Open Government is a cornerstone of Democracy
I attended a meeting of the Northwest Area Partnership of February 15th, 2007. At that meeting Fort Wayne Mayor Graham Richard promised me that his office would ensure that I was provided with all of the financial information concerning Harrison Square and he assured me in a public forum that all of my questions about the project would be answered. After the meeting I talked to the Mayor and told him that I wanted to create financial statements for the project, he once again assured me that I would receive the necessary information.
I submitted a list of 58 questions to the Mayor’s Office and I requested financial information so that I could independently analyze the City’s financial projections.
I attended a meeting concerning Harrison Square on April 16th involving the City Council. As of April 16th my questions had not been answered and the information I had been promised had not been provided to me. I filed a formal request for information on April 16th and the City confirmed that they had received my request on April 16th.
The Fort Wayne City Council passed the Harrison Square Project by a vote of six to three on April 24th. Harrison Square is pretty much a “done deal.”
I am writing this editorial on May 16th. As of May 16th my questions still have not been answered and I have not been provided with the information an accountant would require to independently evaluate the Harrison Square proposal.
The City did post a wide variety of general information to their website between April 16th and April 24th. This was done because several City Councilmen told The Mayor’s office that they needed to do a better job of disseminating information to the public during the April 16th City Council meeting. One of the seven items I requested was posted to the City website during that time period.
The information provided on the City website includes a lot of general information; however, it does not include the information that an accountant would require to analyze the project.
As of May 16th the City has failed to provide me the information that I have formally requested and that I was promised by the Mayor. I am extremely disappointed and frustrated.
If there is one question I want answered concerning the project it is the projected hotel occupancy rate over the life of the project. I cannot even get an answer to that one specific question.
I believe that an open and transparent Government is critical to our Democracy. I believe that our local Government should be excited that citizens want to be active and involved in our local Government. I believe that our local Government should do everything they can to ensure the public receives any information they formally request, in fact, Indiana law requires that citizens be given information they request.
Ronald Reagan once said “trust but verify.” I think his statement sums up my sentiments on this issue perfectly. I want to “verify.”
Mike Sylvester, CPA