By Rodger Digilio
September 12, 2008
The Cameron Station Community continues to be concerned and upset about the new Ethanol Transloading Facility established in their neighborhood in April by Norfolk Southern Corporation on railroad-owned property.
The Cameron Station Civic Association requested and received thousands of documents from the City under the Freedom of Information Act. In the minds of Cameron Station residents, however, the material raises more questions then it answers. The information clearly documents the high levels of concern among Fire Department personnel, including the Fire Chief, as to safety issues and clearly indicates that members of the Planning Department staff, among others, wanted the citizens to be informed long before the facility opened.
Despite all the concern, upper levels of city management apparently did not inform the City Council or the public.
The Cameron Station Civic Association has now requested that City Council authorize an investigation into the transloading facility by an individual independent of the city government. They want to know why all these concerns did not translate into some kind of action and why council and the public were not informed until long after the facility began operation.
At its meeting this week, council attempted to take up the issue of an independent investigation in a closed meeting. Councilman Krupicka objected, and after a spirited exchange council voted 4-3 to hold the discussion in public at a subsequent meeting. We strongly endorse this decision.
When citizens are concerned that they are not receiving the complete story, it is critical to hold the discussions in public. It is always easier for public officials to hide behind closed doors. That is why there is a Freedom of Information Act which limits the reasons for holding closed meetings.
There is absolutely nothing in the discussion of an independent inquiry that falls under the reasons for closing a meeting to the public and the press.
Right now the focus of citizen ire appears to be top levels of the city administration. They need to be held accountable for their actions or inactions. City Council does not need to tar itself with this brush. They do not need to make this situation worse by shunning the public.
The questions before council are simple. Has enough information been revealed so that they and the community can assess the situation properly, or is more needed? If more is needed, will a city staff-led investigation have sufficient credibility, or is an independent investigator needed? Most important, what outcomes are desired? What will be improved in the future by doing this? What other uses will the revealed information have? Will it all contribute to a more positive future for the city?
It is right that these questions be debated by the council in public. Thanks to Mr. Krupicka and three other members, it will be.