OUR VIEW: Mayor Sebert, newspaper disagree on role of government, mediaDuring his tenure, Lou Sebert has denied The Daily Republic’s requests to receive the agendas of the city’s many subcommittees and boards. He has cited a legal opinion from the city attorney, who claims the subcommittee meetings are immune from the state’s open-meetings laws.
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
Mayor Lou Sebert is upset that some local tree-lovers have spoken against a potential improvement project at Lake Mitchell. The project is a proposed new boat ramp and parking lot near the Sportsmen’s Club.
In a story published Saturday in The Daily Republic, and in a letter to the editor in the same edition, some people voiced concern about a group of mature trees that may have to be removed if the project is constructed (the story also included comments from project supporters).
For the sake of disclosure for this editorial, The Daily Republic tends to be in favor of the boat-ramp project, provided the public is given its chance to fight for saving a certain number of the trees in question.
Either way, fast forward to Monday night. At the end of a nearly five-hour Mitchell City Council meeting, Sebert said the criticism of the boat-ramp plan was premature because the project is still an “internal” idea without a funding source.
The mayor then directed a comment toward the project opponents, along with his favorite target, this newspaper:
“They go to the paper to solve all their problems, rather than go to the board meeting.”
The “board” is apparently the Park and Rec Board, or the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee, or both.
Sebert may again be upset that an idea leaked out of City Hall, potentially derailing it before it could be approved. This has happened in the past. When concerned readers come to us — oftentimes as a last resort — we do listen and often, we do report on their issue. It’s a practice that’s been difficult to digest for some politicians and bureaucrats who would rather the newspaper simply serve as the public-relations arm for local government, readers be damned.
In recent years there has been a definite disconnect regarding public meetings and the actual public’s ability to attend them. During his tenure, Sebert has denied The Daily Republic’s requests to receive the agendas of the city’s many subcommittees and boards. He has cited a legal opinion from the city attorney, who claims the subcommittee meetings are immune from the state’s open-meetings laws.
Even if those subcommittees are indeed immune from standard open-meetings protocol — which we don’t believe to be true — we’ve never understood why the public can’t be fully informed of their scheduled times and full agendas.
It’s no wonder people aren’t attending those meetings, and likewise, it’s no wonder people get discouraged by the process and come “to the paper to solve all their problems.”