This is the Indy's "Across the Fence" column by Kathie Greer for this week:
Across The Fence
A jerk in
I set out earlier this week to educate myself on an important local issue.
Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone #1 is a program designed to promote new businesses, residences and revenues in a section of downtown
Many of my friends and acquaintances — most with a definite for or against point of view — have discussed various aspects of the plan. I’ve listened intently from the middle of the fence, not feeling like I know enough about the plan’s particulars to jump in either direction.
As a resident of
My informational quest led to elected officials and staff members in city and county offices. I also prevailed upon my contacts within the community for their input and perspective on the financing plan for TIRZ.
Potter County Commissioner Manny Perez and County Judge Arthur Ware are on opposing sides when it comes to the county’s participation in the TIRZ. Perez’ complaints center on the weight of the county’s investment and return versus the city’s portion. Ware believes growth and productive enterprise in downtown
Even though they disagree with each other, both men were open, forthcoming and polite in their discussions with me. Even better, each man willingly referred me to other people they felt were well informed on this subject.
That’s the response I’ve usually gotten from the elected representatives and staff members I’ve worked with over the years. Those past fact-finding missions have included people from the basic services, like water and sewer, all the way to
Imagine my surprise when Potter County Commissioner Joe Kirkwood was neither polite nor professional. Not only was he less than forthcoming, I don’t know if he was honest.
I told him, when he answered his cell phone, that I was looking for information about TIRZ. His immediate response was that it must the day for TIRZ discussions because he’d just left a meeting with other elected officials where they had discussed the issue.
That struck me as rather strange. And my suspicions mounted when he refused to tell with whom he’d been speaking or the nature of those discussions.
My knowledge of the Open Meetings Act is that private meetings of elected officials are forbidden on just about everything except personnel, contract negotiations, litigation and other specific matters. And even legal executive sessions must be announced to the public.
Things deteriorated further when I asked
No solid information or facts about the plan were presented. He did, however, profess his objectivity repeatedly while simultaneously telling me the whole thing would only make the rich richer and that it wouldn’t help any other residents of
One point where I might have found agreement with him was on the issue of fair representation between the county and the city on the TIRZ board. But as that discussion led to the committee the county commissioners have appointed to study the matter, another red flag flew in my face.
He said that he knew people from the
"I don’t want you lobbying those people,” he told me.
Wait a minute.
Since when are asking questions and seeking information considered lobbying tactics?
Furthermore, the names of those committee members are a matter of public record. Doesn’t Commission Kirkwood know that?
And as a resident and taxpayer in
Bill Sumerford, a
Sumerford also told me that even though
It looks to me like
It’s evident he’s also one of those elected officials who doesn’t believe in the public’s right to know.
I still haven’t made up my mind on whether TIRZ, as it was initially structured, is the best plan for
The one thing I do know is that