One of the positive hallmarks of the sordid saga of the ill fated Fort Sheridan golf course has been a high level of transparency and public engagement as the Lake County Forest Board has moved glacially through its decision-making process. In fact, “process” has been the driver of public resolution and rides shotgun with transparency. Why else would 3 County Commissioners opposed to golf at Fort Sheridan vote counter-intuitively and create the slim majority vote necessary to go forward with the golf course? Because they supported a process.
So it was disturbing to a watchful public when Lake County published a meeting event and then moved it without public notice. So much for the process. Some will quickly rattle their Open Meeting sabers. Others will say that terms and conditions permitted this secretive change of venue. But that’s not the point.
The point is that an interested public has a right to follow a public issue. This is not new news. And there are laws in every state that serve to bring government out of the now-smoke-free backrooms and place it squarely in the spotlight for those who like to see how sausage is made.
Seven interested and concerned people showed up at Fort Sheridan at 10 AM November 15 for a meeting called by the Lake County Forest Board. As we have been for several years now, we were there to watch and listen. The group was split among golf course supporters (1) and open space/public access supporters (6). But no one from the Lake County Forest Board or staff showed up. Instead, the meeting had been moved without public notice to Ryerson Conservation area. We’d been ditched.
Was this a public meeting? Was notification of intent to attend a prerequisite for getting the secret password to receive the meeting location token? Was Lake County suddenly oblivious to the public interest engendered by this controversial issue for over 3 years now? Or was our government hiding?
Transparency has been obscured. The process has taken a hit. We are only left with questions. Who did attend the meeting? What unforeseen circumstance caused the meeting to be moved from its publicly announced location? What other information in the County’s request for proposal for a golf course at Fort Sheridan was modified besides the meeting location? And why is Lake County government running from its public?