Editorial: Open approach

Providing more information about the application for a major arts grant could help build confidence and cooperation in the east Lawrence neighborhood.

Maybe east Lawrence leaders have no reason to be concerned about plans to create a new arts corridor on Ninth Street, but withholding information about the grant that initiated the project only makes residents wonder what the Lawrence Arts Center may be trying to hide.

Susan Tate, executive director of the Arts Center, said she has released most of the application that attracted a $500,000 grant from ArtPlace America, but has declined to release — even to city officials — some key elements, including the project budget and timeline and information about the leadership team. Tate argues that releasing that information could compromise the identity of private donors to the arts center and provide too much information about the salaries of some arts center employees.

Those are valid, but not insurmountable, concerns. Donor names could be redacted; donations could be identified as “anonymous” or combined in a way that shields individual donation amounts. Salaries also could be grouped so that individual salaries were shielded. And why would you be unwilling to release information about the leadership team?

It’s particularly interesting that the full grant application hasn’t been released even to city officials or the city-appointed board charged with recommending a consultant for the project — and even more interesting that city officials are OK with that situation. The city has preliminarily agreed to spend about $3 million of public money on infrastructure and other improvements to facilitate this project and it doesn’t want to see the budget or the timeline for its completion?

It seems there must a reasonable middle ground on releasing information on this grant application. It’s good that east Lawrence residents care enough about their neighborhood to be concerned about what the ArtPlace planners have in mind for Ninth Street. This is their home, and Arts Center leaders need to recognize that this project will go far more smoothly if they are working with east Lawrence leaders instead of against them.