Friday Catchall: Transparency is ‘for thee but not for me’?

The Friday Catchall:

• DOCU-GATE — In The Daily Courier’s first part (Sunday, Feb. 4) of the “Prescott Docu-gate” series, I was quoted as follows:

“We sought legal advice, and we waited, respecting the rule of law. It has become clear, despite hints and promises of transparency from city officials, nothing is changing — except further dissemination of the documents among area residents. The public has a right to know as much as we can tell them. We have a responsibility to the community.”

Since then many people have asked me what I meant by “hints and promises of transparency from city officials.”

Remember, first, most of our councilors ran their campaigns for office including in their platforms a promise of “more transparency,” to which we’ve seen them hold more executive sessions (closed to the public) than ever.

Further, in one of my monthly meetings with Mayor Phil Goode, he told me he wants the documents to be made public. Goode, who has the power to place something/anything he wants on a City Council agenda for a public vote … has not.

And, when I met with City Attorney Joe Young, to return the leaked documents at his request in mid-January, he said he thought the city manager’s settlement agreement “could be made public.”

I call those strong hints and promises.

Still nothing.

As a result, the Courier — through the attorneys retained by our parent company, Western News&Info, Inc. — sent this week to the city attorney and the mayor a demand letter for the public release of all the documents.

It concluded: “This letter is intended to give the City one further opportunity to release the requested information as Arizona law requires — promptly. Accordingly, WNI requests that you provide copies of the requested information by 5:00 p.m. on February 15, 2024. WNI reserves the right to take any and all further steps it deems appropriate to secure access to the requested information under the Arizona Public Records Law, including the filing of a special action to secure judicial enforcement of its rights.”

As a former councilman said this week: “Now, it seems like transparency is ‘for thee but not for me.’”

The clock is running, folks.

• DOCU 2.0 — As of this writing, the leaked documents — that detail the investigations into the actions of Mayor Goode, Councilwoman Cathey Rusing’s and Airport Director Robin Sobotta’s complaints, as well as now-former City Manager Katie Gregory’s settlement agreement — are not for public consumption.

Not legally, yet.

However, the tally of who has access to them continues to grow. We’re now up to at least a dozen people who we know of — people who have sent them to other members of the community as well as entities in the Phoenix area.

The rule of law should still mean something.

By the way, why is this so important? First and foremost, in these cases, the public is largely unaware of how the city is spending residents’ tax dollars.

That’s a big deal alone.

• SUNDOG — The life-cycle light for the Sundog Connector is now flashing red.

The proposed roadway would run for about 3.5 miles between Prescott Lakes Parkway near the Yavapai County Juvenile Detention Facility roundabout to Highway 69 near the Hobby Lobby store in Prescott Valley’s Crossroads shopping center.

Its “death-nail”: a price tag of more than $150 million.

As a matter of caution, I offer the concept of inflation.

Decades ago I was a reporter in Lake Havasu City, and the school district needed another school (following a period of more than 13% growth). The cost was to be about $7 million, which voters rejected. Two or so years later, school officials secured a voter-approved bond — but the new school’s cost had doubled. (And once built, it opened at capacity.)

Here in Prescott we’ve seen the same thing happen, such as to the often-controversial Big Chino pipeline, which has mushroomed from about $20 million to $40 million to upwards of $200 million.

Why should anyone be surprised that the Sundog Connector, which began in the neighborhood of $30 million to $40 million in 2013, is now pegged at more than $150 million? Go figure, when leadership comes around, it will be even more.

Lesson: when you see the solution to a need, jump on it. If you don’t, that solution’s cost could go through the roof.

• PARTING SHOT — The Daily Courier is all about community. We focus on local news first. At the same time, recall the quote: “The pen is mightier than the sword,” coined by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in the 1800s and repeated more recently by Arizona’s Eddie Basha Jr.

Think about it.

Follow Tim Wiederaenders on Twitter @TWieds_editor. Reach him at 928-445-3333, ext. 2032, or twieds@prescottaz.com.


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