In the Jan. 16 edition of The City Sentinel, I reported on the contents of an executive summary of the report listed above.
In my capacity as associate publisher of the newspaper (and as bureau chief for Watchdog.org and editor of CapitolBeatOK, online news organizations), I requested a copy of the full report, in an email to the media relations director of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. When arrangements were made for me to visit the Chamber’s office to read the report, I repeated my hope that I would pick up a copy of the report.
In emails and in person, I explained to the staff of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce that I considered the report a matter of great public interest. With anticipated construction of a convention center in the news, the report’s finding are of interest to the public. Circulation of ballot initiative petitions that could slow down or end the planning process are other reasons the report’s contents are of broad community interest. Use of the report by members of the City Council and City staff in guiding public policy also indicates to me that the matter deserves and will gain broad consideration.
I continued to ask to take the report with me, copy it and return it. The Chamber staff replied the report could be read in one of their offices but that I could not copy it or take it with me. I asked if I could have it as a business Chamber of Commerce member (through The City Sentinel) but was told no.
Politely but specifically, I pressed on the issue.
Chamber staff explained their institution’s position: The report was paid for privately. It includes information some might deem sensitive. The Chamber staff indicated that some convention planners and city staff from other communities participated in the analysis (by Conventions Sports & Leisure International) without being identified, and remain sensitive about disclosure of information in the report. I said I would report the contents as accurately as possible, even if that meant I had to write down (long hand) every word of pertinent sections.
The Chamber staff’s position remained: that I not take it out of the Chamber’s offices.
I explained that having to read it, come back, read it again, leave and return (I had three “sittings” with the report) was inconvenient and challenging. (I rarely can anticipate all the events of any given day in my work.) The “come and go” nature of schedule (and having to delay those visits to the Chamber) is an inevitable aspect of the work I do covering national, state and local policy issues, entirely predictable in advance given the strictures placed on my access to the document.
Consistently polite and friendly, the Chamber staff could not be persuaded to let me read the document at home or in my Capitol office. Nor would they allow me to copy it for accuracy’s sake, and return it.
Having previously reported on the contents of the executive summary of the convention center analysis, the story or stories I am now writing will distill as accurately as possible the contents of the full report. I apologize in advance if ever a word or comma is missing from direct quotes.
I may return to the Chamber’s offices, if needed, for a fourth or fifth reading of the material.