Waiter, is that a taxpayer dollar in my soup? Trying to Decipher the City's Murky Economic Development Policy




By D.J. Blutarsky | Guest Contributor | 

About seven years ago, Elk Grove made regional headlines when its Economic Development Department announced that they had landed a high-tech industry from Silicon Valley--NRC Manufacturing from Fremont. Director Darrell Doan and his region counterpart, Barry Broome, boasted to the press that Elk Grove and the Sacramento region were on the cusp of becoming a new inland Silicon Valley.

Fast forward to the present, and NRC is...Not Really Coming, and the City's constantly evolving economic development policy now seems to have shifted from circuit boards to food and booze (with a sprinkling of retail thrown in for good measure). What I find disturbing is:

 A) The City Council recently authorized staff to award up to $50,000 per awardee without public notification or Council approval;

B) The infrequent Economic Development Department presentations to the City Council do not include a written agenda staff report, nor a full accounting of how that "under $50,000" discretionary money is being spent;

C) The City Council recently earmarked $1.5 million from the Measure E 2023 sales tax revenue to the Economic Development Department, and we have no idea how it will be spent unless it exceeds the $50,000 threshold; 

D) The City's highly publicized annual game show contest to seek viable startups is embarrassing to the City, and there is no follow reporting to let us know the status of the past recipients;

E) The City's apparent emphasis on subsidizing food, brew pubs, and retail establishments as an economic development strategy essentially creates non-livable wage jobs with a corresponding shortage of affordable housing; and,

F) The reliance on sales tax as a prime economic development strategy further exacerbates the City's risk during boom-bust economic cycles

I am aware that the recent City Council goal-setting session named economic development as a primary goal. I don't question that--but let's further refine that goal into specific measurable actions that can be evaluated by the public. 

Let's require meaningful status reports and show the public what we are getting for our investments. Let's be transparent and track those investments over time and let us know how those past grants have fared. Let's not force the public to file Public Records Requests and later claim that the information is confidential, like the COVID business grants.


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2 comments

Capt. Benjamin Willard said...

If there is one charitable word to describe Mr. Doan's performance, that would be underwhelming.

Unfortunately for taxpayers, Mr. Doan's incompetence is his shield. If the city manager or city council acknowledged his poor performance and terminated him, it would reflect poorly on them.

That's how tenure is obtained at Elk Grove City Hall.

Josie said...

My goodness, do we perhaps have some 'mony mony-ing and hanky panky-ing' going on in Elk Grove?

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