Public Has Right to Know About Transportation Project Partnerships, Say Groups
AUGUSTA – The ACLU of Maine and the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) today urged the Transportation Committee to support a bill to protect the public’s right to know about transportation projects, such as the East-West highway and corridor, which are proposed as public-private partnerships. Under current law, materials used or submitted in connection with a proposal for a public-private partnership transportation project are kept secret. LD 721, “An Act to Provide Transparency in Public-Private Partnerships for Transportation Projects,” would make those materials public records. LD 721 is sponsored by Rep. Jeff McCabe (D-Showhegan).
“Decisions about who the government enters into partnership with and how they spend our taxpayer money are certainly matters of public importance,” said Shenna Bellows, executive director of the ACLU of Maine. “The public’s right to know is essential to democracy, and it is the only way we can hold our government accountable. Too much secrecy paves the way for bad decisions.”
Of particular interest, the bill would give the public access to any records and plans concerning the proposed East-West highway project, which would involve both private and public funding.
“A public-private project like the proposed East-West highway and corridor could harm our rivers, streams, and wildlife; our conserved, rural, and forested lands; and our communities,” says Lisa Pohlmann, executive director of NRCM. “It would also cost Maine taxpayers a bundle if the private partner goes bankrupt. Given these potential serious impacts, information about the proposed project should not be kept secret; the public has a right to know.”
The text of the bill and more information is available here.