situation through the lens of information and not the knee-jerk reaction of an emotional response. 

I’d like to dive into and dissect the motivation, narrative and innuendo of the Homer recall and its supporters, to hopefully help bridge the divide that seems to exist. 

There seems to be four schools of thought applied to the recall and those that support it. One, that the council members were just doing their jobs, therefore the recall is unnecessary. Two, that the recall misguided in drawing a parallel between the original “draft” and the one presented. Three, that the recall will add unnecessary expense to the city; and four, that holding elected officials accountable for their actions is “unkind and malicious.” 

We hold our elected officials to a higher standard of exercising wisdom, discernment and prudence in their decision making. The 4 Way Rotary Test is an excellent source, as it challenges those making decisions to ask themselves 1) Is it the truth? 2) Is it fair to all concerned? 3) Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4) Will it be beneficial to all involved? 

I think any of us electing an official to represent us, would want that leadership to use their best judgment and do their best to avoid knowingly and intentionally sowing discord in the community they represent. When you examine the emails in circulation by council members, comments like “this will make for a lively debate” and mentions of “cold feet” could lead one to believe that council members themselves knew this may not be the most prudent and responsible course of action. When presented to the mayor, he advised against bringing it forward. 

Council members take an oath of office to faithfully, honestly and impartially represent the people of Homer. This doesn’t mean they can’t hold political thoughts of their own or speak those thoughts, it means that when it comes to representing all the people of Homer, they need to separate their political leanings from policy to remain impartial. “Faithfully” means that your constituents elected you in good faith and trust that you will represent them well, regardless of how you feel politically. When that trust and faith has been broken, it is well within the scope of democratic process for those that elected them to say, “I no longer feel properly and fairly represented by you.” 

The general feeling of those supporting the recall is that council members did not show prudence in responsible decision making when they brought forth a resolution they instinctively knew could be a source of division, and in doing so, broke their oath. They also broke their oath to remain impartial by working to draft a resolution laden with partisan politics. 

If we’re approaching this issue with intellectual honesty, there’s no way the original resolution can be divorced from the “revised” and renamed version. In all email correspondences and solicitations for verbiage, it is referred to as a Sanctuary City resolution. The subject line of emails include: Sacto and Sanctuary Resolution. It was presented on Social Media as THE Resolution on the Agenda (not a draft), and referred to it as a Sanctuary City Resolution. 

A council member said, “I am ready to introduce a resolution that Homer, Alaska is a Sanctuary City.” Tweets and solicitation of support of the resolution called for supporting a Sanctuary City. It didn’t “evolve” into an “inclusivity” resolution until it was met with opposition. At that point, it attempted to take on a new identity as being about inclusion. 

It’s disingenuous to question the intelligence of those that would ask the question how a simple name change would change the intent, when they have been seen with their own eyes what the original intent was. Those in support of the recall are not a bunch of ignorant rubes who don’t understand what the process is. The fact is they do, and that is why they are upset that they were duped, sold a bill of goods and then had their intelligence questioned when they called a spade a spade. 

They saw the process, they saw what it was referred to as, and the original intent behind its creation, and they spoke against it. They weren’t speaking against “inclusion” because it was never about inclusion to begin with. They were then vilified and insulted for addressing it, called intolerant and hateful. I would challenge everyone to stop and think how they would respond to being told one thing and then sold another and then scoffed at for addressing it. A Sanctuary City and inclusivity are not the same and to claim they are, just because the name changed, isn’t honest, which is a break of their oath. 

The other narrative I’m seeing out there right now is that those supporting the recall are “unkind and hateful.” Let’s dig into that. What makes them hateful? Is it the fact that they disagree with the leadership of their elected officials? By that logic, one could reasonably conclude that any members of Indivisible, CAN, Resist and Persist are also hateful and unkind, as they exist solely to stand against leadership they are unhappy with. 

Why is one group championed for exercising their right to “resist” and one group is labeled a hateful, unkind, bigoted group of malcontents? Is it because one group feels they are right and the other is wrong? What makes one group right and the other wrong other than the personal beliefs one person holds? Could it be that it’s not about love vs. hate or right vs. wrong, but simply a matter of Opinion A vs. Opinion B. We’re not in a zero sum game where in order to have a “winner” there has to be a “loser.” I would say we all lose when we decide to deepen the divide by impugning the character of our neighbors by ascribing their opinions to labels like “hateful and unkind” simply for the fact they hold a belief different than our own. 

Those supporting the recall don’t hate the council members they wish to recall — they simply disagree with their actions as elected officials. It’s not about people, it’s about responsible leadership. It’s not personal, it’s principle. My children disagree with a lot of my decisions when it comes to discipline, it doesn’t make me hateful, it just makes me a parent with an opinion on how things should be. Wanting to hold an elected official accountable doesn’t make people hateful, it just makes them a citizen with a desire to hold their elected officials accountable. 

The final issue I hear many are concerned about involves finances and the cost to the city. If we’re going to look at this fairly and with proper analysis, we must also consider what the financial cost would have been to the city had a Sanctuary City resolution passed. Under this current administration, sanctuary cities are opening themselves up to losing all federal funding. Last year, the city of Homer received $1 million in federal funds. One million dollars that we cannot afford to lose. 

If $6,000 to hold a special election has you concerned and sick to your stomach, you can’t ignore the $1 million that we’d have potentially lost had the resolution passed. If fiscal responsibility is important to you, you can’t dismiss and turn a blind eye to the fact that the resolution put the City of Homer in the position of losing necessary monies vital to running our city. Recall supporters find that to be an egregious digression from responsible leadership and wise decision making. Putting Homer in the position to experience that level of financial strain was not working faithfully for the people of Homer, and breaks their oath of office. The price of responsible leadership is high. 

I would close with a challenge for everyone to look at this recall effort in our community, and the facts and motivations behind it, not as an emotional and feelings led issue, but an issue on how people approach the process of holding their elected officials accountable in upholding their oaths of office. 

To many, dishonesty by people in positions of trust has eroded the public confidence. Homer has always been, and will continue to be, a wonderful kind and loving community. Before, after, and during any efforts of those of this community to ask that our leaders honor their oath to lead honestly, faithfully and impartially. Whether you agree or disagree with the effort, I challenge everyone to remember that people on both sides of the line are our neighbors and friends. Commit to agree to disagree and rebuke all efforts of division in labeling each other as hateful unkind bigots. Resist efforts of vilifying those that don’t agree with you. Understand that those supporting the recall may simply be subscribing to the idea that you have to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything, the same as those who actively participate in groups devoted to standing up against the current administration. 

Freedom of expression and expectations of honorable representation are cornerstones of American values. 

Kesha Etzwiler is a longtime Homer resident.

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