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Our Opinion: City contest loses sight of mission

News Tribune editorial

And the winner is ... not Jefferson City taxpayers.

The city has gotten into the contest business by launching a mobile phone app competition, with cash prizes for first-, second- and third-place winners.

City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus devised the idea in an effort to engage the public with the city.

The contest guidelines require the app (short for application) to be “Jefferson City centric,” free and available for download on iTunes or the Android marketplace by Sept. 28.

Nickolaus cited economic development and characterized the contest as “a way to reach out to one segment of the public,” namely tech-savvy young professionals.

Really?

Much public discussion recently has focused on the city’s $200,000 annual payment to the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce for economic development services.

In addition, the chamber has publicized widely its emphasis on attracting more young professionals to Jefferson City.

Consequently, the contest appears to dovetail more closely with the mission of the chamber, not the city. The city’s focus must remain on providing essential government services to its residents.

Even if we concede the $1,500 prize for first place is money well spent — which we do not — what justification exists for awarding $500 and $250, respectively, for second and third place? City government doesn’t award cash consolation prizes to runners-up in the bidding process.

Nickolaus said the prize money will come from city administrator discretionary funds. Although he controls those funds, they still are tax dollars. The city administrator said he envisions the contest as an annual event. We urge the city to reconsider. End the contest or transfer the idea to the chamber, where it belongs.

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