REGISTER VIEWPOINT: P.C. should learn Sandusky's secret lesson

There are those who say Port Clinton learned a salutary lesson from Sandusky's experience with waterfront development, and walked aw
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

There are those who say Port Clinton learned a salutary lesson from Sandusky's experience with waterfront development, and walked away from a bad deal with its own Water Works Park project.

Maybe so, maybe not. But here's another lesson Port Clinton can learn from Sandusky: Keep it open.

Maybe city council members Jeff Morgan and Glenn Chapman are ruffling feathers with their questions about options for the Water Works park project. Maybe they're just saying no, with no counterproposals of their own. But telling them during a public meeting to knock it off and keep the discussion private -- as City Council President Linda Hartlaub has done at least twice in recent weeks -- isn't helping.

Chapman and Morgan aren't happy with the idea of a hotel, indoor waterpark and resort at the site of Water Works Park. The rest of council, and Mayor Debbie Hymore-Tester, favor the idea. It was one of two competing proposals, the choice of which had parts of Port Clinton polarized almost as badly as Sandusky has been over its own Marina District project.

But the last couple of times Chapman and Morgan have tried to question Hymore-Tester or their fellow council people about the choice of developer or the type of project, the response from Hartlaub has been the same: Stop discussing it in public and take it to a private committee meeting.

It ought to be obvious that trust in government erodes on at least one side whenever a question polarizes a community. That's why openness, whenever possible, is key.

Sure, it's going to result in at least one, and probably many more, meetings-from-hell in which acrimonious discussion goes on well into the night. And it's a given that not everyone will leave the meeting happy. But they'll have been heard, or pulled out of the dark.

Maybe Chapman and Morgan are simply being a pain. Maybe they need to float their own idea and sell it to the rest of council.

Maybe it really is a case of "put up or shut up." But being told during a public meeting to take it private looks like a simple case of "shut up."

And that trick never works.