On the agenda: Economic Development Commission reform


Although it won't be voted on tonight, the proposed reforms to the City of Tulsa's Economic Development Commission is on the agenda for Council discussion during tonight's Tulsa City Council meeting.

The proposed reforms make a few changes to Title 5, Chapter 4 of Tulsa Revised Ordinances. You can see the current ordinance here. The intent is to have the EDC as the focal point of all the City's economic development efforts, whether they involve city departments, city trusts, or economic development work outsourced to the Tulsa Metro Chamber bureaucracy and other contractors.

I refer you back to an earlier entry, a collection of links to Tulsa Today's coverage of the Tulsa Metro Chamber's many years as sole-source vendor for economic development services to the City of Tulsa. The articles ask whether, after sending $60 million to the Chamber bureaucracy over the years, Tulsa now has a healthy and developed economy. It's time to change what we are doing, because what we have been doing hasn't worked.

Here are the significant changes:

  • Specific duties: The EDC will become specifically responsible for developing an economic development plan and overseeing the implementation of that plan.
  • Geographically-balanced membership: The EDC would go from as many as 21 members to 15 -- one from each Council district, 4 at-large (who could be non-Tulsa residents), and the Mayor and a Councilor selected by the Council to serve ex officio. All of the members (except the Mayor and the Councilor) would be appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Council. Geographical balance will ensure that the EDC will be concerned with the development of the entire city.
  • An open bidding process: In contracting for economic development services, the EDC must go through the standard bidding process used for other city contracts, where the EDC issues a request for proposals, explaining the criteria for winning the job, and bidders submit their proposals for evaluation. Instead of just signing over the hotel/motel tax revenues to the Chamber bureaucracy, the Chamber bureaucracy will have the opportunity to be a part of the competitive bidding process. The Chamber bureaucracy may get some of the work, or possibly all of it, but they'll have to compete to get it. Competition is a healthy thing. Other chambers, like the Southwest Tulsa Chamber and the Greenwood Chamber may get a share of the work to develop their own parts of town.
  • Oversight: The EDC will make quarterly reports to the Council. If EDC approves contracts over a certain amount, the contract must be reported to the Council, and cumulative contracts with a single vendor for more than $20,000 must also be reported (no getting around the reporting requirement by giving one contractor lots of small contracts). An EDC member could be removed -- for cause -- by a majority of the EDC or a majority of the Council.
  • No conflicts of interest: This is important: "No appointee shall have been a member of the Board of Directors, officer or employee of any entity awarded a contract by the Economic Development Commission within the twenty four months prior to confirmation by the Council." This will ensure that the EDC won't be a puppet of any organization that seeks to do work for the EDC. The language needs to be cleaned up a bit -- not clear if the twenty-four months provision refers to when the contract was awarded or when the appointee served on the board. And for completeness' sake, forbid commission members from serving on any such board during their terms of office.

Although these are sensible and modest reforms, the leaders of the Chamber bureaucracy are predictably unhappy about all this, because it means they will be answerable for the public money they spend, money they seem to feel entitled to spend anyway they like. The head Chamber bureaucrats and their supporters on the Chamber board will no doubt be there in force tonight to glare at the Councilors, particularly Sam Roop, whom they believe (wrongly, I think) they can influence to join the Cockroach Caucus in obstructing these reforms. It would be nice if tonight the Councilors could see the smiling faces of many ordinary Tulsans who believe it's time for this kind of constructive change to our economic development. I hope the Mayor, who has been advocating strengthening the EDC since he took office, will be there voicing his support.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the Council chamber at City Hall.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 20, 2004 11:15 PM.

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