Printed on: July 10, 2013

Learning from 'Goosegate'


Idaho Falls Parks and Recreation Director Greg Weitzel is a bundle of energy and determination. Weitzel isn't just here for the spacious corner office and paycheck. He's here to get things done.

Since hired in May 2012, Weitzel has:

Revamped management of Idaho Falls' golf courses.

Spearheaded a public discussion about making the city more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly.

Proposed a water park at the greenbelt.

Advocated relocation of the greenbelt geese.

That last bullet point has exposed a certain bull-in-the-china-shop aspect to Weitzel's personality and shown he has much to learn about how business is conducted here.

"Goosegate" began July 1 at a meeting of the Parks and Recreation Commission, where Weitzel first broached -- publicly at least -- the idea of goose removal.

Weitzel emphasized time was of the essence. The geese, wildlife officials told him, needed to be removed quickly because they are molting and can't fly.

That caught the attention of commissioner John Parsons. He reported Weitzel's plans to the newspaper and a story was published July 3.

Not happy that Parsons leaked the story, Weitzel sent a July 2 email to Mayor Jared Fuhriman and members of the City Council, warning them about the coming story: "Unfortunately, one of our Parks and Recreation Commission members contacted the Post Register to report this story prematurely," Weitzel wrote.

There was nothing premature or unfortunate about Parsons' action. Calling attention to the words of a public official in a public meeting should be encouraged, not discouraged.

There could be a pattern developing here. Another commission member, Terry Miller, surprised Weitzel by opposing the location of the proposed water park on this page.

So it goes. Idaho Falls residents are fiercely independent and unafraid to voice their opinions. Citizen volunteers such as Miller and Parsons aren't politicians plotting their next job. There's no paycheck at risk. They are regular folks with a particular interest attempting to make their city more livable.

So, to Greg Weitzel we will say this: Keep up the good work. We appreciate your passion and willingness to tackle tough issues. But understand that what you say and do matters a great deal and anything proposed in a public meeting can and should be brought to the attention of those who pay your bills.

But you know this. And now, hopefully, you more fully understand how the public sector gig works around here. So, with this controversy in the rearview, we can truly say "Welcome to Idaho Falls, Mr. Weitzel." You've stepped in it and survived. Learn, move on and don't repeat the mistake.

As to those pesky geese ... naturally we have a few ideas. Eyes to the right, if you please.

Corey Taule