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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Cleveland's Secret Amazon Incentive Package Has a Stupid Code Name

Posted By on Thu, Jan 11, 2018 at 1:50 PM

  • Photo by Mike Seyfang/Flickr
Hats off to Cleveland.com and columnist Mark Naymik, who continue to badger the various entities involved in Cleveland's secret Amazon proposal. Naymik has been trying, with limited success, to obtain information about incentives offered to Amazon as part of the city's pie-in-the-sky package to lure the so-called HQ2.

Naymik revealed, in a scathing post Thursday, that to keep their Amazon dealings secret, the agencies developed a codename for documents related to them: Conway.

"Maybe they figured [Conway] sounds so boring that no one would bother to pry if they heard the name or saw it stamped on a folder," Naymik wrote. "I would suggest a more appropriate codename would be "Pipe dream." ... The codename is laughable — but the secrecy is not."

Naymik reported that Cleveland.com has filed a complaint against the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) with the Ohio Court of Claims. NOACA produced 18 reports for the Amazon bid but is refusing to share them with Cleveland.com, arguing that the information contained therein constitutes "trade secrets" and is therefore exempt from state public records law.

Cleveland.com called bullshit. Good on them for pursuing these reports, and continuing to shine a light on the secrecy of our public leaders, who, as Naymik noted, strategically placed the information in the hands of the corporate-inclined nonprofits Team NEO and the Greater Cleveland Partnership to circumvent records laws. Shame on them.

The Associated Press attempted to report on various cities' Amazon incentive packages as well. It cited Cleveland, along with Chicago, Las Vegas and more than a dozen others, who all offered similar excuses about why they wouldn't divulge information: that by revealing their incentives, they would somehow be at a competitive disadvantage.

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