Colorado Springs Councilman Sean Paige’s contentious proposal to spend scarce city dollars on an audit of the Economic Development Corporation is sadly symbolic of our current economic difficulties.
In normal times, the council wouldn’t wrangle over a couple of $100,000 line items in the city and utilities budgets. But, of course, these aren’t normal times. Jobs are scarce, city revenues are limp, and maybe giving Mike Kazmierski and the EDC a kick in the rear will make things better — or so a council majority appears to believe. Never mind that the city’s contribution to the EDC is just about 5 percent of the organization’s budget.
Paige says he has no reason to believe that the EDC has misused city funds. He just wants an audit because the city has never previously audited the organization.
Over the years, the city has helped fund many entities, notably the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Most such organizations, including the EDC, have provided the city with audited financials. These documents ought to be enough, so we can’t help but wonder whether Paige and his council supporters know something that we don’t.
Do they suspect that city funds are being wasted, diverted or misused? If so, they ought to say so. Otherwise, it’s hard to ascribe their approval of a $14,000 audit to anything but political grandstanding or personal animus.
Yet whatever council ultimately decides to do, it may be beneficial to re-examine the EDC and its relationship with the city, the chamber, the CVB, and the business community.
The EDC’s function is, we believe, absolutely vital to the city. Competing with other similar cities for relocating businesses is neither easy nor cheap. Especially in these straitened times, our region needs powerful, focused representation.
Other medium-sized cities, both regionally and nationally, have put aside institutional rivalries in order to more effectively market themselves.
Have we done this? Do we speak with a single, coherent voice? Hardly.
The chamber and the EDC appear to be on parallel tracks, but entities as diverse as the Sports Corp., the USOC, the CVB, UCCS and Colorado College pursue their own specific agendas.
Too many of the players give only lip service to the idea of a more cooperative effort.
Perhaps the EDC ought to sever all ties with the city and its pesky elected officials. And perhaps we need to create and empower a new EDC, one with funding, vision and clout.
One thing is certain. In these bleak times, we can’t expect to find leadership from the tired and dispirited denizens of city hall.