The members of a board slated to review the proposed Chihuly museum, KEXP expansion, Northwest Cultural Museum, and a host of other bids for Seattle Center's Fun Forest site will remain anonymous until after the recommendation process is completed, Seattle Center spokeswoman Deborah Daoust said today. Seattle Center is also not releasing any of the proposals until this Friday*.
"This is a hot button issue," Daoust says, "and we want to protect their privacy."
Daoust confirmed last week that the reviewers would be culled from the Century 21 committee, a group that helped shape the 20-year vision for the Seattle Center in 2008. However, at least three committee members have strong ties to the Chihuly museum project or have publicly spoken out in favor of the project: committee co-chair Jeffrey Wright is the force behind the Chihuly museum, his co-chair Jan Levvy has testified in favor of the project, and committee member Bryce Seidl is the former executive director of the Pilchuck Glass School, which Chihuly co-founded.
Not releasing the names of participant reviewers is a big mistake. This is an issue the public is interested in—we're talking free parks versus free concerts versus free museums versus expensive glass museums—and the Seattle Center should be capitalizing on this public interest in whatever way possible.
As Daoust mentioned, this is a hot-button issue, but let's be realistic—there's no good reason to keep these people secreted from the public. She claims that the goal is to protect them. But no one's issuing death threats, and even though the weather's taken a turn for the better, there aren't any protesters itching to picket outside their meeting rooms.
The reason this issue blew up in the first place is because the Seattle Center and Seattle Design Commission were surreptitiously planning a Chihuly museum without public participation. After mounting pressure calling for a transparent process, the city opened the Fun Forest site up for multiple bids. The public wanted to explore other options before committing to plunk a private Chihuly museum on public land. It stands to reason that the public will also want to know who's deciding what constitutes the best public benefit, where, and why. Shutting down transparency now hardly convinces the public that this is being handled correctly.
*This post has been updated. Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams states here, during a Seattle City Council meeting, that the proposals will be made public this Friday.