Keep the doors open

We take back what we said about city of Bend officials. It’s not at all clear they have come to their senses about keeping meetings about Mirror Pond’s future open to the public.

In fact, they seemed to have looked for a way to keep the public out.

Back in July, the Bend City Council and the Bend Park & Recreation District Board met together to talk about the future of Mirror Pond. They both passed resolutions creating a Mirror Pond subcommittee “to select and refine a final preferred vision for the future of Mirror Pond.” The subcommittee was to include a couple of members from the City Council, a pair from the park board, some other government officials and three citizen members.

When time came for the first meeting, the public was not notified. No agenda was publicly available. Bulletin employees were told they could not attend because it was not a public meeting.

To make a long anecdote shorter, we protested, they acquiesced and told us future meetings of the subcommittee would be open to public. The next meeting was noticed for Tuesday, Aug. 27, at 3 p.m. at the park district headquarters.

This week, Bend City Manager Eric King and City Attorney Mary Winters came in to talk to the editorial board. King said he said he agreed with us that the meetings should be open.

Winters did say, though, that she believes that a subset of a governing body can engage in fact-finding investigations without it being necessary under Oregon’s public meeting law that those investigative meetings be open to the public.

Then on Wednesday, the council passed an amendment to the original resolution recasting the subcommittee as “an exploratory, fact-finding body to advise and assist project staff and the consultant team.”

It’s hard to know what to make of that.

It could be a move to enable the Mirror Pond subcommittee to fly under the legal requirements that the meetings be open.

We don’t expect that real estate transactions, such as negotiations with Pacific Power over the dam, should be required to be open to the public. Oregon’s public meeting law is designed to give exceptions for such matters.

But it would be outrageous if the amendment’s purpose was to game the public meetings law. We hope the council is not showing a passion for secrecy on Mirror Pond’s future. We’ll start to find out on Tuesday.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

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