Des Moines City Councilwoman Linda Westergaard explained Monday why the public has not seen an image of the “eyesore” courthouse that federal officials want to build on the Des Moines River. 

I, along with the Business Record’s Kent Darr and other reporters, requested architectural renderings of the building weeks ago after local leaders said the images were not what they were expecting. 

Some described the proposed $137 million courthouse as an “eyesore.” 

News media requests for renderings of the building have been denied, reportedly on orders from the General Services Administration, which is overseeing the project.

That lack of transparency for a courthouse that will be entirely built with taxpayer funds is bothersome.

At Monday’s news conference, where local leaders stood across from the existing federal courthouse and asked federal officials to back away from the project, I happened to be standing next to Councilwoman Westergaard.

She explained to me that when the General Services Administration held small-group preview sessions for local leaders earlier this year, the local officials asked for, but were denied, paper images of the architectural renderings of the building. All they were allowed to see, she said, were projected images. 

And, she added, before local officials were allowed to see the projected images, cellphones were confiscated so that no one could snap photos of the images.