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Thread: Confusion at the BOG meetings

  1. #1
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Confusion at the BOG meetings

    Vince made a good point in another thread, concerning confusion at the BOG meetings, and I thought a separate thread concerning this would be in order. Here is what I thought as I watched the process for the first time.

    DISAPPOINTING TURNOUT

    My first response was disappointment over how few people were there. The tables up front, containing the board members, and what appeared to be several support staff, were full. But the area where the general public could sit was sparsely populated. I felt as lonely as a Unit 16 moose calf (that was a joke, and not indicative of my stance on predator control...). Anyway I'm not critical about that, because the chair I probably should have been occupying for many years sat empty too. But I was disappointed that in Alaska's largest city there were few folks at the meetings. I was in and out of the meetings for parts of eight days and the number ebbed and flowed quite a bit. Probably people were coming when they thought "their issue" was going to be discussed.

    POOR AUDIO QUALITY

    I don't know what the meetings sounded like online (I haven't listened to the files yet), but sitting in the room it was terrible. Some of the folks that testified could barely be heard. Maybe they were pacing themselves because they knew they'd be sitting there talking for hours on end (and some did). I have very poor hearing and had to move clear to the front to have even a chance of hearing what was said. Even folks sitting at the tables up front (board members and staff) were very hard to hear. This made conversations very difficult to follow. Overall I thought the audio quality was very poor.

    A GAME PLAN

    Right away I noticed that they'd grouped like proposals together. At first I thought they'd just go through them in numerical order, and I had the whole proposal booklet in my laptop hoping that's what we'd do. But it became clear that many proposals were similar, and that the similar ones were scattered throughout the booklet. So prior to the meetings, they re-ordered them by region. At the meetings, the plan was to go through them region-by-region. In principle that sounds like a reasonable approach, but it is complicated by the fact that some issues cover multiple regions.

    NON-LINEAR DISCUSSION

    The discussions started on Monday with GMU6- the Cordova Area. That went pretty well, but by the time they got to Region II (SouthCentral), it got confusing. For example they had a biologist from Ontario Canada give what I thought was an excellent presentation on bear snaring (again, I'm not stating my opinion on snaring itself, just saying it was a good presentation of the information), and I thought they'd go right in to the proposals on snaring. They didn't get to that for several days after the presentation. In some cases a proposal would be acted upon, and the vote taken. But then (sometimes days later) they'd get to another related proposal and resurrect the first one, amend it or take other action on it, go back to the next one and do something different, call someone else to testify on it, and then maybe take action or table it for further discussion when yet another proposal would be discussed. This was very confusing, and it happened all the way up to the last day. I'm not sure what the solution is, because the original sheet had 247 proposals in it and they skipped all over that thing. The impression I got (this is just my opinion) was that this was not a deliberate attempt to confuse anyone, it just worked out that way because as they got into each proposal they realized things they didn't know, or had missed before.

    HALLWAY LOBBYING

    I don't know how much lobbying was going on between meetings, and I did not listen in on other people's conversations, but I do know there were members of the public who were there every day who had agendas of their own. In one case it was a guide who was working with Paralyzed Veterans of America, taking disabled vets hunting for black bears. I didn't get the whole drift of whether these were all nonresident hunters, residents or both. I think he wanted to be able to take guided hunters on bait stations (but I'm not certain). Another guy I saw there was (I think) a representative of the SFW organization. He was there all day, every day as far as I could tell, and he took copious notes. His hearing was evidently very good, because wrote a lot of stuff down. Occasionally I would ask him what happened and he would tell me how they voted on something. I don't remember his name (sorry), but I think I have his card around here somewhere. He indicated that he occasionally posts on our site, but I didn't catch his screen name. Another guy who was a regular (but he dropped out later in the meetings) was Robert Fithian, the Executive Director of APHA. I know his name because I just read it off his business card (I'm not a member of APHA, by the way). He and I had a conversation about some alleged guide-bashing he thought I'd done here in ODD. Some of you who think I am part of a vast guide conspiracy might find that interesting. As we talked I remembered that I had once (one hunt) guided for a former leader of APHA years ago, and I had said some negative things about that experience. I think this is what he was referring to. He explained that they knew about that other guy and had dealt with him a while ago. I think he was telling me that APHA had cleaned house (if that is true, I would be willing to look at them again, but that's another matter).

    At any rate, these folks and others certainly had an interest in some of the proposals, and I saw them talking to board members and support staff during breaks. There was a guy from the attorney general's office (I think I have that right) who was the board's legal expert. He was pulled aside for a lot of private discussion, presumably concerning matters of law. Other people were pulled aside during breaks by members of the public, and discussions ensued. Following these discussions, sometimes proposals that had already been acted upon would be resurrected and different action taken.

    THE VOTING PROCESS

    As they resolved a proposal they would frequently vote 'NA" (no action) on ones that were identical or similar to ones they had already carried or failed. In some cases, they took several proposals and scavenged parts from each to come up with an amended version. If that amended version carried, it received a "CA" (carried as amended) vote. On breaks, someone would post an updated list of the amendments (by region) which showed what action was taken on each proposal. The problem was if it received a "CA" vote, there was no way of knowing what the amended version was, unless you were able to hear and follow the discussion beforehand. I would assume that this information will be forthcoming on their website (but I have not seen it yet).

