The republican principle demands that the deliberate sense of the community should govern the conduct of those to whom they entrust the management of their affairs; but it does not require an unqualified complaisance to every sudden breeze of passion or to every transient impulse which the people may receive from the arts of men, who flatter their prejudices to betray their interests.
These comments pertain to recent developments changing the organization of the Lee County Economic Development Corporation (LCEDC) and the trailing controversy that has found its place in the local fishwrap, in Tuesday night’s Sanford City Council Meeting, and on local conservative blogs.
First, I should like to commend the four county commissioners who boldly voted to re-constitute organized county activity related to taxpayer-subsidized economic development under direct county control, effective December 31, 2011. It was high time that taxpayers could enforce accountability for the activities of the LCEDC. Now they shall have precisely that outcome.
I have heard the speculation that the action of the county commissioners was either illegal or ill-advised by the “institute of government,” as exclaimed publicly by Councilman Poly Cohen among others. To put it politely, Mr. Cohen needs to do his homework. The “School of Government” to which Mr. Cohen probably was referring, has prescribed three general forms of acceptable organization for an EDC, and Lee County commissioners have called for the transition from one of those forms to another one (from an independent EDC to a direct office of county government). Both Ty Mulligan (SOG Attorney and expert on economic development topics) and David M. Lawrence (former SOG attorney and acclaimed expert on NC economic development law) have provided ample support for what Lee County commissioners have just accomplished.
It should be noted that one or more county commissioners likely have read Mr. Lawrence’s book, “Economic Development Law for North Carolina Local Governments,” UNC Institute of Government (c) 2000. Their proceedings on Monday night seem to have precisely followed the guidelines in Chapter 4 of Mr. Lawrence’s primer on how to organize for economic development activites.
For those who actually witnessed the live debate on the future of the EDC, or who have subsequently watched it transpire on video, there was just cause presented for the transformation of the county’s share of the EDC activities to direct control of the county manager, with oversight by commissioners. Clearly, the will of the commissioners board majority was not being served by the current EDC director and his ‘handlers’ in the EDC board of directors. It was time for a change, and the start of a fiscal year is typically the best time to execute such a change.
Contrary to post-meeting commentary by people not in attendance, the commissioners did not seek to transfer the full EDC or its Executive Director to a direct reporting relationship under the county manager. Only that portion of county funding and those activities funded by the county are being moved, and it is also being re-titled as the county’s economic growth office so as not to confuse it with the EDC (which may or may not survive as an independent authority). The commissioners also agreed to commit six months to the study of how best to re-organize and transform the county’s activities, and to perform that planning in a collaborative manner with the Chamber of Commerce, the City of Sanford and the Town of Broadway. The transition will not be a spurious move.
Several prominent citizens, including Mayor Olive and Sanford City Councilmen made comments denouncing the county’s move to re-organize and re-prioritize the county’s economic growth business. I would opine that their protestations are just so much jibberish, containing no substantive observations or recommendations. Instead of grandstanding, the city would do well to seek direct conversations with their commissioners and attempt to reconcile their concerns through direct discourse.
I echo the sentiment expressed in Mr. Madison’s earlier post on this subject, observing that this change in the county’s economic development and growth organization and policies will be a positive development. In this era of fiscal conservatism, it is refreshing to see commissioners actually following through on their campaign promises to expand their involvement in economic and job growth, to be more responsible with county tax revenues, and to enforce accountability for the use of those tax dollars. Good show!