Anyone who has ever had a math class knows the phrase “show your work.” It is a favorite expression of math teachers in particular because they want to know how you arrived at your answer. A student who guesses the right answer — or cribs it from a classmate — hasn’t learned anything.
That same logic can apply outside the classroom. Take, for instance, the Urban Redevelopment Agency, which is tasked with finding a solution for developing the Oglethorpe block in downtown Brunswick.
At a meeting last July, Brunswick Mayor Cosby Johnson told the URA about the importance of being upfront with the public when it comes to the Oglethorpe block.
“We have to show our work as we go. We can’t just show the answers at the end,” Johnson said.
If this was a classroom, the URA would be getting a failing grade because it has failed to show its work on the Oglethorpe block.
For a quick history, the Oglethorpe block was the site of the historic Oglethorpe Hotel in downtown Brunswick until its demolition in 1958. In September 2001, voters approved a SPLOST to turn the area into a conference center.
The project languished for years until a design was finally approved in 2018. By then, the amount of money it would take to complete the project exceeded the amount of the SPLOST by more than $5 million. The City Commission at the time voted against funding the rest of the project, and voters approved abandoning it in 2021. One of the reasons why past Oglethorpe projects have run aground is because of mismanagement by the URA. It should be noted that no current board member was there when those problems occurred.
At the same meeting where Johnson implored the agency to show its work, URA Board Chairman Michael Butcher said it was “a new day for the URA.” Over the last 10 months, though, the board has talked in public more about branding for the agency than it has proposals for the Oglethorpe block.
That trend continued at Wednesday’s URA meeting, where the agency again only discussed the issue behind closed doors. To be clear, the agency hasn’t violated any laws to our knowledge, as the state allows for plans to be kept under wraps until an official vote is taken to pursue one of the options.
The public, however, deserves to know what the proposals are for the Oglethorpe block considering all the issues that have cropped up in the past. As it stands now, the URA seems determined to not show its work at all.