On Doric, open meetings and transparency
To the Editor:
Last week, a behind-closed-doors agreement to lease public Doric Park to a private soccer club was crafted by Mayor Fung. Details of the plan were provided to the public at a press conference staged with soccer-uniformed children, at which a fully formulated “agreement” was produced. Mr. Fung described the secrecy in developing this plan as necessary and standard; however, this plan involved use of public resources and directly affected park neighbors with lighting, traffic, and property value impacts. Despite that, neighbors and park users were not informed by the city of these impacts. After some parts of the plan were heard at a public budget committee, I attempted to find out the details of this proposed plan and was told outright by City Council President Michael Farina that “There is no plan.” Other council members were more forthcoming, and park users and neighbors began to be informed about the plan using media, social media, signs, and canvassing.
Last evening, the City Council presented a docketed item intended to prevent public recording of public meetings without express permission, but was informed before the meeting that this would violate the Open Meetings Law. They attempted to explain the item as “an error” at the start of the meeting, but several residents testified against it nonetheless. When I attempted to speak, I used the secrecy around Doric Park as an example of why we need to record public meetings in order to get accurate information about city matters. However, I was silenced by Mr. Farina and not allowed to speak because I was “off topic”. Despite explaining that my testimony pertained to the docketed item of recording public meetings, I was told that I could only speak at the end of the meeting. I did so, to a nearly empty room. So much for transparency.
Public meetings need to be recorded when public officials are not trustworthy; if your actions are in the best interest of the public, let the public see them, speak about them, record them, and participate in the necessarily public process of government. The council should arrange for all public meetings to be recorded and archived (currently, council meetings are recorded and available on Vimeo, but committee meetings are not.) This could be done at minimal expense, and would go a long way in restoring our badly-broken trust in city government.