Public officials: avoid GGP secrecy

Letters to the editor

December 02, 2007

Everyone likes to be let in on a secret, even if it's one that will eventually become public. If you get to be part of the in-group, you gain some loyalty to whoever let you in. The same for someone who lets you in on a secret planning meeting.

General Growth Properties Inc. has invited members of the ten Columbia village boards to a closed-door meeting on 13 December. They should decline to attend. The Columbia Association Board has already declined a similar invitation, and as far as I know, the County Council has not been invited. The village board members should avoid the temptation to lend loyalty to GGP, since they were elected by the village residents and other property owners.

I do not fault GGP, which as a private realty firm is accustomed to operating in strict secrecy. Still, these are public bodies and need to operate in the open. If GGP wants to open their planning process and solicit public comment, fine, but that should occur in public.

Nor do I accept the idea of a village board sending less than a majority of their members, avoiding a quorum, and purportedly the state law that says they cannot meet in private except in a few narrow and inapplicable circumstances. It would be at least a naive mistake when the few who attended clued in those who did not, because that would be a board meeting. At worst, it would be a purposeful evasion.

Let's do the downtown development planning in public where it belongs and, GGP, please cooperate with Columbia on that.

Philip L. Marcus Columbia

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