Local governments want YOU to join economic committees
Dillon wants YOU to join its economic development advisory committee – actually five separate discussion groups to look at recreation, design, economic restructuring, tax-free status, and marketing. The town held a meeting Saturday to launch the process.Three months ago, Frisco created its own economic development advisory committee, or EDAC, to consider ways to diversify that community’s economy. The EDAC acronym was borrowed from Silverthorne, which established an EDAC in 2003 as part of its Economic Development Task Force. In Breckenridge, the Town has a Marketing Vision Plan (MVP) and a Main Street Revitalization Project (MSRP) under way, and is also mulling over an EDAC to provide input on marketing and development. Economic development is all the rage in Summit County. Why? The answers vary somewhat. Dillon apparently has lost its “sense of place” and wants to revitalize business. Frisco wants to attract types of business it doesn’t already have and make the place more attractive to tourists. Silverthorne wants to broaden its tax base away from the outlet teat, and Breckenridge seems to just want more, more, more while still maintaining a “quality of life” that seems to be slipping out of its grasp.
If you live in Summit County, you know that at least as far as government goods and services go, you live pretty high on the hog. The recreation centers in Breckenridge and Silverthorne cannot be duplicated in other Colorado towns of similar size. The county offers free mass transit and underwrites hospitals. More than one town has an arts district; all have historic societies and museums of varying quality and content. Some underwrite daycare, some underwrite marinas. The list is extensive. Competition between the towns for public spectacle is fierce, for bigger and better fireworks than the other guy, more recreational opportunities, more free concerts, and bigger and newer public buildings.Most of this largess has been paid for through sales and property taxes, but as construction slows, and the number of visitors to the county flattens, town officials are looking for ways to raise the money needed to meet residents’ demands for buildings and services. Town officials could do their jobs and say no to at least some demands, but they haven’t, which means the only answer is to pay for everything through more sales tax producing businesses to finance the citizens’ wish lists. And the first step is an EDAC.Simply by getting folks to agree to an EDAC, politicians and town managers commit their communities to new businesses and development without discussion or a vote.
To fulfill citizens’ wish lists, towns need more money. To raise more money, the towns need a bigger tax base. To broaden the tax base, towns need economic development, meaning more businesses, specifically businesses new to Summit County. If your town has an EDAC, then the question of whether you support growth or not has been answered for you through administrative co-optation.There’s never been an EDAC that met and decided to disband because they thought growth wasn’t worth changing the community. The membership of the typical EDAC comes from local business leaders, self-appointed community “leaders,” real estate agents and at least one token granola eater who can be placated by catch-phrases in the EDAC’s reports that demand the preservation of “quality of life,” open space, and protection for homegrown businesses. Town officials, of course, can let EDACs put whatever they want in their reports, because at the end of the day, town officials will do whatever they want.So if you participated in the EDAC process Saturday in Dillon, know that you’re tacitly committing your town to tax-revenue-driven growth and setting yourself up for rejection.
While you may think that you can pick and choose what businesses open in your town, you can’t. Capital investments like opening a new business aren’t made by consulting the local EDAC. And the No. 1 tool you have to attract a business – tax relief – is a two-edged sword. For every business you hook through tax relief, that’s another business you have to find to make up for the tax revenues you gave away to get the first new business, which means you’ll ultimately suck it up and take what you can get. While there seems to be no end to what citizens want from government, they should be aware of the price: bigger highways, more businesses, more citizens, more visitors, less open space, condos on the ridge line and along the reservoir, and a different definition of “quality of life” than the one that brought most folks here. Ultimately, the biggest beneficiary is the newspaper, which will have lots of content from four shiny new EDACs to explain and cover.Marc Carlisle writes a Thursday column. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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