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Trib editorial: Honor ruling to release Amazon HQ2 bid

| Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, 11:33 a.m.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, front, with Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, front, with Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

The state Office of Open Records ruling that the Pittsburgh region's bid for Amazon's second headquarters must be made public is a victory for taxpayers' right to know what incentives offered to the e-commerce giant would cost them if the bid succeeds. Now taxpayers must hope that victory's not short-lived.

The City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County were given 30 days to release the submitted bid publicly or appeal the OOR ruling to Allegheny County Common Pleas Court. Leaders of the bid-assembling “PGHQ2” team had said previously they'd fight to keep the bid secret — and their refusal to release it prompted media outlets including the Trib to appeal to the OOR. But in response to the OOR ruling on WTAE-TV's appeal, PGHQ2 says it wants the city and county to pursue an appeal.

The OOR ruling, citing the state's Right-to-Know Law, refutes the PGHQ2 “cone of silence” rationale. It says what's been concealed constitutes neither trade secrets — because the city and county aren't engaged in commerce, but in trying to lure Amazon to engage in commerce — nor confidential proprietary information, because that public-records exemption applies only to information they submit to an agency, not to information they submit to Amazon.

Continuing to fight transparency and the public's right to know would be ill-advised for the city and county. And with details of some other regions' bids already known, openness outweighs ongoing secrecy.

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