It’s even worse than I thought.
When the new Thrive chapters were completed, there was no Council press release, no official email notification, and no notice on Council social media. It’s as if they didn’t want anyone to know about it.
Residents had to directly enquire to learn that the chapters were posted to a website. I know of one resident who found out about the chapters this way on September 16. On September 20, the Council staff packet containing the new chapters for the September 22 work session was posted. This was the first opportunity many had to see the new chapters–two days before the meeting.
Yet the Coalition for Smarter Growth letter sent in by Jane Lyons is dated September 16 and the Greater Greater Washington letter sent in by Dan Reed is dated September 19. These two lobbyists are closely allied with Thrive supporters on the both the Planning Board and the Council with both having privileged access throughout the Thrive’s heavily skewed process.
Council staff were not as forthcoming with other residents. When a resident asked Pam Dunn, a Council staffer reviewing the new chapters, when citizens could see them, they were told: “There wont [sic] be a new final draft prior to the first worksession. The new chapters will be included in each staff report for the worksession that will review it (posting 5 days prior to the Council session).” No mention was made of posting them prior to the work session, consistent with radio silence when they were posted—except to CSG and GGW. The packet only appeared two days before the work session.
When the same person asked if there would be a public hearing, Dunn told her: “There will not be another public hearing.” No mention was made that the resident could nevertheless send in comments despite the lack of a formal hearing.
The Department of Environmental Protection letter on the environment chapter was submitted only September 22—the day of the work session and was not even included in the staff packet or addendum—so residents had no advance chance to see it.
It’s clear that the Council had no interest in anyone weighing in on Thrive who was not fully on board with its pre-determined agenda. This included ignoring numerous comments that were submitted previously but never addressed or discussed by the Council. It also included ignoring even recent comments made to the Council, such as the letter sent by 32 Montgomery-based communities and organizations (also embedded below).
This process makes a complete mockery of the ideas of transparency and inclusion that should be at the heart of any public process, let alone one where racial equity and social justice have been placed at the forefront. Expecting clairvoyance about the availability of materials unless you’re an insider and ignoring submissions from all except for two lobbyists is the opposite of an open and equitable process.