EDITORIAL: Chamber a welcome addition to downtown

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Sometimes you can fall into the best possible outcome at the end of a troubling journey.

As a downtown business and longtime active member of the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce, The Independent is excited about the addition of the Chamber to our new neighborhood. The new home and new focus on a visitors center are further signs Liberty Hill is blossoming.

There has been a buzz around the announcement, though, that the newspaper opposes the plan. That is not true at all. The Independent recently moved downtown to be a part of its growth, and having a place for visitors to come every day to learn more about our great city, its history and what it has to offer is music to our ears.

The Independent supports the Chamber as it does the business community in Liberty Hill, knowing we all succeed together as local business partners.

But we have to remember that a great end result doesn’t always justify the decisions made in the journey to get there. Questions remain about the journey the City Council and Mayor Rick Hall chose to take in bringing the Chamber downtown.

This non-controversial move could have been managed without even a perception of conflict, but it was not.

If a member of the Council – Hall or anyone else – requested that the idea be put on the agenda for discussion and an open community conversation was had on the matter, there is little doubt most in Liberty Hill, including the newspaper, would have applauded the suggestion. The response would have been similar had the Chamber initiated the discussion and asked to be placed on the agenda to consider a partnership.

But it was unclear how the item worked its way onto the agenda on Jan. 13. The intent and parameters were kept secret for a reason yet to be explained. The Independent began asking questions about what would be included in the agreement on Jan. 13. The paper was first told such information would not be available until it was voted on. But even after it was voted on Monday, it took an additional day of emails and phone calls to obtain a copy of the Council-approved document. Why?

The Mayor’s last-second recusal on the matter Monday clouds the situation further. If there is potential for a conflict of interest, shouldn’t Hall have stepped away from the discussion immediately rather than waiting until all the details were ironed out, before making a symbolic declaration to separate himself from the issue?

This issue is not about where the Chamber of Commerce will hang its sign. There is no better place than downtown. The issue is with how the City Council conducts its business, and whether the process is open and honest with the public it serves.

The Independent will enjoy being closer every day to our Chamber of Commerce. But we will also take very seriously our responsibility being across the street from City Hall and continue to report on and raise questions when appropriate on how decisions are made and who they benefit.

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