Thursday, December 23, 2010

Klamath PR campaign sparks debate

My story this week about the communications campaign the Klamath Basin Coordinating Council may undertake was the subject of a blog entry by Felice Pace, a Klamath Glen, Ore., environmentalist who's long been involved in the Klamath issue.

Pace writes:

KlamBlog is skeptical. If this group really wanted feedback it would have released for comment the draft Drought Plan they have negotiated behind closed doors; or better still, they would develop that plan from scratch in public.

In the same interview in which he called for better communication, Tucker labeled those who do not support the Deal as opposed to compromise. That is precisely the sort of “gotcha” rhetoric which alienates those who honestly do not believe the Water Deal and the restoration arrangements embedded within it provide a real or durable solution to the Basin’s water conflicts. This is not new; for years now Tucker has been attacking anyone who does not fall into line with the Water Deal he supports.

If those agencies and interests pushing the KBRA really want to engage their critics, they should reach out one to one – not rely on a PR campaign. Tucker’s sound bite claiming that those who support the Water Deal represent the “radical center” of Klamath politics is yet another roadblock to real dialogue.

Pace also takes issue with the location of the council's latest meeting -- Redding, Calif., which he suspects was chosen "apparently to accommodate agency bureaucrats and others from places like Sacramento, Portland and Eugene." (He makes no mention that the council's last meeting was in Klamath Falls.)

The post sparked a response from Glen Spain, northwest regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, who helped plan the communications effort. Spain replies:

There is a huge disconnect in this posting’s undeserved condemnation of the Klamath Basin Coordinating Council’s (KBCC) efforts to both inform and engage the public. Would it be preferable for the KBCC to have NO public outreach plan, and NO communications plan to inform the public about what it is and what it is doing?


So the fact that the KBCC members – myself included – are working to better inform the public on what the KBCC is, and how the Klamath Settlement Agreement is being implemented, should be cause for rejoicing, not concern. What you dismissively call a “public relations offensive” in this article is merely the KBCC’s Draft Communications Plan. KBCC members have an obligation to present the FACTS (as opposed to much misinformation already available) about the Klamath Settlement, as well as to actively engage the public in helping us all shape the 50-year Klamath Basin restoration effort the Settlement has begun. No one should doubt the need.

Spain goes on to explain that KBCC meetings are currently being rotated between Redding, Klamath Falls and Eureka, Calif., which offer facilities with adequate seating and proximity to an airport. And as for the drought plan, he says it's coming.

For the record, 1) most of the comments attributed to Tucker were said in a public meeting, and I did not see Pace in the room; 2) the importance of public participation doesn't appear to be lost on Spain, who admonished his fellow council members about transparency during a discussion about how or whether to hold teleconferences; and 3) the council had planned on spending a good portion of the Redding meeting on the draft drought plan but it wasn't ready. Once it is, it will be presented and debated in public.

But I could understand how Pace could feel uncomfortable about Tucker's reference to extremes, since one could make the argument that Pace resides at one of them.

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