Changes to the BOF Process
So we have an election year before us and what appears could actually be a race for the governor's house. While changes to the BOF process have long been debated and discussed, no better time than just before an election to talk about what should happen. Mr. Walker has stated several times he is open to reforming the process. Mr. Parnell and his cabinet have said so too, however that is about all they've done... Maybe some tough discussion in this election year will spur some forward momentum in reforming the process to help better represent the Alaskan people and weed out some of the dirty dogs. So, given that this process should be public and as such will never be perfect, how do we fix it?
- 5 year board cycle. 3 years make no sense. It's a waste of time and money for everyone except those who profit from the process.
- Complete restructuring of the board generated proposal process. While they still may be necessary, some sort of cooling off period or chance for public input is imperative.
- VERY clear rules of order and conduct for all involved. Right now the boldest get the reward. For instance, I was told it was illegal to hand a board member information on paper without it being RD'd (public record), so I did that with everything only to find that other board members were slipping notes and scurrying out to the catered Sportfishing Syndicate war room and penthouse to plan the agenda and strategy. Literally, I asked the state's law rep - there are no rules of order - only "precedence". To me that says "better to ask forgiveness than permission", and that's exactly how it plays out. No more.
- Advisors. This is my alternative to a "professional board". While that may be what we need, from what I saw, simply a couple people (could even be user group reps) with knowledge of the area and the freedom to interact with the board during deliberation would be a great deal of help, seeing as a lay board can't possibly know all the facts of every fishery and the ADFG employees who do have the facts have been ordered not to say anything.
So, what ideas does everyone else have? What I experienced last winter cannot continue if we plan to have sustainable fisheries into the future.
All good ideas. Unfortunately even by implementing all the good ideas in the world, we can't kill the snake unless we bite it's head off. So somehow we need to take a bigger step - sever the connection between our fishery officials and special interest groups - from our Commissioner on down to AC members. This takes new regulation that implements new rules of conduct, new consequences, higher qualifications, and greater public exposure to the conflicts of interest, bad ethics, and closed-door shenanigans that are driving the process. So in my opinion, the answer is legislative action that forces the process to exclude special interest fraternization, and include public transparency. For example, there is no reason why we should allow our ADFG Commissioner to be wined, dined, and gifted by special interest groups any more than we should allow secret notes and secret meetings during the BOF meeting. Until these things become illegal instead of "precedence", nothing will change. It's going to take a Governor with big nads and a big chopping block.
I disagree. Special interest, greed, corruption - they will always be present. Best one can do is plan on that and to keep them at bay. Special interest groups are not all bad - many people choose to join a group in order to ensure their interests are represented. That is ok - even desirable at times with respect to efficiency. What is not is the degree of corruption and special interest meddling that is currently permitted. I think a few smart changes would go a long way. But even that will take more gnads that our current administration has shown...
Originally Posted by Funstastic
Point taken. You are correct that there are bipartisan special interest groups that are productive and good for the fishery. I was thinking more towards those groups that have an agenda against other users - those corrupt and unethical - those our representative officials should not associate with. Problem is how those groups are determined and who determines them. Better laws and stiffer consequences regarding rules, ethics, and conduct could do the job - what you suggested. I just think those things need to be pursued legislatively to make them stick, rather than through the Governor, Commissioner, or BOF process.
One thing I'd like to see changed is how the location of the BOF meetings are determined. Meetings on the Kenai have been excluded for the most part, yet this is where a large portion of the State's fisheries take place.
I am all for cleaning up the process. No secret meetings, etc. Many lobbyists are employed and paid big bucks to taint the BOF process too.
I have been at lots of Board of Fish meetings over the years and here are my observations.
1) Special interests groups lie, deceive, and mislead the public and Board members at every meeting. User groups are basically the same in this regard. It is just KRSA is in power right now but in the 80's commercial fisherman did the same thing when they were in power. At the last Board meeting on UCI there were reports handed out by commercial fisherman that were just flat wrong. So no user group is pure. That does not mean some try to be honest and are but the group representatives tend to mislead for their self interests.
2) ADF&G use to provide side-boards to the public and Board members relative to the truth. That is no longer happening. ADF&G employees are either told by the leadership not to speak or a supervisor will give the testimony and shade it to the political winds. Silence is the major issue. When ADF&G does not speak up the Board goes with the misinformation from the user groups or their own agenda.
3) Board members use to deal with just allocation and leave management to reach the goals. Today the Board feels it must micro-manage the fisheries and set the biological criteria for management. That is not possible as the Board members are not technically capable of doing that. This started in 1999 when Frank Rue as Commissioner told the Board they could set escapement goals and management plans. It has been downhill since then and today the plans are unworkable from a management view.
4) When it was just allocation the Board had to consider only what they thought was a fair allocation. Today the economics is so much more complex and the fishery has become more complex because of the differential run strengths that a lay Board just cannot deal with the information overload. So they do not read the material or understand it.
So here is my solution.
1. The Board becomes a Board of experts in the fields of economics, biology, fish management, hydrology, habitat enhancement and restoration, community representatives (not user groups) and fishing techniques (again not user groups). User groups cannot be objective.
2. The Board is full time and paid to run our multi-billion dollar industry.
3. The Board has its own scientific staff to evaluate information and summarize it down to easy to understand points. Referencing backup material for their position.
4. The Board meets every 5 years with the standard option for emergency situations.
5. The Board has the proposals screened before the meeting and reduces the proposals down to the major concepts. They then meet and decide which regulations will be changed. These regulation changes then go out to the public for review and a second meeting is held to pass them or reject them. If substantial changes are made they go back out to the public before final passage. While this slows the process meeting every 5 years should allow for this time delay. Too often regulations are passed and put into law and no one understands what or why the Board did what they did. This even includes ADF&G.
6. ADF&G role is to provide information and data to the scientific review team and answer questions from the public and Board members at the meeting. ADF&G comments only on the proposals or regulations that are reduced from the original group. This saves ADF&G tons of time and money.
7. The Board members cannot attend any fund raising events for the user groups- they can only meet the public in open meetings - no back room meetings with any user group where the user group can mislead the Board member. If a user group wants a meeting with a Board member then it is a public meeting. The user group can keep testimony limited to other people as it is their meeting but what is said and by whom it public knowledge. This keeps the good old boy program reduced. A Board member who violates this is immediately dismissed.
8. A Board member can call a user group to ask questions and get clarification but a record of that phone call and content of the discussion must be recorded.
9. Board member terms are 10 years as getting experts who are paid requires a longer term. The Gov still appoints the members with Legislative approval but the technical criteria must be met and clearly met. The Commissioner of ADF&G, Directors, and D. Commissioners and Special Assistants have written qualifications and personnel must meet those requirement.
I have a few more ideas but this is the approach I would suggest.