New Economic Development Ministry vote splits council

Craig’s Town Council Chamber.
Craig press kit

The potential economic development department’s first reading was narrowly passed at this week’s city council meeting, resulting in a 4-3 split between council members and Mayor Jarrod Ogden.

Public comments around ESD have raised concerns about government expansion at a time when many believe savings should be the number one priority for the city. City councilor and mayor-elect Ryan Hess, who voted no to the potential creation of the department, said he believes there are other ways to achieve the same goal without actually creating a new part of municipal government . One option, he said, is to move the economic development post under the city manager.

“I don’t necessarily disagree with the department – it’s just premature for the evolution of the city right now,” Hess said. “In my opinion, it should go under Peter (Brixius, the managing director). For the things we hired the director of economic development for, it goes hand in hand with the city manager. “

Hess acknowledged public concern that expanding local government might not be the best move at this point in the city’s calendar, and although other council members who voted to approve the department said that the grant funding would cover the department for two years, Hess said he’s concerned about what happens after that.

“We have grants at the moment – since this position is supported by grants for two years. But in two years, we can decide to ask for more grants, to use general funds or just to put them where they should be, ”he said. “I understand why they want to create it. It’s clearer on an accounting level, and there are other positive things. These boxes can still be checked if they were placed under the city manager. “

Councilor Paul James also voted no for the department for similar reasons. At Tuesday’s board meeting, James said that with similar economic development departments, he couldn’t find an example that isn’t running in deficit.

“I’m not going to vote for this,” James said. “I also agree with the comments we received from the public (Tuesday) that this is probably not the best time to tie up the city with more costs and increase the government. I’ve also asked many times – using economics as the science it is – what theories promote these good ideas? And I have never had an answer for several years.

Supporters of the department, such as city councilor Chris Nichols, said the department does not have to go on forever if the council decides the department’s budget is better suited elsewhere.

“The other part of creating an economic development department is again because of the charter, and that department is funded for two years through grants,” Nichols said. “So this is the inflow, the outflow. It’s not really local taxpayer’s money – it’s taxpayer’s money, we all know it’s taxpayer’s money, but it’s not local. If we can’t fund this ministry in the future, we just don’t fund it. And it will also be for future boards to work. “

In the split, council members Nichols, Andrea Camp, Bruce Cummings and Mayor Jarrod Ogden voted to approve the department, and council members Hess, James and Steve Mazzuca voted against.

The second and potentially the last reading of the ordinance will take place at the next council meeting, at which both Camp and Ogden will be excused at the end of their terms and the newly elected council members will be sworn in. Hess will be sworn in as mayor in Ogden’s place, Nichols will sit for another term, and newcomers Jesse Jackson and Sean Hovorka will take the places left vacant by Hess and Camp. Cummings currently leads fellow candidate Parrish Terry by one voice, but the healed and alien ballots will determine the future of this fourth seat.

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