A reader asks: "Do you have support in Olympia?"
Many of my colleagues have had similar experiences with DSHS. And, others understand the issues simply through their understanding of due process. Others have a respect for the powerful people in government who wreck havoc with unrestrained raw power that comes from having behavior shielded from public review.
Legislators are just like the rest of us. They come from every walk of life. They have families. They get joy from doing good work (as they define "good").
Some legislators side with big government. But, more and more they are questioning what government does without divulging its methods.
I have mentioned before that I am a member of the statutory "Sunshine Committee." It is made up of liberals and conservatives, legislators, an AG, a couple of newspaper appointees, and the Seattle City Attorney who likes to protect city information from public view but who has been fair in airing the issues. We are charged with removing exemptions from public disclosure. That means...the legislature passed a law and the governor signed it...to open up government to the people. Laws that were passed through the years that seal up information will be removed. It will happen slowly. Government moves slowly. In matters involving government accountability it is never soon enough for me.
The greatest opponents of open government will be government itself. DSHS will urge committee chairs to kill bills before they even get a hearing. DSHS will hide behind the "need for privacy" as the reason to keep the agency closed to review. There is certainly no need to compromise privacy in making government accountable.
I talked today with three Senators who agree that the problems are great. They think the department lies to them (notice I am not using their names). They are appalled at what is happening.
One legislator was quick to say that over the years the law has been tightened to protect the public. Twenty years ago, for instance, Lisa's mother would have stood in the court without representation and without the right to participate in court. Progress is slow. Taxpayers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on the salaries of high level bureaucrats who lobby to keep the agency behind closed doors and unaccountable.
The governor, too, must allow the public the right to hold their government accountable. She has to make a decision. Remember, the legislature can pass the legislation but nothing happens without the governor's signature.
I called two of the governor's top aides today to try to get help for Lisa. They have not returned my calls. They responded the first time or two, but, when they know you are calling about a child "in the system" they stop returning the calls. Both of these people are good people. When I first described the situation they were appalled. But then...I am sure it was just easier to ignore the situation and decide that the decisions should be left to the department. (Meaning...even the governor doesn't hold them accountable.)
The department is so massive...it is so powerful...and they have the time to block all attempts at accountability. The governor's staff just doesn't have the time to deal with someone else's problems. I really don't think there is any control on this agency.
Only the courts can reign things in and that is hard when the department has total access and the relatives can't afford to get in the battle.