Guest opinion: Worel’s claims about City Hall transparency don’t align with the facts |

Guest opinion: Worel’s claims about City Hall transparency don’t align with the facts

Becca Gerber and Max Doilney
Park City Council

We would like to address the claims made by Nann Worel in her July 24 editorial in regards to process and transparency for the Main Street murals painted on July 4, 2020, and the proposed soils repository. We struggled with the decision to submit a public letter, but felt it was important to provide our residents with the facts and an accurate account of events.

Nann mentions she was disappointed in the lack of public process in regards to the murals. However, council was following our standard process for this type of activation. For temporary Main Street programming, the activation is usually recommended by the events department and approved by the city manager. These projects are not usually vetted nor approved by City Council, but we are informed in staff communications. On June 18, 2020, council received a communication in our published packet titled “Efforts to Address Racial Inequities and Bias.” One action listed was community art projects supporting artists of color and inclusive messaging. No concerns from the public or council were expressed. On June 30, council was informed via email that four artists had been selected to paint murals with “their interpretation of the racial inequities/Black Lives Matter movement” and we were asked to email any questions or concerns. No one, including Nann, emailed any concerns. The murals (“Peace Love Unity,” “Solidarity,” “Justicia Para Todos” and “Black Lives Matter”) were in line with the theme of racial equity outlined in the staff report. In hindsight, for murals of this size and scope, better communication with HPCA and collaboration with our police department should have been required. But it is not accurate for Nann to claim that there was no public process. We recently approved the HPCA’s Chalk of the Town in a similar manner, and while we now ask the Public Art Board for a review, a public hearing before moving forward was not suggested by anyone.

The soils repository discussion is an example of public process in action. The first meeting regarding uses for Gordo on June 18 of 2020 was properly noticed and the packet was published well in advance of the required notification period. Prior to the meeting, Matt Dias, the city manager, was interviewed about the repository on KPCW. Our open public meeting was viewed by about 400 people on Facebook and Zoom. After a detailed presentation and questions, all councilors gave direction to move forward with exploring the option of a repository at Gordo. The following day, Tim Henney recapped the discussion on KPCW. That direction set forth a series of feasibility studies and the DEQ permitting process, and we were updated publicly throughout the year. It was intended to come back to council for a public hearing and vote. At no time did council or any councilors have secret meetings regarding the repository or anything else for that matter. When the community began receiving robo-calls and texts laden with misinformation, we heard the concern and all of council was in favor of taking 60 days for outreach and education. The outreach period concluded at our July 15, 2021, meeting. Becca suggested we inform the public that we would continue the item to a future meeting after the hearing, as we knew we would receive significant public comment and had a long agenda ahead of us. All of council agreed and Andy Beerman proceeded to follow that direction. For Nann to suggest that Andy curtailed any discussion or direction is not true.

We value our good working relationship with our fellow councilors but, in this case, we felt our integrity had been questioned, events had been skewed and our staff was misrepresented. We find it disingenuous and misleading to the public to suggest that we are not acting transparently. There are no hidden agendas at City Hall, just goals set by our community. We look forward to continuing to serve with transparency and integrity.

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