Update: DavidsonNews.net is now reporting that when confronted with citizens and reporters, NCDOT caved and opened up the meetings after asking the electeds present. NCDOT apparently now claims they never intended to have these be "closed" - a claim that is simply not credible after seeing correspondence from local officials involved.
Chalk this up as a small victory for open government!
Thanks go out to CarolinaPlottHound.com for posting this story from aShortChronicle and making it the fastest rising post in our site's history. We work here to have an impact on transparency in local government. If that work had anything to do with this outcome, it is something we are more than happy to continue doing.
aShortChronicle has learned of "private meetings" scheduled between LKN town officials, NCDOT, and I77 HOT Lanes contractor, Cintra. These meetings will occur tomorrow, Thursday 8/21, in Mooresville (10am) , Davidson (1pm) and Huntersville (3pm).
Davidson Public Information Officer, Christina Shaul, confirmed that these meetings were set at the request of NCDOT, and they will be closed to the public. She also indicated that town officials are working to schedule some more open meetings on the subject.
The Thursday meetings appear to be deliberately coordinated to avoid State open meeting requirements by limiting the number of elected officials from each town at each meeting. This avoids any of the elected boards from having a quorum at any one meeting - something that would require them to be open to the public and the press. As of this writing, there is nothing on the Town of Davidson website announcing these meetings will even occur.
This tactic has become an unfortunate pattern on a project plagued by poor communication with the public. It was first used last year when the project was in earlier stages. Now, for some reason it is being used after the "sale" has supposedly been made. Why?
It also raises questions about who is in charge here. Who makes the real decisions about how our public discourse will be conducted? Are our elected officials running things, or are the unelected bureaucrats at NCDOT? It would appear to be the bureaucrats.
We've previously and repeatedly been told that Cintra will eventually hold public hearings on toll rates. Of course, that will only happen once it is too late to turn back.
In the meantime the public will continue to be treated like mushrooms - kept in the dark and fed only fully digested compost.
Bonus Observation: Not all of our region's officials believe keeping these things hush-hush is the right thing to do or in the public interest. If they did, this information would not have come out. Now that it is out, will the "real" media do anything about it? We here at aShortChronicle are not holding our breath.