EDITORIAL: Leaping to conclusions

Memorial Park budget, timeline information a matter of public interest

When a city appears on the surface to be as politically divided as White Rock, it’s clearly difficult for some not to publicly take sides.

Take White Rock’s Memorial Park, once home to green space, a couple of trees and – depending on the season – sun worshipers, sandwiched in between parking spaces, a tourism kiosk and notoriously malodourous washroom facilities.

Once the city’s plan to renovate the pier-side park area turned the site into a construction zone at the height of this past summer season, supporters of civic leaders and their detractors both made their voices heard online and on the street.

And now that the first steps are taking form – a ‘splash zone’ water feature and ‘flexible plaza space’ – those same commenters are wasting little time in either calling the project a huge success well worth the price or a colossal failure and waste of money.

But unless you’re simply keen to take sides in what has turned into an online tit-for-tat debate, or you have preconceived notions of the parties involved, the reality is it’s likely too early to truly know if you like what the end result will be. Sure you can point to the artist’s conceptions, but as anyone who has ever followed any development from conception to reality knows, the early graphic representations rarely match the finished projects.

Regardless, the jury should remain out on the success of the project itself.

As for the city’s reluctance to grant Peace Arch News’ request to release to the public city emails over a three-month period that relate to the project’s budget and timeline – free of charge under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act – it should be inarguable that such information is in the public interest.

However, in a response to PAN, the city’s manager of property, risk management and FOI considers “public interest” this way: “Given that the records you are requesting represent an incomplete accounting of finances and timelines surrounding the Memorial Park Project, I am not persuaded that its disclosure would result in a public benefit. If anything, it is probably better to avoid potentially misleading anyone trying to draw conclusions from partial information.”

He certainly has a point. Based on the above example, some do form opinions based on incomplete information. The solution, of course, would be to either make all documents public, or to accept that the majority of non-bureaucrats can understand this concept and be trusted with this information, without leaping to conclusions.

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