It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly...who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
- Theodore Roosevelt, 1910
There is a degree of due diligence required of a newspaper tasked with following up on issues that have the potential to inflame tempers and ruin reputations. Such diligence was called for in spades when covering the conflict-of-interest accusations against now-former Wallowa County Planning Commissioner Tim Nitz in our March 1, March 22 and March 29 (see page one) editions.
Given the nature of the accusations against Nitz, who has a long history of community service in Wallowa County and the City of Joseph, the Chieftain owed both Nitz and the public a series of reports that was both accurate and fair.
Sadly, we were impeded in this process by the very people who most vigorously sought - nay, demanded - Nitz' removal from the planning commission.
Oregon Freedom Alliance describes itself in grand terms as a defender of property rights, individual freedom and accountability in public officials.
It's demand for Nitz' removal is signed only by Lori Schaafsma, who identifies herself as the group's secretary and who, when contacted by the Chieftain for contact information for Nitz' accusers, would not reveal the identities of even its board members.
Ironically, it closes its unsigned statement of purpose, sent this week to the Chieftain, with the statement that "OFA will campaign for total transparency of government actions and disclosure of public policy decisions at all governmental levels."
The group does not seem to believe that it needs to own either its words or its actions and it certainly doesn't apply the same standards of transparency and accountability to itself that it demands of others.
In the cover letter that came with the statement, Schaafsma writes "We ask that any modifications or edits be coordinated and approved with us prior to printing."
Who "us" might be, if there is an "us", remains cloaked in secrecy.
The Chieftain has given OFA every opportunity to be straightforward, honest and credible, but has no patience left for this game playing.
There is no reason whatsoever for a man or woman with a righteous cause to hide in the shadows, snipe at public figures, and then run away to hide until the next attack. Lending credibility to such people encourages irresponsibility by removing the possibility of consequences for wrong actions and, to be perfectly frank, it's just plain cowardly.
Worse yet, it is a form of terrorism that fosters fear and distrust in what should be a community of neighbors - neighbors who can agree to disagree and to try to solve problems and challenges as a community.
Until the supposed eight board members of OFA come out of the shadows of hypocrisy, the Chieftain will waste no more ink on it.