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Openness of County Transition Committee Questioned

The voters were clear, last November, in their mandate for reform of Cuyahoga County government. County Administrator James McCafferty and former Pama Heights mayor Martin Zanotti are helping to guide what McCafferty calls a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to change the way county government does business.

The two officials fielded listener questions on The Sound of Ideas, yesterday, and one point of contention arose over the extent to which the public will be involved in the planning process. While emphasizing the importance of public input, Zanotti said that some meetings would have to be private due to sheer logistics.

MARTIN ZANOTTI:It's not practical to expect every single meeting can be open to media questions and those things. Reports will be made, the information will be made public, but there are going to be times times where people actually need to sit in a room of five or six people and just be able to do some work.

When it was suggested that perhaps an unobtrusive web camera could be set-up to broadcast such proceedings on the internet, Zanotti didn't totally dismiss the idea, but noted that some of those meetings will involve sensitive issues, such as the elimination of some county jobs and that it would be important to maintain some level of privacy for those affected. Former county commissioner and state lawmaker Tim McCormack has a different take.

TIM McCORMACK: If you're conducting the public's business, then the meeting should be open.

McCormack was on the Judiciary committee that wrote Ohio's Sunshine law for public meetings, and while acknowledging that there may be some exceptions when it comes to people's privacy, he says there's a larger issue of regaining the public's trust in government, across the board.

TIM McCORMACK: The roughest days may be ahead of us, in terms of federal government action, and the erosion of confidence is ahead of us in even a more significant way. So, now is the time to draw just the opposite by restoring some confidence.

David C. Barnett was a senior arts & culture reporter for Ideastream Public Media. He retired in October 2022.