Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Taxpayers expose State Archives Division’s shroud of secrecy over questionable plan for new building

See Below:

Whether you're for the new building or not, whether you're a Republican, Democrat or Libertarian, a conservative or libral, this sort of secrecy has absolutely no place in OUR government. This is exactly the type of thing the rally last Wednesday was about.

Peoples Advisory

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Clarke Kahlo, Canal Park Advocates
April 1, 2009 (317) 283-6283

INDIANAPOLIS—This April Fools Day, Canal Park Advocates calls on the Indiana State Archives division of the Indiana Commission on Public Records, and the related Friends of the Indiana State Archives advocacy group, to fully disclose the public records pertinent to the need for, feasibility of, and alternatives to their heretofore secret plan to build a new state archives building on the publicly-owned 1-acre site on the downtown canal just north of Ohio Street. There is no legitimate reason to try to make fools of either the taxpaying public or of the proponents of a competing potential use for the site, as the Archives representatives are apparently attempting to do.

“Some Archives employees and Friends of the Indiana State Archives, a non-profit organization, have taken great pains to keep secret their plan to build a new building on this site,” said
Clarke Kahlo, a park advocates representative.

“We’ve been working very hard to have an open and public conversation with all officials who might have an interest in the ultimate use of the property. We’ve approached personnel from the Governor’s office, White River State Park Commission, the Indiana Finance Authority, the Department of Natural Resources’ Division of State Parks and Reservoirs, the Indiana State Library, the State Judiciary and the City’s parks and development departments. We also approached several board members of the Friends group (by happenstance), and several state Senators and Representatives. However, for well over a year, as we now know, many of these people have been working on, or at least cognizant of, a secret plan to build a new archives building on the site. Not one of these officials provided the courtesy of offering a heads-up or other notice so our group could be apprised, and so public scrutiny could rightfully occur. Fortunately, we recently discovered that the building plan was quietly being shepherded through the legislature, buried in the House Bill 1001, the House budget bill. We learned this just in time to testify to the Senate Appropriations Committee on March 26th that the archives plan was being kept a virtual secret from the public and would be a poor use of the key downtown site.”

Unfortunately, Canal Park Advocates has been unable to review the adequacy of the state’s needs analysis or feasibility studies because those materials have not been disclosed by the Indiana Commission on Public Records. In response to its March 12th public records request, the group was advised, by Director Jim Corridan on March 19th, that the ICPR would provide any pertinent records on or before April 30th. That date would of course be too late to be of any use in the legislative deliberations—the legislature adjourns on April 29th.

Agencies and their paid employees hold a position of public trust. That trust is violated if secrecy is used to hide self-serving agency actions, especially, as in this case, on important community issues and large expenditures.

Agency secrecy diminishes good governance. The City of Indianapolis re-experienced this embarrassing lesson in November 2007 when its secret plan to build a $2 million elevator/waterfall at the Ohio Street basin of the downtown canal was discovered and shown to be unnecessary, and a demonstrable boondoggle, based on Canal Park Advocates’ comprehensive public access facilities inventory.

Canal Park Advocates believes that our state officials should perform according to a much higher standard of ethical performance than reneging on a promise of a public hearing (IFA, 8-07) and hiding the ball from citizens and taxpayers and, in the case of the proposed archives building, trying to fool them by slipping a hidden provision into the budget bill.

The section of the House budget bill proposing funding for architectural/engineering plans for a new archives building at the indicated controversial location should be either removed entirely by the Senate or amended to provide for full public disclosure and thorough review before any funding authorizations are considered.

“Here in America, town halls and village greens helped shape the ideals of democracy. Insofar as we have kept these ideals alive, we have done so by creating arenas where all citizens can enter and all voices can be heard.”
Scott Russell Sanders, A Conservationist Manifesto, 2009

“The liberties of a people never were, nor never will be secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.” Patrick Henry

As Julia Vaughn of Common Cause Indiana reminded the audience at the March 25th Taxpayers’ Revolt at the Statehouse rally, “Honest Abe Lincoln, beloved former Hoosier, famously quipped that ‘You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.’”

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1 comment:

Patriot Paul said...

Where was that fabulous political reporter to the Statehouse, Jim Shella of WISH-TV 8, who is supposed to unearth what goes on there? Never mind, that would take more that a faux reporter really looking at what goes on. Must be part of the Indiana Week In Lack of Review!