COMMUNITY VOICES: Time for more transparency in Littleton

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By Carol Brzeczek

The Colorado Open Records Act provides citizens with a process to gain access to public records. Under Colorado law, information packets no longer constitute “work product” under CORA once they “are produced and distributed to the members of a public body for their use or consideration in a public meeting.”

On June 19, I requested, through CORA, a document that was distributed to the board members during the meeting of Littleton’s urban renewal authority, known as LIFT. I made the request after being denied public access by the chair, Jim Taylor. Taylor was quoted in your paper: “The commissioners ought to have time to see what’s in the notebooks first. … The information could change, and then it would be inaccurate.” Taylor might want to have more time with the documents before the public, and the press for that matter, have access to them, but the law says the public deserves and has a right to know what is in the documents.

Taylor’s logic that “information could change” and therefore the documents should not be made public could be used at every step of the way, with the public being denied access to the documents until they are final and no longer at risk of changing. Only that would be too late for the public to provide input. It is because of this precise attitude that the Open Records Law exists so government can’t suppress public information.

Taylor also stated that those of us showing an interest are “generally against most anything the city wants to do and what the urban renewal authority is trying to do.” I am part of a group that does pay attention to what our local government does, and we have been against a $24 million bond issue to remodel our city center; we opposed a food tax; we opposed de-Brucing Littleton; we opposed a 24/7 Walmart butting up to South Platte Park; we opposed secret council meetings; and we opposed zoning changes when property owners around the change were in opposition. What Taylor failed to state is that each of the matters we have opposed also has been rejected by Littleton voters. So while we have been in opposition to ideas that Taylor supports, it would seem that

Taylor is the one out of step with the community.

As for “what the urban renewal authority is trying to do” and residents using “incomplete information to paint an inaccurate picture of LIFT’s work” — well, that could easily be resolved if Taylor would provide the public documents so we have complete information. How can he criticize us for inaccuracies when he denies us the information?

Back to my CORA request. I finally gained access to the documents on July 7 — almost two weeks after the law requires the request to be fulfilled. The documents I sought are the survey reports provided by the consultant to LIFT that identifies all properties in the 744 acres of Littleton that have been designated as blighted. Property owners have the right to know why their property has been blighted. The last urban renewal project in Littleton blighted and condemned 100 percent of the properties in the survey area. The documents can be viewed at littletonviews.wordpress.com.

Carol Brzeczek, a resident of Littleton since 1963, is a former Littleton school board member and an active member of the Sunshine Boys working for open and transparent government.