To the editor:
I attended the March 31 Crestwood Board of Aldermen meeting, where I planned to express my concerns about the secrecy surrounding UrbanStreet Group’s proposal to redevelop the mall.
My prepared comments were preempted by a surprise announcement that aldermen had just met in closed session and voted to make the proposal available to the public in 15 days. However, an earlier vote to release the proposal immediately failed by a 4-3 vote. The breakdown of the 4-3 vote is interesting, as Ward 1 Aldermen Richard Breeding and Darryl Wallach and board President Mike Tsichlis of Ward 4 voted to release the proposal immediately.
Ward 2 Aldermen Mary Stadter and Tim Trueblood, Ward 3 Alderman Bill Boston and Ward 4 Alderman Mike Vincent voted against immediate release. Had Ward 3 Alderman Paul Duchild been able to attend, the vote would have been 4-4.
The charade started when City Administrator Mark Sime claimed document secrecy as he was negotiating the proposal with UrbanStreet, and he had the blessing of City Attorney Lisa Stump.
There is simply no justification for keeping UrbanStreet’s proposal under wraps.
Looking back at all the proposals since the Sam’s Club development, there is no precedent in Crestwood for keeping a proposal secret after the official opening — March 16, in this instance.
I told aldermen that UrbanStreet’s proposal should be a public document; Sime does not have the authority to negotiate it in any event, as that power lies with aldermen; and Stump has been ultra liberal in her interpretation of what constitutes a “public record” under the Missouri Sunshine Law.
So why all the secrecy and the smokescreen? Why do Mayor Gregg Roby and half the board want to keep residents in the dark? And what are they trying so hard to keep secret? Is the month of secrecy worth the rising skepticism and the loss of public trust? Does the proposal lack substance? Is the mayor trying to push the proposal through a Tax-Increment Financing Commission with a minimum of public discussion? It is certainly looking that way.
In any event, it appears the sun will finally shine on UrbanStreet’s proposal on April 15, the day after the April 14 board meeting, which conveniently circumvents another opportunity for public discussion.