I recently reviewed the materials in my Crown Hill file and noticed the small card which was passed out to the attendees of Crown Hill’s stakeholders input meeting of August 9, 2016.
Crown Hill was in the process of preparing a new Master plan for the cemetery with the assistance of consulting firm Browning Day Mullins and Dierdorf of Indianapolis. So they sought to gather input from the so-called “stakeholders” — their neighbor institutions such as the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Butler University, Christian Theological Seminary, etc. I attended as a representative of the nearby Unitarian church. The general public was not invited to the small gathering — Crown Hill only wanted input from the select group of neighboring institutional “stakeholders” whom they carefully cultivate.
We were warmly received and treated to a light dinner before the presentation and information gathering.
Part of that input process was a SurveyMonkey on-line survey which folks could also access later. It was promoted by the small card. With a graphic splash, it announced:
“Tomorrow’s Crown Hill—A RENEWED VISION FOR INDIANAPOLIS’ OLDEST URBAN GREENSPACE”
I can’t help but feel the perverse irony— Crown Hill touts the “oldest urban greenspace” in its call for public comments. Yet it had just previously sold the 15-acre heart of its old-growth north woods to the National Cemetery Administration for a hardscape columbarium –even though an adjacent open-field was available.
Later, when requested, Crown Hill refused to disclose (to a requesting so-called stakeholder), the specific comments it had received from the group. Why would that input be kept secret?
And later still Crown Hill refused to release the completed, adopted Master Plan which supposedly was based, at least in part, on the stakeholders input. Why would that plan be kept secret?
Yes, Crown Hill is a private cemetery and is not a public agency which would make it subject to the Indiana Access to Public Records Act. Yet it is tax-exempt (and thus it contributes zero to the Federal, state, and local tax base). I believe that too much of what Crown Hill does is anti-public and is done on the sly. As a result, the level of community trust is poor, despite its continuous efforts to push its brand and market its services.