Saturday, September 7, 2013

Crypto Crisis morphs into Council soap opera starring Clair Button as Blind Man

In this Edition:

-Crypto Crisis morphs into Council soap opera starring Clair Button as Blind Man [Edit 9/8]
-Golf Course operator Billy Cunningham said to have thrown in the towel.
Crypto Crisis morphs into Council soap opera starring Clair Button as Blind Man

In yesterday's Herald article on the developing Council soap opera, Councilor Clair Button is reported to have said:
In a Thursday interview, Button said he doesn’t believe any city employee is or has been negligent.“I haven’t seen anything to make me believe that somebody really screwed up something that they should have known better about,” Button said.“I don’t believe in making scapegoats. The Council was warned in the past that there is a risk. You can’t expect people to see the future. The Council wasn’t prescient, and we can’t expect the staff to be either.”
Prescient means:
having or showing knowledge of events before they take place. "a prescient warning"
synonyms: prophetic, predictive, visionary
 Negligence means:
(Lat. negligentia, from neglegere, to neglect, literally "not to pick up something") is a failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances.[1] The area of tort law known as negligence involves harm caused by carelessness, not intentional harm.
Councilor Button seems to be trying to bury the responsibility and accountability issues under a blanket of bromidic sermons, but are they true?

Well, while it is true that people can't be expected to always predict the future, there are some situations or events that have easily predictable outcomes. For example, if you park your vehicle on a hill, leave it out of gear, don't put on the parking break, and don't turn the wheels toward the curb, you can predict with some certainty that it will roll down the hill, quite possibly resulting in some minor disaster.  You could say the driver wasn't "prescient" or you could say the driver was "negligent."  Which would you choose?

With this in mind, lets review some of the facts surrounding Baker City's crypto crisis.
1) There was a lapse of over one year between the time Public Works received positive crypto test results until the time city staff informed Council about it. The tests were conducted in order to let Council know how to proceed with regard to water treatment.
Could Council have been expected to predict that staff would not inform them of the test results? If Council weren't told of the results could they be reasonably expected to proceed with the water treatment discussion and solutions in a timely and responsible manner and be deemed negligent if they didn't?  Answer to all is obviously no.

On the other hand, if a public works employee or employees are waiting for test results they know are coming and don't read them or report them for over a year, that's not about prescience, it is simple negligence. 
2) The Watershed Management Plan with the state requires cows be kept out of the watershed, and the Watershed Report from 2011 references a fence that was supposed to be built in the spring of 2012 to keep them out, but it never was. Council did not know about the planned fence or that materials had been purchased for it. Council did not know that cows were regularly getting into the watershed until August 19th of this year because staff hadn't told them or the Forest Service. 
The Watershed Management Plan requires that cows be kept out of the watershed and calls for city and Forest Service employees to monitor the situation to keep them out. The reason they are to be kept out of the watershed is that they carry disease producing organisms like Giardia and Cryptosporidium. We all know that, but city drinking water personnel are supposed to be acutely aware of that fact and to protect us from such possibilities. If staff knew that cows were getting into the watershed since at least 2011 but did not "exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances" by informing the Council and building the fence that was planned to keep cows out, that is not a failure to predict the unknowable, it is, once again, negligence, because they knew it needed to be built to keep the cows out and help prevent a waterborne disease outbreak.
3) Public works director Owen told Council on March 27, 2012, that the backup drinking water well at the golf course had been inoperable for a year and could be worked out through the water fund. It still is not operable.
Public works director Owen and the water department personnel should have known that the Watershed Management Plan designates the golf course well as our second drinking water well in case of an emergency, like for example a crypto outbreak or a fire in the watershed. It's not a matter of prescience because the reason the plan calls for it is that an eventual emergency has already been predicted. Not using water funds to repair the well and allowing the well to remain inoperable was a "failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances." Negligence by definition.

4) The Public Works Director did not meet the qualifications and experience requirements in the Watershed Management Plan which are a degree with specialization in engineering or equivalent background when she was hired.

Responsibility for this one rests with both former and current City Councils and the City Manager. The Watershed Management Plan states:
Minimum education of key personnel in Watershed Management: 
 (a) Director of Public Works minimum qualifications: Graduation from a four year college or university with specialization in civil engineering and three years of progressive responsible professional experience in public works administration including supervisory capacity; or any combination of experience and education that demonstrates provision of the knowledge, skills, and abilities listed above.   
This provision is included in the Water Management Plan to insure that Baker City Residents have appropriately educated and adequately qualified personnel overseeing the safety and over-all quality of our drinking water. It is there so that you don't end up in a situation where you've got a grocery store clerk or a secretary in charge of your drinking water program. As George H.W. Bush would say--"Wouldn't be prudent." More negligence

There are more facts that I could bring forth, but for now, I rest my case.

Please don't get sidetracked by the rhetorical nonsense or outright distortions and apparent lies of one or more Councilors trying to get us focused on the tone of Council emails, and the idea that we've got "nice" Councilors and angelic competent staff fighting off the "mean-spirited"unwarranted attacks of a minority of "bad" Councilors. We don't.  It's not about some sort of politically correct soap opera, it's about qualifications, diligent management, prudence and accountability. Can you say "negligence?"
Golf Course operator Billy Cunningham said to have thrown in the towel.

Billy Cunningham is reported by three different knowledgable sources to have resigned as operator of Baker City's Quail Ridge Golf Course. The golf course has struggled to make ends meet, but particularly since the completion of the "back nine" holes over a decade ago.

One current plan under discussion is to is to turn it into a public, non-profit organization/corporation along the lines of the Anthony Lakes ski area, which is owned by the County, but run by a public non-profit organization.   More on this later I hope.

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