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Right-to-Know Prevails: Philly Barnes Plans Released

Yesterday I questioned why the Barnes Foundation’s plans for its Philadelphia facility, filed Friday with the city’s Art Commission, were being withheld from the public in apparent violation of the state’s Right-to-Know Law.

I guess someone had a look at the law and agreed with my interpretation.

This hit my inbox late this afternoon from William Burke of the Art Commission:

The Barnes Foundation has withdrawn its request that submission
materials not be made public prior to the Art Commission meeting.

Regarding your request, we do not have extra copies for distribution to
the public. The materials are available for examination here in the
Commission office.

Okay, I’ll just hop in the car and take that scenic two-hour drive to Philly, so I can inspect the materials. I do have a request in to the Barnes, asking to be sent a copy of the 17-page document that’s now in the hands of the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s architecture critic, Inga Saffron. She’s already posted a brief preview, with images. (She promises a longer story tomorrow.)

Saffron had a slightly different account from Burke’s of how the secret plans came to be released:

After the city received several requests under the Freedom of
Information Act, the law department concluded that the public had the
right to review the documents before the commission convened.

Excellent conclusion. Two days ago, Inga had reported:

In an unusual move, Barnes officials asked the [Art] Commission to
consider the plans “proprietary” and withhold them from public scrutiny
until Wednesday. A city solicitor approved the request.

On what legal grounds did he approve it, we all wonder. It shouldn’t have taken a Freedom of Information request to get the city to do the right thing. This kerfuffle can only reinforce the impression of conspiracy theorists (given full voice in the Art of the Steal documentary, which I’ll eventually quibble with) that the Barnes has friends in high places who are willing to bend proper procedure on behalf of facilitating a Philly facility.

When I know more, you’ll know more. (I suspect Inga will know more before I do.)

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