Your Opinion: Contract needs specifics

Dear Editor:

Back in March, in a series of letters to the editor exposing what I correctly called a “Black Box” economic development contract between the City of Jefferson and the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce (the chamber) I alerted the public to a particularly sneaky $200,000 contract which was in essence a sweetheart deal between the city and the chamber. Sneaky, because real contracts specify deliverable items, have timetables, and specify outcomes, as well as specifying the consequences for failure to deliver those outcomes or services. The contract in question had none of those things.

Well, it seems that nothing ever changes.

At a recent meeting of a City Council subcommittee tasked with reviewing this contract, it was decided (at the request of the head of the chamber which is the recipient of the $200,000) that no real deliverables or outcomes would be added to the contract, only the reporting of some soft statistics such as amount of money spent and number of hours worked. Having the head of the chamber dictate the chamber’s terms for its own contract is akin to allowing a fox to guard the henhouse. Once again, no meaningful deliverables or outcomes are proposed for the contract. But more importantly it has no consequences for the chamber for poor progress in economic development.

Those who head up the chamber complain endlessly about government waste, welfare and the inefficiency of governmental programs. But these same people roar with indignation when the show is on the other foot and they are asked to provide proof of their own efficiency in their use of taxpayer dollars. Their hypocrisy sticks out like a sore thumb.

The law gives elected officials a lot of leeway in the performance of their duties but it does not allow the City Council to give away our tax money to private organizations without requiring a reasonable work product or specific performance in return. Without a measurement system for deliverable items, time tables and outcomes, there really isn’t a contract, merely a mechanism to give away money to the chamber.

I propose the following be added to the contract:

• A provision to report the relocation success rate of contacts with business entities outside Cole County.

• A provision that the chamber prove that the money spent increased the number of business establishments in the city/county

• A provision that the chamber prove that their activities increased employment in the city/county

• A provision for contract termination if the chamber fails to increase employment in Cole County.

The chamber itself would demand specific performance from its suppliers, why should they get away with not treating taxpayers the same?

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