If the Kent County News had its way, a trial-by-jury would be required to give updates on the deliberations of the Waterfront Task Force, since public funds are now involved.
The Waterfront Task Force was formed a year ago this month to create a vision of the Chester River waterfront that serves the common interests of Washington College and the town, the two biggest landholders along the Chester.
KCN’s recent analysis last week, “Who pays? For what?” lambastes the task force’s attempts to secure a modest $8,000 from the town to match an $8,000 grant from Maryland’s Department of Business and Economic Development. The town has to win the DBED award before it would provide the matching funds, according to a recent vote of the citizen-elected town council.
The “analysis” is an extraordinary example of sensationalism that national media chains encourage their reporters to engage in — but this has no place in Chestertown.
Rather than allow the all-volunteer task force to complete its work on its own terms, make its recommendations, and then let the public debate begin, as it should be, with the Chestertown Town Council and the Board of Governors of Washington College, KCN has preempted the work of the task force by alluding to a deliberate attempt to keep the public in the dark.
“Its meetings have all been closed; its goals have never been clearly explained,” KCN writes, demanding that the volunteer task force chair, John Moag, answer questions. “When will the plan be presented? Has the report been shown to the county’s economic development director or anyone else? When is the meeting with state officials, which Moag said Dec. 2 was delaying the finished report?”
And finally, to incite paranoia, the article ends with, “Despite multiple postponements of the June report, Moag has yet to appear in person before the council.”
This kind of public harassment of a town volunteer should not be tolerated. Mr. Moag, the highly-regarded architect of Baltimore’s successful effort to find a home for the Ravens, is the kind of professional able to withstand this kind of unnecessary aggravation. But it also seems to be a disturbing new trend to diminish the trust and good faith this community, including its media, should have in the volunteers our town recruits for these extraordinarily time consuming research efforts.
In short, let the Waterfront Task Force complete their work. It should continue to meet in private, behind closed doors, with no sense of obligation or responsibility other than to successfully present their findings when they are good and ready to do so.
Upon delivery of those recommendations, it will then be the responsibility of the press to demand transparency.