Thursday, March 15, 2007

Caldwell County's Google deal:

Did it violate the spirit of open meetings laws?
Columnist Melanie Sill quoted Woodrow Wilson a couple of weeks ago in the Raleigh News and Observer:
The very fact that so much in politics is done in the dark, behind closed doors, promotes suspicion. Everybody knows that corruption thrives in secret places, and avoids public places, and we believe it a fair presumption that secrecy means impropriety.

Sill was pimping the N&O's North Carolina Open Government Coalition conference today at Elon College. I'm for open. I don't trust much done in secret. But in some cases, North Carolina law allows for private meetings. In her column Sill refers to our own Caldwell County's Google negotiations:

We need more attention paid in our state to decisions made in secret involving public agencies and money. Case in point: The Google deal.

To recap, Google recently won tax incentives worth up to $260 million over 30 years in exchange for building a 200-job computer center in western North Carolina. State and local officials negotiated the deal behind closed doors under exemptions to the North Carolina Open Meetings Law.

The N&O's Jonathan B. Cox obtained public records as soon as they were available and told people what Google sought and gained and how the incentives stacked up.

Some North Carolinians think the Google incentives were necessary and agree with negotiating the deal secretly. Others find either the incentives or the private negotiations outrageous.

So, someone from Caldwell County let us know what Caldwell residents think of these secret meetings. Were they appropriate and useful or did they just provide for a situation under which local officials could sell the farm without public input or comment?


DianaL said...

I think it was a bad deal for everyone. And it wouldn't have gone through if it hadn't been done in private. Hundreds of millions of tax incentives for 210 jobs?

I've read in several places where "experts say Google won't produce spinoff jobs that officials have touted. Even Google says the center probably won't spin off new industries.

"Andrew Brod, director of the office of business and economic research at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, calls the Google project 'just an air-conditioned warehouse to hold computers.' "

Fluff said...

The jobs are a good thing. The tax breaks are gone. There's nothing to do but make the best of it.