In some ways, it’s understadable that some Rockport officials would want to meet behind closed doors to discuss development plans with Michael Rauseo, who acquired the former Cape Ann Tool Company site last year.
Indeed, after a series of questions about Rauseo’s new project sparked an array of questions and concerns about his installation of 34 boat slips, and the displacement of current town moorings, it’s not surprising that he would welcome a meeting with one representative of several boards in one sitting.
But for Erin Battistelli, who chairs the Board of Selectmen, and single representatives of the Conservation Commission, Rights of Way Committee and Planning Board to meet with Rauseo and some local fishermen last week — but to deny access to the public — sends a very dangerous message. It suggests not only that public input on this project is no longer wanted, but that town officials and Rauseo himself somehow have something to hide. And that’s not the open process residents — or Rauseo – deserve.
The sad part is that, in many ways, this represents another case of business as usual in Rockport — even as the names and characters change on the various town boards. Residents should recall that, in 2010 – when town officials were pushing hard to acquire the former bank building that is now the Town Hall annex — an 11th-hour deal carved out in part by then-selectman Sandy Jacques changed the dynamic of a Town Meeting vote, and led to the meeting’s approval of a deal that bypassed a townwide referendum officials had essentially promised. And the list goes on.
Rockport officials tend to bristle with any suggestion that aspects of their government are tainted by back-room deals. But if they want important projects like the Cape Ann Tool Company revitalization to have credibility, and not be clouded by closed-door talks, they should take a very simple step:
Stop having them.