The Columbus City Council approved spending up to $2.6 million earlier this month for the next phase of the State Street revitalization project.
The project creates a trail link between the city’s east side and downtown, and includes pedestrian streetscape improvements such as 6-foot wide sidewalks, public green spaces and architectural elements.
Moving ahead with this phase — titled 2A — was expected because it follows an orderly progression to complete the project.
One thing that the city did not do in an orderly fashion was the bid process for the work.
The Board of Public Works and Safety approved seeking bids for Phase 2A on March 28, a week before city council gave approval on April 4.
City Councilman Frank Miller, who voted for the project funding at the April 4 meeting, raised a valid point when he said seeking bids for a project before the council had even granted approval created the appearance of project funding being a done deal.
He didn’t allege improprieties, but the concern is understandable. Taxpayers should have reassurances that all dealings by local government officials — especially those regarding finances — are above board. Also, residents who want to express their opinions on issues at government meetings should feel as if their voice matters.
The city’s attorney and redevelopment director cited an aggressive schedule for the project as the reason for seeking bids before funding approval by the city council. While pushing hard to get an important project completed on time is understandable, setting and following a timetable that takes in all needed approvals — in sequence — should not be difficult to do.
Government works best when it follows the most transparent process. All city administrations should strive to go beyond what’s required to ensure that their actions are above reproach.
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