[T]o review, in the district administrative offices, current architectural or other drawings of the High School project reflecting changes incorporated or anticipated to be incorporated based on the recent project re-design efforts.At different times in 2010, Mr. Matthews had made three virtually identical requests to review earlier versions of the plans and drawings. Blog-Lebo has obtained copies of these requests. They read as follows:
- January 29: “HS Project Design Development plan and drawings. Request is to review in the District Administration or Facilities office.”
- February 23: “Design development drawings and more recent drawings of the high school project. Request is to review the available drawings in the facilities office.”
- November 24: “Request is to review, in the District administrative office, the current drawings and architectural plans for the high school project.”
Mr. Matthews’s new request, however, the school district has denied. Why? Because, according to the school district, revealing the drawings would be too dangerous.
In a response to Mr. Matthews dated October 26, 2011, the school district claimed that it didn’t have to reveal the drawings because they were exempt from Right-to-Know law for safety and security reasons. Disclosing the drawings, according to the school district, “would be reasonably likely to result in a substantial and demonstrable risk of physical harm to or the personal security of an individual” or “[create] a reasonable likelihood of endangering the safety or physical security of a building...”
Still, even if all the drawings were exempt from Right-to-Know law (which I find hard to believe), that exemption would merely give the school district the option to deny Mr. Matthews’s request. The school district still could have allowed the review (as it had in the past), or it could have allowed a review of only the drawings it didn’t deem too sensitive to disclose. But the school district, for reasons I find hard to fathom, chose to deny a citizen – completely – the right to review something that it seems reasonable for a citizen to review.
Why? I have no idea. Does the school district believe that it’s genuinely dangerous to reveal the redesigned drawings? Even in its own offices? Even to a citizen it’s already shown earlier versions of those same drawings three times?
So why prevent a review of the drawings now? The school board and school administration have both claimed repeatedly that one of their foremost goals for the high-school project has been to be open and transparent with the community. What, then, does the school district hope to accomplish by denying, on grounds that seem specious, an in-office review of the redesigned high-school plans?
I have no idea, but I do find it concerning. If you find it concerning, too, you might want to ask the candidates for school board what they think about the incident before casting your votes on November 8. They all claim to support government transparency, but it’s cases like this that help us determine who actually lives up to the claims.