Zoning no reason for shut doors

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 14, 2008

The issue: Some members of the Selma City Council want to go into executive session to hear about reasons for a request for rezoning.

Our position: The public&8217;s business should be conducted in public.

On Monday night, a gentleman representing a Florida-based business approached the Selma City Council about rezoning some land next to the Winn-Dixie on Dallas Avenue in the city.

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When council members asked for particulars, the gentleman said he was not at liberty to discuss specifics.

At some point during the dialogue between the man and the council, someone on the council suggested an executive session to hear the details.

This move did not do anything to help the credibility of the council.

The Alabama Press Association and Alabama Attorney General Troy King released a booklet a few years ago called, &8220;The Alabama Open Meetings Act: A Manual for Alabama Public Officials.&8221; The booklet is designed as a guideline to the state&8217;s Sunshine Law as passed by the state Legislature in 2005.

Granted, the booklet is not law. It is an explanation of the law by the chief attorney in the state.

Given that, here is how the attorney general explains the nine exclusive reasons for calling an executive session. (1.) Job performance, general reputation and character, physical condition, professional competence and mental health; (2.) Formal complaints or charges against an individual or legal entity; (3.) Discussions with the government body&8217;s attorney, which include pending litigation, controversies not currently being litigated, but likely to be litigated if the body takes a proposed course of action or a meeting with a mediator or arbitrator with respect to any litigation or decision concerning matters within the body&8217;s jurisdiction; (4.) Security plans and measures; (5.) Criminal investigation and the identity of an undercover agent or informer; (6.) Negotiations to buy/sell/lease real property to discuss the consideration the body is willing to offer or accept when considering to buy, sell, lease or exchange real property or when considering the market value of real property (the exception is the body cannot go into closed session if any member of the body has a personal interest in the transaction and attends or participates in the executive session, or a condemnation action has been filed to acquire the property in question; (7.) preliminary negotiations in trade competition when the body is in competition with private individuals or entities, other Alabama government bodies or other states or foreign nations; (8.) Negotiations between the body and a group of public employees; and (9.) discuss and vote upon a public or contested case hearing.

None of these reasons mention businesses saying what they&8217;ll put on a lot or in a building.

The people who live, work and shop in the area have a right to know what businesses will pop up in their neighborhood.

This country was built on public discourse. We should stay close to our foundation.