Sunday, August 27, 2006

Let Sun Shine On Development

For those who don’t frequent City Council meetings, the difference between resolutions and ordinances may not be of high interest. And the difference between resolutions passed all together on a “consent” agenda and those separated out for a voice vote may be of even less interest.

However, citizens who want to follow the action on redevelopment may want to pay close attention to how decisions are approved by the governing body.

What’s at stake? Major city-owned tracts may be placed tentatively in the hands of a developer with little explanation to the public, or should we say to the couple dozen people who regularly bother to come to council meetings. The public at large in this city of more than 47,000 residents may never know nor care about such decisions, being busy with more immediate family concerns or just trusting the elected officials to do the right thing while the citizens aren’t paying attention.

In June, a far-reaching agreement between the city and the Union County Improvement Authority was added to the agenda session at the last minute and then passed on the consent agenda at the regular meeting. As stated in the explanation of the consent agenda, “All matters listed with an (asterisk) are considered to be routine and non-controversial by the City Council and will be enacted by one motion. There will be no separate discussion on these items unless a council member or citizen so request, in which event, the item will be removed from the consent agenda ...“

“Routine and non-controversial” matters have normally been stuff like refunds of overpaid taxes, allowing sidewalk encroachments, letting people put up banners, accepting grants and approving bid awards. Awarding entities redevelopment rights on city-owned land seems a little more weighty and perhaps deserving of more open discussion.

Given the city’s track record of failed development, it’s a touchy subject and it’s no wonder officials would rather keep things on the downlow until everything is just right.

But lumping these matters in with auctions of surplus police equipment or abandoned cars just seems wrong.

Plaintalker will attempt to decipher these moves and put them out for all to see so that anyone who has an opinion will be able to give it in a timely way.

--Bernice Paglia


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