When I was elected to the Board of Trustees in Eagle, I thought blogging would be a great way for community members to tag along with me as I learned the ins and outs of serving the taxpayers. My goal was to share my thoughts, challenges, questions, concerns, successes, and failures so that citizens could get a better feel for what was happening at 200 Broadway from at least one perspective.
Although the meetings are not filmed and not many citizens attend, my assumption is that anything and everything that is legally allowed can be shared publicly. And I believe that we as a town, as a board, and as individual trustees should get as much information out as possible, including our own stance on issues. But whether that is done through backyard BBQ's, blogs, Facebook, emails, letters, coffee shop chats, dinners, mountain bike rides or not at all is up to each individual. And whether or not these efforts are in the best interests of the citizens is up to the voters when a person runs for a second term.
In my efforts of trying to disseminate information in my own personal style, it seems that some feel I have been trying to attack staff and others or undermine how the community sees our town government. At least that is what I gathered from the article/letter from the meeting I missed. I can certainly apologize for that impression but I can also assure you that result was not my intention. In my opinion and from what I have read, as politicians, we should have a basic yet complicated goal: to be completely transparent, financially disclose everything, and avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. That is all I am trying to do as I serve my first term.
To the board and staff, I have repeatedly stated that my questions on the budget, finances, and processes have nothing to do with the current individuals in place. My questions are a result of my accounting career and my duty related to the financial well-being of the town over the long term; especially considering the approval of Eagle River Station and that we are soon replacing long serving employees in key positions. I believe if we as a board have few processes, few reports, no reviews (for those under our purview), and no long term understanding of the financial requirements, we simply cannot do our job in protecting the assets of our citizens.
From what I remember, throughout the ERS debate, I recall hearing the town is broke. I do not think this situation was improved with Gypsum ending the revenue sharing agreement. So when, as a trustee, I learn we pay 100 percent insurance for employees and their families as well as Christmas bonuses, I believe I have a right to ask that these things be reviewed in relation to the overall financial condition of the town and what other municipalities are doing during these difficult economic times. Even if no cuts are made, reviewing this information will allow us to remain competitive when hiring and confirm we are being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers of Eagle. And as an accountant, I find I simply must speak out regarding auditor's concerns, when trying to understand a $279,000 typo, when detail sheets do not add up within the budget, and when we are not provided with the future financial needs of the town when reviewing the budget.
If by stating these concerns at meetings and publicly to my constituents makes me lack a moral compass to some, then so be it. And so be it if stating those concerns cause me not to be re-eIected. But I do not believe that in questioning these issues, I am behaving in a manner conduct unbecoming or attacking anyone.
Another big issue seems to be some who think we need to speak as "one voice." Does that mean for every issue, those on the losing side should not address the topic at all? Does that mean when an issue like marijuana goes to vote, those on the board in favor or not in favor should remain silent? It takes four out of seven to direct the staff to do something. If at least four on the board think my concerns are without merit, there is nothing I can do to have the town address those concerns. But in my opinion, that does not mean I should not be able to share those concerns with the taxpayers.
It seems that to some, it might mean that. That is why at the next meeting on Nov. 27, we will be considering a code of conduct which I think will address some of these concerns. (I am assuming it is at the next meeting but agendas are not provided until the Friday before.)
I fully support the town implementing a code of conduct but unfortunately, I cannot support anything which takes away my freedom of speech and ability to communicate with constituents. Hopefully this board can find a way to agree on a solution which helps move this community forward in a positive direction. And hopefully you will check out my blog at www.brandionboard.wordpress.com to let me know what you think. Or feel free to give me a call at 970-390-0228 or email me at email@example.com.