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Tales from a small town

Short stories about life in a small town. Non-fiction. Great reading.

Monday, November 28, 2005

the editorial part III

They printed my editorial in today's paper. It was slightly edited from the original. In red, are the parts that got left out in publication. In blue, is what was printed.

Regarding the recent article in the Courier about the city of North Baltimore kicking around the idea of creating an economic development organization.

Wait: before you stop reading this because you think economic development is a boring subject, please stop to consider that if you’re a blue-collar worker or a small business owner, how well your area’s economic development agency does their job, will affect your quality of life just as much as your credit rating.

You see, there’s a little secret that people who run economic development agencies don’t want the general public to know: as long as they get 51% of their annual budget from membership dues (private sources) they’re not subject to sunshine laws. That means they can receive their annual grants from the Ohio Department of Development, not to mention generous annual support from county and city funding – all sources of our tax dollars – and they don’t have to tell anybody about anything they do - or don’t do. That means they’re under no obligation to tell anyone which companies have approached them about locating here, or why those companies were turned away.

Economic development agencies who get 51% of their funding from member dues, are very picky about who they allow in their territory; and the reasoning behind who they turn away – and why - represents the best interests of their dues-paying members: not our interests. They have the ability to turn prospective companies away, because they decide who pays local real estate taxes, and who doesn’t. It doesn’t seem right, but that’s how it is, whether we like it or not.

If the city of North Baltimore forms an economic development agency, the Ohio Department of Development will be obligated to tell them which companies are thinking about locating in their area. If North Baltimore’s economic development agency gets 51% of their annual budget from taxpayer sources, they’ll be subject to sunshine laws, which means they’ll be obligated to tell us who is thinking about locating there. Let’s hope that’s the case, so the veil of secrecy can be finally lifted.

Not too bad, if you ask me. At least it got printed. People at work were telling me: "I hope your life insurance policy is paid up if you'll be writing more stuff like this in future!" I hope it's just joking around. Not to say that those people were threatening me directly - they're my co-workers. They're just afraid that I may be opening my mouth too much about this. There's alot of money at stake here.

Oh well.