    BOARD MEMBERS

    I'm going to share some observations about some of the board members. These are just my opinions, based on very superficial observation only during these meetings, so don't beat me up over it. I don't personally know any of the board members, but I recognized Ted Spraker from the ADFG moose video. Of all of the members, I was impressed most by his professionalism. He asked a lot of great questions and made a lot of well-reasoned arguments for or against various proposals. He was very clear, for example, on the difference between predator control and hunting (though this line is blurry for some). He was also acutely aware that the predator control program in GMU 16 would come under intense public scrutiny, therefore it must be "done right". The black bear guide I mentioned earlier was called back up to testify at one point late in the meetings, and Ted said specifically that he thought it unwise to make a decision for the benefit of a guide. It was clear that Ted had invested a lot of time in understanding the proposals, and was well aware of the issues. There were few times when he appeared not to know something. One of the other members, Lewis Bradley, was very interested in the Dall sheep proposals, and seemed well-informed. He asked a lot of good questions and appeared to be slanted toward ensuring the game populations themselves were healthy (my opinion). Cliff Judkins, the chairman, was an interesting fellow. I didn't really know what to make of him. Often he would wander far off into stories of the old days and such. But he seemed superficial and I didn't get the impression that he really understood all the issues. He was cavalier about the bowhunting proposals, frequently claiming that "bowhunters have the same privileges as rifle hunters, so they don't need special privileges". I don't think (my opinion) that he was anti-bowhunting though. It was more like anti-privilege. He didn't want to set up special opportunities for bowhunters, unless it was required because a hunt took place near residential areas. Several times he commented that bowhunting was a choice, and that bowhunters just needed to get farther off the trail if they wanted to be successful, or words to that effect. Stosh Hoffman didn't say much at all. I think the only time I heard him speak (other than "yes" or "no" when proposals were voted on), was a short bit of testimony on Saturday I think. One of the other board members asked him a question. He's from Bethel and I was hoping to hear more from him. But he's a new board member (I was told), so maybe he's a bit shy. Having said all that, I really appreciate all the work these folks did to prepare for these meetings. Someone told me that this is a volunteer position. I think it's great that people are willing to step up to the plate to do this, whether I agree with their views or not. It has to be a lot of work. One evening they skipped dinner and met until 9pm. There were some very long days.

    OTHER COMMENTS / OPINIONS

    I wasn't too upset about the lobbying efforts, because I heard that no decisions were final until the last gavel. I think a lot of the lobbying was intended to bring new information or factors to light. Is this a bad thing? That's a good question, and I'm not sure I know the answer. If I was a decision maker I'd want all the facts, and if some information came in late that changed my vote, I'd be glad for it. Better than than being stuck with a bad vote until next year. On the other hand, I can understand the point that all the information should be gathered ahead of time, so the board has all the facts before them when it's time to vote.

    A lot has been said about corruption in this process, and with this board. Those are very serious accusations. Nothing I saw indicated corruption. Does this mean that it did not happen? I don't know. One thing I do know is that people will sometimes lie to you for no apparent reason, and people are capable of doing some awful things. I also know that false accusations circulate about anyone who steps out in public, regardless of whether they are guilty or not. So I'm going to reserve judgment on the corruption issue until I know more about it.

    My overall impressions of the BOG meetings were that some great information was presented, but I was confused much of the time by the constant switching from one topic to another, irrelevant remarks by some board members, re-hashing old issues that I thought were resolved, and the poor audio quality which made it impossible to follow what was being said.

    Okay, this is long enough. What's your take?

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
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  2. #2
    Member Vince's Avatar
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    Default

    Vince made a good point in another thread, concerning confusion at the BOG meetings


    SURE! blame it all on me.!!!!!!!!!
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  3. #3

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    You did a nice job of describing a corrupt system but failed to take a clear postion.

    It is a corrupt system; a cartel, controlled by the special interest of the commercial hunting industry.

    It is not any different than a drug lord or a mob boss buying off a jury or a judge.

    The reason a lot of people don't go to the meetings is because 'the fix is in' and that my friend is what you should be most dissapointed in.

    Your description of your meeting with Fithian and as the owner of AOD demonstrates that the conspiracy to control the human use and managment of our wildlife resources by the commercial hunting industry will broadened to include your site. You are a target for corruption.

    Not saying you are or you will be corrupted by the cartel, but you are a guide and you have a special interest and the tone of your recent posts seem niave enough about what is really happening and not entirely nuetral to certianly seem as if you may be suseptible to getting caught in the web of justifying half truths.


  4. #4
    Member Vince's Avatar
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    I heard a lot of Public testimony the first two days.. i can see a big part of the lack of people presence the rest of the week being because they knew it was pointless to attend the remainder of the meeting ..


    Mike? where you allowed ANY input? or was any other person that was "part of the audience" asked or invited to participate in any of the discussions?


