, Salem, MA

February 1, 2014

Letter: Brimbal Avenue and transparency

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

Many on the Beverly City Council complained about the transparency of the Brimbal Avenue project, as documented in Paul Leighton’s articles. I don’t want to put words in their mouths, but when the City Council president is quoted as saying he wishes the process had been more transparent, I think we have a problem with the process.

Transparency does not mean following the letter of the law, which results in the people being shocked to learn about something the city is doing. The onus is on government to inform the people. I believe that it was predictable how Ward 5 would react to this project, and that’s why they were kept in the dark as long as possible.

I vote for my elected officials to be public servants and not civic leaders. I don’t feel the citizens of Beverly were neglecting their civic duties because they were not aware of the contents of every public hearing. Local government should preemptively address the concerns of residents. Government should seek out and engage dissent prior to action, not act and then deal with the consequences. In a participatory democracy the people are fundamentally responsible for keeping themselves informed. I don’t think, however, that when a situation arises that the people are ignorant about, even through their own fault, that the city should proceed once the people are made aware and object.

I actually like the idea of the project. I think it’s good for the city, and Whole Foods is an excellent employer and I’d much rather shop at a local Beverly store than in Swampscott. Above my personal convenience, however, I want a government that does more than the bare minimum to keep everyone in the loop. I want a government that goes the extra mile to assemble all the players and discuss issues, rather than flexing governmental muscles.

For me this vote is 100 percent about that. If people think that the city did its part to keep everyone informed about this project, then they should vote for it. On the other hand, people who learned about this project in 2013 should vote against it in the hopes of creating a more transparent process. A “No” vote sends a message state wide — the people reserve the right to reverse the decisions of their elected officials when the officials act against the will of the people.

Dan Fishman