While I know the City Staff has taken great strides to be more transparent and more open than our last City Administration, right now, the City has a serious transparency issue. Nothing is that so huge that it is a gross violation of the public trust and in fact, I think most people probably haven’t really noticed all that much. But it’s the combination of them all in such a short span that speaks to a problem that we all — regardless of whether you support the outcome or not — should be concerned about.
The pattern has sort of followed this general outline:
- A idea or plan is floated
- Staff discusses plan or idea with select “stakeholders”
- Staff presents idea or plan to the Council and says that they’re received “public” input
- City Council votes on the issue
While number 4 is always the point where staff either gets what they want or are thoroughly foiled.
The most egregious of all the examples has to be the whole Mif Albright land swap debacle. Where staff floated the whole idea of swapping the Mif for a plot at North Loop Road and met with key “stakeholders” and then surprised the community with this awesome plan that was a “win-win” for everyone. Turns out, not a win-win, and not a good idea. But it followed the general outline above, even though a large amount of the public input that moved staff into the direction of thinking that this was a good idea happened outside of the public eye. Fortunately kibosh happened at Step number 4.
The next example is that of the Beltline and the gentleman’s agreement that was made between the City and the youth sports coalition. While the Park and Rec department has done an adequate job of keeping up appearances that there are other options for the Beltline other than the passive park option, this agreement made by this group will probably be used as evidence that the “public” decided that they didn’t want athletics fields at the Beltline. Let’s see what happens with this makes its way to the City Council.
Another example is that of the VA clinic and columbarium. There was very little public input before the City Council voted on sending a letter of support on Tuesday night for the VA’s plan. While it may be that the plan that the VA now wants is superior to the old plan, the problem is how the City got to this point. This led to a bit of back and forth on twitter which was fascinating:
To which I say to John Russo, “please.” Now you’re just insulting our intelligence when you say that the decision is not at an end. Even though the vote ended up in a 3 -2 split, there really is not much left to derail the VA from their clinic and columbarium. Much like the Beltline, the only entity that could have put up much of a fight had conceded ground by sending off a letter of support.
And finally this was something that was initially brought to light by Alameda Patch and then closed out by the Alamedan: the rule banning kids at the City’s dog parks. Essentially what happened was that the Rec and Park Department received some complaints about kids in the dog parks and then took that as “public” input and then changed the rule without any actual public input. Which they had to change
See, while one incident taken alone isn’t a problem, particularly if you agree with the outcome, it’s all the examples taken as a whole that should be worrisome. The City should be careful that they don’t squeeze out too many people in order to speed the process along and instead lose whatever trust that some folks may have in their City government.