Palmer Cleanup April 25-30, 2016

Things don’t have to be so messy!

I wrote this page back in September 2013 before I was elected in 2013 to the Palmer City Council. Well, the issue came up again so I thought I should bring attention to my thoughts on the matter. At a city council meeting, someone in the audience protested my suggestion that a person being recused could stay in the room. They were insisting they should leave. I stand by my original description and belief that if a person who is recused from voting on council wants to come testify during audience participation or a public hearing — it is quite acceptable and even desirable. The reason it is acceptable is that it is very clear the person is speaking as a citizen and not in an official capacity.  [S. Carrington July 17, 2016]

Things don’t have to be so messy!

                Or Conflict of Interest: a simpler way …

An alternate view – Steve Carrington, Palmer City Council candidate

The original issues was a long discussion. Why? There were two attorneys, six city council people and one mayor involved. I was in the audience and in pain. As time passed by I kept thinking, it really is much simpler than this! Why do we have to make things so difficult.

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney nor have I played one on television (yet!)…

Now I have to admit, when I get near an attorney, my eyes start to water, my nose runs and I start scratching. I seem to be allergic to lawyers. I have met a few that are tolerable, but many of them seem to be in a constant state of liable searching: “There could liability in that…” or “There is some exposure with this project.” etc.

I keep wanting to misquote a verse: “In the world you shall have litigation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world!  (John 16:33 Steve’s paraphrase).

Whether we like it or not, the world we live in is not perfect. Christians would call it “fallen.” I would call it twisted from its best design.

Now much of the discussion of that evening was what I call ‘specifically vague’. People were trying to talk in generalities throughout the discussion in an attempt to keep things from getting too personal. It is always safer to stick with concepts not people, right?

It all comes down to money… well almost. The big question was whether or not an individual have a ‘substantial financial interest’ in a matter. So money is the issue people are afraid of. The concern is that people would not be impartial when their own money is involved. This isn’t to say that an individual can’t choose to be impartial even when their money is at stake. The issue is people don’t want to even see their leaders close to such a situation.

The two main ingredients of this issue really should be ‘accurate decisions’ and ‘the avoidance of the appearance of impropriety’. This is the hard part for people to understand. In Alaska even the appearance of evil is considered a potential conflict.  

All this gets cumbersome and even complicated.  No wonder normal people don’t want to get involved in politics! Why would be want to watch, much less play verbal ping pong on these types of issues!

A Different Way

Some of us get worried or even paranoid. We think that admitting a conflict of interest will derail us in our leadership position. But we have to see that it isn’t a derail, but a siding for the train. A siding is a carefully planned place to park a train for work or safely park out of the way.

But let’s try looking at this from a different view. I have seen a mayor state his conflict, give control of the meeting to the next in line and then sit in the audience and even comment under audience participation. After all, leaders need input from knowledgeable and trustworthy people. Hopefully, our leaders also are good citizens with important information.

So, when you think you a possible issue, review it to see if you have a financial interest. If you do, explain to the group what it is. The group via its chair declares if they consider it a conflict. If you do, then you give up your seat and go sit in the audience.  This is because for this specific issue, you are not acting as a leader or member of a governing body, but you still remain a concerned member of the public.

Ah, but what happens if the groups says you don’t have a conflict, but you still don’t feel right? That’s an easy one. Thank them for their confidence, but say you will sit this one out in the audience. Then you get up and go sit in the audience. It’s a simple matter of following your conscience. It is actually pretty simple.


You see, it’s like a railroad siding. The train gets to a siding for a specific purpose. Maybe to get water for the old steamers, maybe to load passengers. Or it can be a safe place to park off the main line. But after the purpose has been accomplished, the train goes about getting back on track, on the main line and continues its journey.

The Secret Ingredient

But there is a secret ingredient to this soup. All of this stuff works much better with courtesy. When people use courtesy, it helps establish trust. When I am courteous to you, it means I am respecting you and trusting you to return that courtesy back to me.

Paid for by Steve Carrington for Council, PO Box 3333, Palmer, Alaska 99645

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