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Our View: Where's the list?




During its May 20 meeting, the Columbus City Council voted to table a proposal to pursue $5 million bond to improve the city's infrastructure, money used primarily for street paving, drainage and sidewalk improvements. 


The stated reason for the delay was that the lists needed further scrutiny. Delaying the vote on the proposal until the next council meeting in two weeks would give councilmen opportunity to carefully review the lists before taking a vote. 


Chief Operations Officer David Armstrong said the council decided to table the matter because voting on the proposal at that time "would not be fair to anybody and certainly not fair to the taxpayers." 


Well, it's been nine days since that meeting and during that time The Dispatch has made repeated efforts to obtain that list in order to share it with the taxpayers, who will be paying for these projects through a 1.1 mill increase in property taxes. 


The city council will meet Tuesday and will likely vote to pursue the bond at that meeting. 


Yet we still have not seen the lists that presumably needed only a few adjustments in a few wards. 


Robyn Eastman of J5 Broaddus, who has been charged with working with city councilmen to compile the list, has not responded to requests for the lists. Reached Wednesday, Armstrong said the lists were still not complete. Maybe Friday, he said. Asked if he would release the list to The Dispatch at the time he has the completed lists, Armstrong said he would have to "talk to some people." 


And by "some people," it is growing more and more apparent that he means Mayor Robert Smith and the city council members. 


Who knows? Maybe Armstrong will get the go-ahead to release the lists Friday. 


But past performance does not inspire any confidence that that is what will happen. 


This has an awfully familiar ring to it, after all. 


In the week leading up to the May 20 council meeting, The Dispatch repeatedly asked for a copy of the lists to share with our readers.  


We heard then what we are hearing now: The list isn't finished. Council members need to see the list before it is made public. The list will be available to the public at the council meeting. 


We strongly suspect the public will not see the list until Tuesday's meeting, which will leave residents no time to carefully study what projects the city intends to spend the taxpayers' money on. 


We further suspect that's just the way the mayor and the council want it.  


The idea that the lists would be made public days in advance of the meeting would mean that citizens could really dig into those plans, study them and, God forbid, have some suggestions, complaints or questions about why some projects are given priority over others. The citizens of Columbus have as much right to this information as the mayor and council. They should be afforded adequate time to dissect the lists and offer their input. 


But that might make for a messy, uncomfortable council meeting. The tender feelings of the mayor and council might be hurt if an informed public is permitted to make its voice heard on this subject. 


So, instead, the mayor and council will hold that information close to the vest, revealing it to the public at the last possible moment. 


It is a shameful, cowardly tactic. 


In other words, it's business at usual.



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