    By far that is my LARGEST complaint about it. we were given Props.. to comment on. then they were changed to " amended" to fit other props in other areas.. SHOULDN'T this be done FIRST? then ask for a comment period? I thought some one went through these FIRST as many don't make the book... you would think that after all this time they WOULD KNOW..... that hey this one and that one are the same thing.... DUH?????


    by in large i only heard from a few of the members on the audio... which BTW was loud and clear for the most parts... the web had to refresh once in awhile but it was good.. next year i want VIDEO feed to. after all it is NOT LIKE we don't know how to do that, too.
    "If you are on a continuous search to be offended, you will always find what you are looking for; even when it isn't there."

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  5. #5
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default input and such

    Quote Originally Posted by Vince View Post
    I heard a lot of Public testimony the first two days.. i can see a big part of the lack of people presence the rest of the week being because they knew it was pointless to attend the remainder of the meeting ..


    Mike? where you allowed ANY input? or was any other person that was "part of the audience" asked or invited to participate in any of the discussions?


    By far that is my LARGEST complaint about it. we were given Props.. to comment on. then they were changed to " amended" to fit other props in other areas.. SHOULDN'T this be done FIRST? then ask for a comment period? I thought some one went through these FIRST as many don't make the book... you would think that after all this time they WOULD KNOW..... that hey this one and that one are the same thing.... DUH?????


    by in large i only heard from a few of the members on the audio... which BTW was loud and clear for the most parts... the web had to refresh once in awhile but it was good.. next year i want VIDEO feed to. after all it is NOT LIKE we don't know how to do that, too.
    I think another reason folks were not there was because it was during weekdays when everyone is working.

    As far as input, I was just there to listen and observe. I had nothing prepared to say. They did allow other people to testify though. One of them that came in later in the process (I think it was on Sunday) was the guide I mentioned. I think he asked to say more to the board, because they were changing their position on some stuff related to nonresidents. Upinak was there, maybe she will chime in on the details (hearing problems on my end).

    It might be a good idea to get all the amendments done first as you say, but then wouldn't the public testimony drive more amendments too? I would think so. Maybe allowing people access to testify during proceedings (after the initial public comment period) would be the way to go. That way at least if things mutated, that could be addressed. How about this idea: Public testimony the first weekend, board meetings during the week, and final public testimony the last weekend?

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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    Default backwards

    I'd say you had things backwards Mike.

    The disappointing turnout was the result of all the other things you listed and more. If the public felt like they would be heard, more would testify. Having people testify before the proposals were final makes testifying a waste of time. When you are made to feel like what you are saying isn't being heard, what's the use? If the board has an agenda and aren't about to be swayed by public testimony, what's the use? If the people who have connections can lobby outside of the actual meeting, but your own testimony in public is ignored, what's the use?

    Those with the agenda and the connections were heard loud and clear. Others were allowed to speak to make it look like all sides were considered. Now we'll just have to sit back and watch the results.

  7. #7

    Default Second That

    AVALANCHE wrote;

    "...... It is a corrupt system; a cartel, controlled by the special interest of the commercial hunting industry. ......."

    Indeed - no way was I up to wasting my time testifying to this cartel. Certain of these fellows were involved up to their necks in the fear based campaign that shaped the special interest KRPUA legislation. Ignoring USFWS about waterfowl habitat should have all of us concerned. 'Shrinking' previously recognized important moose habitat and actual refusals to enforce State laws on salmon streams should, likewise, have everyone outraged. I am talking documented false statements that still have me inconveniently busy looking for ways to arrive at a balance and some chance for sustainability of the resources. After two decades of work on just this unresolved instance, I have little stomach and less energy for participating after watching these guys, cooperative State agencies, lawmakers, etc. toss science, history, and prior publicly funded planning efforts with 'shall comply' clauses in the round file. I have a LOT of personal experience and documentation on what is NOT heard.

    What is pertinent to this conversation is that the 'cartel' extends well beyond and has tentacles that reach into not only game management issues, but to land management, wildlife and resource management, and user group interests. Same central crowd. Some of them we will vote out.

    I do appreciate the efforts those of you with in-depth experience for the time and energy you have invested - this post hopefully providing a bit more insight on an evolving public perception of this and related processes. 'twodux' input is pertinent and some of us are engaged on other fronts of the same 'War' (quoting Sen. Charlie Huggins in the Frontiersman on the Knik process).

  8. #8

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    Confusion??? This is nothing compared to the legislative process when they are in session. A true leader is one that can keep a clear mind in the "Fog of War". What you really witnessed during this cycle of the BOG, was the absence of a true leader. Without leadership, you get chaos. Chaos breeds malcontent and bad choices rendered. The only way to get out from under the ever burdening way of conducting business, is to eliminate the human element from the decision making. We have already discussed how to do that in another thread. Think of all the guys and gals you know, and then, think of how each of them might be swayed by special interest groups or individual idealogy and preconceived notions because they are so smart on a subject. Do you really think that you have the savvy and intellect to change their minds? Do you really think that by offering a few minutes of testimony, however factual it might seem to you, will make them see things your way? If you want to walk away from the meetings feeling real good, try testifying in behalf of a slamdunk proposal that has their outright approval from the get go. Then you will think you were successful in your effort.
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