To the editor:
With the change in leadership of the Chamber of Commerce, Lawrence has an opportunity to rethink how it handles economic development.
Now the city and county taxpayers give over $450,000 per year to the chamber for economic development purposes, not including the incubators or the Bioscience Authority.
The record of the chamber is a history of failures.
The chamber led the city into many tax abatements that failed to generate the promised jobs, wages and investments. The chamber repeatedly supported the overbuilding of retail space, hurting the downtown and other existing retail centers, and it even supported tax breaks for retail space, the antithesis of economic development. The chamber initiated meetings with the City Commission that later were found to be in violation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act, causing our city commissioners to be censured by the attorney general. The chamber has been caught making false statements and misrepresentations before the Public Incentives Review Committee. The chamber has never been transparent about its use of the taxpayer funds.
Smart cities across the nation have brought economic development planning inside city hall through the hiring of skilled professionals educated in economic development. Staff members at the chamber are not educated in economic development and are not accountable to the City Commission. Rather, they are advocates for business interests at the taxpayers’ expense.
The city of Lawrence should use the change in leadership of the chamber to put economic development into the hands of professionals who are accountable to the public.