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Ogling open government

Mike Brake May 15th, 2013

The delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention conducted their deliberations in secret. These were thoughtful men who realized that the decisions they faced — how to design and construct a form of government to maximize the freedoms only recently won in the American Revolutionary War — required a great deal of give-and-take.

They also respected the concept of representative government, which suggests that those elected by the people are empowered to do the people’s business. What emerged from those private discussions seems to have worked out pretty well, for 226 years so far.

That’s why we should take a realistic view of the ongoing dust-up over who said precisely what to whom as Gov. Mary Fallin decided the healthcare exchange issue. The release of 51,000 pages of printed emails told us essentially nothing, except that, like all elected officials, she and her staff kicked around a lot of possible courses of action before reaching a decision.

Well, surprise! Anyone who ever worked in a governor’s office, as I did from 1995 until 2003, knows that complex issues require complex discussions, and that some of those discussions can range pretty far afield. That’s why the governor and her staff are right in claiming a sensible level of executive privilege by resisting the wholesale release of every crossed t and dotted i.

No one respects the spirit and intent of Oklahoma’s open meetings and records laws more than I do. I began my career as a newspaper reporter, and I believe in open government. But what constitutes open government? Does it require that we peek into every nook and cranny of the process, or that public officials be held accountable primarily for the end results?

Elected officials discuss a wide range of options when considering how to do the people’s business. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be doing the job we elected them to perform.

But tell them that every email, every jotted note or doodle, will be printed in the paper tomorrow and they are less likely to open up and discuss every option. Full disclosure sounds wonderful, but it can also be a chilling barrier to free discussion. In the end, some public officials may wind up crafting messages designed less to explore possibilities than to make themselves look good.

The primary revelation from all those gubernatorial emails seems to be that Mary Fallin, like every public official in world history, listens to like-minded individuals and organizations during the formation of policy. This is a surprise?

Now The Lost Ogle, which can be occasionally entertaining but which seems to exist primarily to make juvenile comments about the bosoms of female television personalities, is demanding 31 more emails. They may provide a chuckle if someone let a “hell” or “damn” slip, but they are unlikely to prove otherwise illuminating.

We elect governors to do their jobs, and we should judge them on the outcomes, not every minute detail of the process. It’s time for this nonsensical fishing expedition to end.

Brake was chief writer for former Gov. Frank Keating and former U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin.

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05.16.2013 at 12:24 Reply

I submit that anyone who equates the 1787 Constitutional Convetion with the inner workings of the administration of Mary Fallin has something far less than what might be reasonably considered a firm grasp on reality. Then again, since he is a former Fallin lackey, that shoe would fit perfectly.


05.16.2013 at 12:56 Reply

"But what constitutes open government? Does it require that we peek into every nook and cranny of the process, or that public officials be held accountable primarily for the end results?"


So were you, unlike the rest of your party, against the recent release of the DoJ emails discussing/tweaking the talking points of the Benghazi attack? Or are you content to judge that situation by its end result without following a paper trail to understand if there was malfeasance involved, and, if so, what the motivation/source of that malfeasance was? Didn't think so. 


The bottom line is that if Fallin had accepted the government dollars, we'd be in control of our own exchange. By listening to the fearmongers and making an uninformed, ideologically-driven decision, Fallin has effectively ceded more control of our state's future to the federal government. Obamacare is here to stay; we were given a choice to do it our way or theirs, and Fallin chose theirs. I and others want to know why.


05.16.2013 at 01:17 Reply

You are right about the state healthcare exchange being a "process" to set up.  What irritates everyone about this "exchange" is that our federal tax dollars are going to benefit other states who chose to adopt the new healthcare legislation.  If I have to pay federal tax dollars, I want as much of my tax dollars spent benefiting my state as possible.  It has become clear that Governor Fallin only acted in the hatred that is the conservative knee-jerk reaction to anything "Obama."  The fact of the matter is, there are a lot of poor people in this state that depend on rural hospitals for their healthcare.  If there is no reimbursement via medicaid and medicare for these facilities, they will cease to exist leaving a large percentage of the population without medical care.  Everybody fails to grasp the bigger concept of what led to healthcare reform in the first place.  Insurance companies have outpriced the lower end of the average citizen, the government is attempting to make sure these hard-working individuals have some type of healthcare coverage.  If you want to be mad at anyone in this situation, be angry at the private sector.  As for Governor Fallin, she has failed the state in her decision.  If she really wanted to act in the best interest of the citizens, she would have taken the healthcare reform act and tried to improve it along the way.  Instead, the citizens of Oklahoma are left footing the bill for other states, while having to pay for their own healthcare exchange.  I'm fairly certain that the individuals who wrote into the governor to ask to reject "Obamacare" had no idea what the implications were of doing so.  All they heard was Obama, and their hate-filled eyes went red.  In doing so, simultaneously shot themselves in the foot.  The ignorance of this sector of the population is embarrassing and will cost millions of dollars to the taxpayers of this state.  So, sir, I submit to you, Governor Fallin has already failed the citizens of Oklahoma, it doesn't take a genius to figure that out.  I did so sans "bosom jokes," and I feel it is imperative to understand what is being done to insure rural facilities will be reimbursed for the care they give.  If they aren't reimbursed, I'm without a job.  So you can ride your journalist desk job and tsk alternative media sources, or, you can do the job a journalist is supposed to do and represent the citizen's best interest.  You should have been the one with the records request, not a freelance blog.   


05.16.2013 at 02:44 Reply

Why is it that letters and commentary based on common sense with less rhetoric and hyperbole are ignored by Gazette-online commenters, but send in a conservate troll like Brake, and the retorts fly like shit through a fan?  

In the interim, DON\'T FEED THE TROLL.  Clearly arguing is the only thing that adds meaning to his pathetic existence, and it\'s time to stop granting him that courtesy.



05.16.2013 at 03:21 Reply

Governor Fallin is a public official charged with doing the work of the public.  As such, the public has a right to see the documents relating to her work for us...all of the documents.  It is the law.

You seem to be arguing that government is somehow fostered by allowing documents to be withheld if they would be embarrassing if seen by the public. If so, what is to prevent a public official from withholding documents concerning not just embarassing facts, but true corruption?

Governor Fallin knew the rules when she took office, or at least she should have. She made the decision to turn down millions of dollars of federal money, money that comes from the taxes we pay. Now the public has a right to see the records relating to that decision to determine whether there were valid justifications for refusing the money, or whether the decision was made for political grandstanding.