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Your Opinion: City, Chamber relationship too close

Your Opinion: City, Chamber relationship too close

March 17th, 2012 by Tim Stallman, Jefferson City in News

Dear Editor:

It's difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it" - unknown.

In recent letters to the editor, I aimed a flashlight inside a long running "black box, no bid" contract the City Council has with the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce (JCACC) for what the contract terms call "economic development services" and took a look around.

I questioned whether the taxpayers actually got anything in return for the nearly $1 million payment to the JCACC called for in the contract.

Apparently we will never know. Reports were not filed with the City Council. I closed with a promise to get back to taxpayers on some solutions.

Here are my suggestions:

The entire concept that the city needs specialized "economic development services" needs to be reviewed. Maybe this contract and its cost is all for naught and we could get by without it. A total comprehensive review needs to be made by the mayor and City Council. I hope the review is not contracted to the JCACC. Too many things are contracted to them. They are too busy thinking about sales taxes.

If it is decided to continue with the contract the "economic development services" contract needs to be put our for bid. This would end the current sweetheart deal arrangement with the JCACC.

The bidding process always puts some sunlight into the system. Sunlight is good. It will transform the Chamber into a taxpayer friendly organization, which will be a refreshing change.

The new 2011 contract needs to be transformed to add a stronger written reporting and auditing system that will not be simply ignored.

The JCACC needs to fess up that the administration of this contract has been an insult to taxpayers.

But what we really need is a City Council that truly desires to be accountable to the taxpayers in matters where the JCACC is involved. We do not currently have that. The relationship is too close.

If the JCACC does win the rewritten contract, they already have the perfect venue to report progress in economic development to the citizens and the City Council in their excellent "The Chamber Today" publication. Why didn't they use that opportunity in the past?

Call your city councilperson ad ask for an open investigation on this matter.

Thank you News Tribune for printing this series of letters. Without newspapers, democracy would die.