Transparency and open spaces
To the Editor:
Warmer temperatures, crisp breeze and illuminating sunshine has filled many with excitement that spring is finally here. I woke up yesterday morning, checked my weather app, and immediately texted my fiancé, “Friday, let’s go toss the Frisbee at the park!” As I dusted the cobwebs out from my eyes, I, as is routine, took a scroll through my Facebook feed. I was dismayed when I learned from a fellow-member of a community group that the City of Cranston was in negotiations to privatize one of our cherished public parks, Doric Park.
Public parks are a vital competent of our urban environment. Cranston Parks, such as Doric, provide open space for recreation. Based on some of the comments I’ve seen on social media, leasing part of the park to a private entity would, among other things, prove detrimental to youth organizations that use the area for practices. However, more than just recreational purposes, public parks also offer open spaces for dialogue, performance, and protest. These kind of spaces are needed in our city.
When digesting this disheartening news, the greatest issue I took with what was unfolding is not that the City is in talks to lease part of the park to a private entity, but that it was done outside of the public. The City needs public spaces, but it also needs transparency. The news of this development was further frustrated by the fact that, well, there were no facts. Constituents have been left to piece together bits and pieces, in my personal experience, screen-shots of comments made by Mayor Fung, or City Council President Farina.
If our Mayor, and Council, are partaking in negotiations that would so drastically alter public life in Cranston, then the public deserves to know. If our Mayor and City Council President choose to engage their constituents via social media, it must be transparent. Both have utilized private Facebook pages when offering comment, or responding to inquiries regarding Doric Park, and other matters. However, their lack of transparency has left many in the dark. I, for one, and I know of others, have been shut off from Mayor Fung’s page because of my criticisms of the panhandling ordinance, deleted as a friend by the Mayor for voicing my dissent on one of his posts. Similarly, Council President Farina’s page is also set to private. I do not mean to suggest that either, or any elected official, relinquish private social media accounts. Rather, that when commenting on public affairs on any social media platform, they do so in a way that is accessible to the whole public, not just their friends.
With more transparency in the coming days, we would all like to know what is going on with our public parks.
John Patrick Donegan