City should be cautious with meetingsPublished 12:04am Thursday, March 28, 2013
We applaud the City of Natchez for working hard to finally do something about the city’s blighted properties.
The effort is years overdue.
Charging ahead with the creation of a new court to handle unkempt property complaints also was appreciated, even if the original plan had to be modified to conform to the law.
Further, we are thrilled the city is working to transform unused and in many cases unsightly properties to create new housing for residents.
The city’s plans to partner with a company to build out 60 to 100 new houses seem ambitious, but potentially achievable.
But we urge city leaders to use a little more common sense on the matter.
For the city aldermen to have a closed-door, executive session meeting with would-be housing developers at a casino just doesn’t look proper.
Meeting in a location other than the usual, public facility seems odd, and claiming executive session privilege using the exemption for purchase, sale or lease of lands seems a stretch.
The spirit of that exemption is to prevent the city from being at a competitive disadvantage in a negotiation, which doesn’t appear to be the case in this situation.
Further, having developers buy the aldermen dinner during the meeting makes the partnership seem even sketchier. Can the favor of an alderman be bought with a good steak? We don’t think so, but for aldermen to put themselves in a position to have the question even asked isn’t smart.
Was it legal for aldermen to have a work session in a room at Magnolia Bluffs Casino and then go into executive session?
Perhaps it was, but we cannot imagine why details of a public partnership for handling public properties would need to be handled behind closed doors.
The city seems to be becoming less transparent with each passing day. The public deserves to have a direct seat at the table of any discussions dealing with public property or money.
The public was definitely not at the free dinner table at the casino Monday night.