A Reader Writes: Of micromanagers, resentments, censorship and economic terrorism

With a constituent’s concern, I read a local paper’s take of the IID’s first January meeting. In it the board’s newest elected member, JB Hamby, took issue with two contracts. One concerned Brian McNeece’s contract to produce a documentary for the IID; the other touched on the need for Mr. Walter Leimgruber as a consultant and his fees.

I know little about Mr. Leimgruber’s talents as an expert on water and power issues, his negotiating skills, or his lobbying abilities. But I trust that the IID’s management team of professionals has evaluated the man, cast about the market place, and opted for his unique talents. If he fails to deliver, the remedy is simple enough: don’t re-contract with him in the future. Has he delivered on the contract? Does the contract require periodic updates? Has he delivered them in a timely manner? Has his performance to date displayed a need for micro-management? And so forth. I fail to see the need to resent his negotiated fee.

I have no problem with a policy-making representative of the people questioning expenditures, nor with voting on management’s need for either hiring or firing workers, or entering contracts as the market dictates.

So let’s move on.

I do have a problem when a representative arrogates for themselves the extremely repressive role of censor, a despicable position in our constitutional democracy, especially in a government that specifically starts off its Bill of Rights with the guarantee of freedom of speech (among others) in the very First Amendment.

I have a problem when questioned on it, said representative responds to criticism, “You should not bite the hand that feeds you.” Not only does this elected board member misunderstand his policy-making place in the institution, he very sadly mistakes his granted powers of office. He is not “the IID;” he is a mere elected representative. If he cannot stand the heat, he should leave the kitchen, to paraphrase President Harry Truman.

For one, they were not vested with the power or right to retaliate economically against any citizen, much less their political critics. For another, the “hand” that “feeds” Mr. McNeece’s contract is the IID’s, not Hamby’s. If one aspires to entrepreneurship, to own his own business, one is always welcome to start their own power and water (or whatever!) company and run it as they please. And thirdly, one deliberates a contract and its terms before signing, not afterward. All one can do is evaluate the results and opt not to enter future contracts of this nature or with a particular party because said party did not deliver satisfactory goods or services. Has Mr. McNeece failed to deliver to the satisfaction of the other side of the contract?

That is the sole question. The rest is petty ad hominem politics which has no business at public meetings held at a public forum, on the public’s dime — yes, with board salaries paid from our fees. Who’s wasting whose money, Mr. Hamby?

That said, I agree your feelings may have been hurt and I respect that. Our core being, our core motivator for any action ground on our feelings. Our tool, logic, dictates the method or approach. But a public meeting is no place to air one’s grief or misdirect one’s anger. There exist friends, sponsors, pub mates, soulmates, clergymen, therapists, etc., with whom one can share the pain, find solace, and one moves on.

Indulging in economic terrorism or economic extortion, especially in a democracy, does not become any board member of a public institution. Do not fall prey to our simian brain’s revenge or resentment impulses. Appreciate that you have them, learn and master their triggers, and move on.

In a politician, these evolutionary embedded impulses (born in the main from fear, a great survival response!) tend to warp his good judgment and can cut his career short. And in this business where you feel or believe you can accomplish a lot of positives for the community at large, you want to remain. But this standing will only result from acquiring experience, knowledge, patience. One can always hope for wisdom, but this latter all too often requires decades, if not a lifetime.


Carlos Acuña lives in El Centro.

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