Twin Falls, Idaho: Public meeting on refugees could be ‘dog and pony show’ if not managed properly
Posted by Ann Corcoran on September 15, 2015
Citizens critical of refugee resettlement on-going in Twin Falls, Idaho were hoping to get all of their many questions answered when a panel of “experts” come together at 6:30 p.m. on September 22nd. But, unless the meeting is fair and open to any and all questions, the opportunity to fully inform the community will be squandered by the Twin Falls Times-News.
I sure hope the organizers aren’t planning on using one of many manipulative techniques (Delphi comes to mind) that would steer the outcome to a predetermined conclusion and that is that everything is just fine and dandy, so let’s ‘welcome’ the Syrians to Idaho.
For new readers, this latest round of controversy started brewing when the resettlement contractor, affiliated with the College of Southern Idaho and the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, began bragging about Syrians being on the way to Twin Falls.
By the way, Syrians have already begun arriving in Boise according to State Department data.
Here is the make-up of the panel that will answer attendees questions on the 22nd:
The panelists are:
Larry Bartlett, director of the U.S. State Department’s Office on Refugee Admissions, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration
Ken Tota, deputy director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement
ZeZe Rwasama, director of the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Programs
Brian Pike, Twin Falls deputy city manager of public safety
Mike Mason, CSI’s vice president of finance
Dr. Steven Kohtz, with St. Luke’s Magic Valley Regional Medical Center
Wiley Dobbs, superintendent of the Twin Falls School District.
And, the discussion is being moderated by Times-News editor Matt Christensen who is hardly unbiased. Readers may remember that he actually editorialized calling me a “thief” here in June when he said I snipped too many paragraphs of a news story they had published.
Here then is how this meeting should be held to allow for the free and fair flow of information
~The moderator should not be affiliated with the newspaper. Christensen must be replaced. Perhaps find a respected former judge or someone not presumed to have a bias.
~The program must be videotaped for future use and available to those who can’t be there.
~Panelists are there to answer questions, not to give speeches or lectures (we are nation of immigrants, blah! blah!). There is no need to hear opening statements that will only serve to drag out the meeting. If the organizers wish, they could provide written short opening remarks by panelists to be distributed as audience members arrive.
~Everyone present who wishes to ask a question should be allowed to do so. No one should be sending in questions for pre-screening by the moderator (as the paper is presently urging people to do). Only those present should be allowed to ask a question (or more than one question). No advance screening of questions should be permitted even at the meeting itself.
~Questions should be permitted to be asked if the meeting goes half the night. Everyone there who has a question, should get an answer. Cutting it off prematurely will only appear to shortchange one side or the other.
~Perhaps to be fair and orderly everyone who wants to ask a question must put his or her name in a hat—a hat which can be added to as the evening progresses. Names would be drawn randomly to determine speaker order.
~Questioners should be permitted to ask more than one question if during the course of the evening something needs further clarification, or something said prompts a new question.
~If someone on the panel is unable to provide the needed information on that evening, they should agree to promptly supply it and the paper should agree to publish it expeditiously.
~Any attempts to name-call, or otherwise make personal attacks, should be promptly shut down by the moderator.
Those are just suggestions off the top of my head, but the point is that no one should come away from the meeting shortchanged in any way.
I feel sure that both Mr. Bartlett and Mr. Tota do not want to be associated with charges that they participated in a meeting that was somehow less than fair and open.
And, to all involved—be sure to invite your US Representatives and Senators as well as Idaho legislators to this very important opportunity to get answers about how the US State Department and the Office of Refugee Resettlement run the program in Idaho (along with a resettlement agency) and how they can assure you that refugees will not financially strap the community or risk its security.
By the way, Idaho legislators should be especially interested because at this time Idaho is a Wilson-Fish state which means the Mr. Bartlett, Mr. Tota and the primary contractor—the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (with another non-profit, Jannus Inc., which I forgot earlier)—call all the shots for Idaho and elected officials have virtually no say about who comes, how many and what state social services are used for refugees.
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