October Editorial Winner

Commission may be making a huge mistake

Mike McCormick, Shawnee News-Star

THE ISSUE: City commission board retreat
OUR OPINION: They should stay in Shawnee
Shawnee city commissioners may be making a huge mistake. They will be in Stillwater tonight and most of Monday for what is being billed as a Board of City Commissioners' retreat.
Ostensibly, they are getting away from Shawnee so they can discuss the capital improvement projects, figuring few if any of their constituents will travel to Stillwater to attend the meeting which begins at 9 a.m. Monday in the Joullian Room at the Atherton Hotel there. So much for their campaign of "Shop Shawnee" while they talk about the public's business basically among themselves.
The public is leery enough of elected officials at most every level of government. Going away to a community more than 5o miles north of here during daytime hours on a workday will limit who can attend. That will do nothing but create even more suspicion.
Even though the Sunday evening portion calls for dining and visiting, and indicates there is no anticipation of business to be discussed or considered during dinner or afterward, a quorum (at least four) is expected.
It's foolish for the public not to think discussion of city business will be discussed at least informally during dinner. This venue provides the commissioners an opportunity to talk about capital improvements or anything else away from the public.
Monday morning's agenda states "Discuss projects previously recommended by Subcommittee, projects that arise in community discussions and projects previously submitted by staff in budget discussion, including whether projects should be submitted to voters or funded in some other way, and, if submitted, in what amounts and how to fund them. No formal action will be taken at this meeting."
What the commission is doing is completely legal. If it weren't, City Attorney Mary Ann Karns would have advised the commissioners they couldn't do it.
The appearance of this stinks, though. The commission, rather than holding this retreat here in Shawnee, wants away from the public the commissioners represent in order to hash out the projects, discuss how they want to fund them and amongst them, without taking formal action, really make the decisions which could impact local residents.
Shawnee's citizenry has the right to hear that discussion without having to travel to another community to do so.
The public's business should be discussed in Shawnee, not in Stillwater on the OSU campus.
And, it should be done at a time when it is much more convenient to afford the opportunity for citizens to attend than 9 a.m. on Monday.
Also, so much for the city emphasizing the need for citizens to spend their money in Shawnee when city officials and commissioners don't seem to have any qualms of going out of town themselves.
That's a little strange, though, considering the city's sales tax receipts have declined the past two months and sales tax revenue is nearly $200,000 off budget for this fiscal year.


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