Our opinion: Lessons in non-transparency
City Manager Nancy Freenock is right that a public session on a proposed Cobblestone Inn & Suites in Warren would be “futile at this point” until more information is received.
But city officials need to be paying attention to sentiments raised during a recent protest and at Monday’s City Council meeting as they proceed with the hotel project.
We agree with Freenock — enough information isn’t available yet to make an informed decision whether the Cobblestone Inn & Suites is a project worth redeveloping the Breeze Point Landing Park. But residents have questions that haven’t been well answered yet, and the lack of answers coupled with a late September meeting held in executive session to discuss aspects of the project didn’t allay residents’ concerns that the hotel project is a done deal despite the lack of information that is publicly available.
Some of the items discussed in the executive session meeting included property subdivision, zoning, traffic flow, vacating of city streets and parking. Members of the public — both for and against the hotel project — have an interest in such matters. Freenock told the Times Observer that, “There was no conscious attempt to obfuscate or keep anything from the public.”
That doesn’t mean public hasn’t taken the Sept. 28 meeting in that light — and city officials saw the backlash of that decision with this weekend’s protest.
By not discussing the public issues publicly, all the city has done is stoke opposition. Let that be a lesson for openness in these discussions.