An ordinance has been crafted to create a new Economic Development Department by gutting the current Community Development department.
The new department will include most of the divisions that are currently within the development department like Community Improvement, Redevelopment, Planning and Zoning, Economic Development, Cultural Affairs, and Historic Preservation divisions, according to the draft ordinance creating the new department.
Creation of the new department was stipulated in the city’s memorandum of understanding with the state. The state wanted four divisions merged into a new department that would serve as an engine for development by placing within one department all parts of government that facilitate new projects within city limits.
By creating the new department city officials are effectively dismantling Community Development department.
Out of the seven divisions that are currently inside the Community Development only one division will remain within that department: the Housing Division. It is unclear what will happen of that division after the new department is created.
The ordinance which was up for discussion in this week’s workshop session was not discussed because the meeting had to be cancelled due to a lack of quorum. The ordinance did not go through the same committee vetting process as other momentous pieces of legislation often go through, said Charles Thomas, business administrator.
Thomas responded to community activist David Gilmore’s comment that having an ordinance like this go directly to the council without committee vetting is highly unusual. Because no committee discussion took place on the ordinance, personnel and budget of the new department must be hammered out through discussions between the council and the administration.
Another prominent city resident praised the creation of the new department whose main purpose is to spur economic growth.
“It’s a very sensible provision,” said Mike Symonds, former president of the Eastside Neighborhood Association. “We really need to have a standalone Economic Development Department that is well financed, nimble, and forwarding thinking.”
Symonds hopes the new department is in place before the new administration walks into city hall on July 1st.