Saturday, January 24, 2009

LCIC - better late than never

When Commissioner Pete Gerken decided he wanted to 'remake' the Lucas County Improvement Corporation into a county-wide economic development agency, I agreed that it was a good vehicle for coordinated efforts - but disagreed with the way the entity was being structured and the content of the bylaws which gave so much authority to the Toledo mayor and the Lucas County Commissioners.

One of my main objections was the dominance by politicians (and their appointees) on the executive board and the lack of oversight the full board had of the decisions the executive board would make.

This week, the make up of the executive board was changed to all business members - no elected officials - which is what I originally advocated. So while it took several years, it's better late than never.

But there are still issues with the agency over funding. Commissioner Ben Konop continues to oppose allocating any money to the LCIC, despite the 2-1 vote to increase the conveyance tax in Lucas County by $1 in order to fund the agency.

But like any politician, with extra money in the coffers, Konop wants to spend it elsewhere.

"Mr. Konop said he plans to introduce a resolution that instead would allocate the funds for public safety - specifically to hire a class of sheriff's deputies and "to stave off a cut in road patrols."

While funding law enforcement is a statutory authority of the BCC and the LCIC is not, I don't think the additional tax would have been on the agenda or received the votes of Gerken and Comm. Tina Skeldon Wozniak if it was just to increase county revenues for general fund purposes. It also might have received more intense public opposition if that had been the purpose.

So the conflict over the agency continues.

The members of the Executive Committee - which has the ability to make all decisions on behalf of the LCIC - are:

* Keith Burwell, president and chief executive officer, Toledo Community Foundation;
* Joe Rideout, partner, Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick;
* Mary Jo Waldock, special assistant to the president for economic development, University of Toledo;
* Rashmi Agnihotri, director of corporate strategy, The Andersons Inc.;
* Baldemar Velasquez, president, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee;
* Gary Yunker, vice president of real estate development, Timberstone Group Inc.;
* Derick Gant, president, Gant Investment Advisors Inc.;
* Mark Rasmus, president, Tomahawk Development Co.;
* Joseph H. Zerbey IV, president and general manager, The Blade.


Mad Jack said...

Maybe I'm a little dense this morning, but I've looked at the web site and I cannot for the life of me understand just what it is that the LCIC is supposed to do, or what the LCIC has accomplished so far.

Straight money, Maggie. What's it supposed to be doing, and is it successful?

DeeDee Liedel said...

From the Blade article:

"Mr. Gerken said. 'It's a savings to the Lucas County budget.'"

Interesting how an increase in taxes (real estate transfer tax from $3 to $4 per $1,000) and an increase in spending ($400,000 to $650,000) is considered a 'savings'.

Maggie said...

Mad Jack - the LCIC serves as the access to public support for economic development. Additionally, with the way it's structured, it can purchase or sell property on behalf of the member jurisdictions. The LCIC was used to obtain the property for the arena, ensuring a fair market value for the property that the county bought.

It can do more - like outreach and retention. But it primarily oversees/manages the public sector incentives that government would be offering if the agency didn't exist.

The bonus is the cooperative way it approaches economic development. Since it's made up of almost every local jurisdiction in the county, it can help companies find the right fit without the competition that might normally exist if two jurisdictions are under consideration.

It has the right structure for being the single source for all government aspects of the economic development process, but I'd make changes in the bylaws to ensure a good structure and better oversight of executive board activities.

I haven't checked lately, but one of the big successes was the retention/expansion of Schindler in Sprinfield Township.

Maggie said...

DeeDee - I was wondering the same thing...

I'm thinking it's an accounting issue...instead of spending money out of the general fund, they're using the additional tax as the source of funding meaning that the general fund has the $400,000 to spend elsewhere.

If that's the thinking, I can see how Gerken sees this as a 'savings' to the general fund budget...

distorted, isn't it?

DeeDee Liedel said...

The real estate transfer tax doesn't go in to the general fund? If not, where does the other $3 of the transfer tax go? (What fund?)

I never liked the idea of having a new 'designated' tax so that the funds (usually from the general fund) that used to pay for something can now be used for a new pet project or special interest endeavor. All it truly shows is mismanagement of government funds because the voters will support something they value so the politicians can afford something that buys them votes.

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