An agreement between the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance and City Council is in the works, as the public and city officials question exactly how much taxpayer money will boost the local economy.
LEDA's goal is to make the incentive process more transparent. The first step is to get City Council members more actively involved in future business contracts between LEDA and businesses.
As KCBD NewsChannel reported last month, City Council's authority over LEDA was not exactly clear. City Council received legal counsel to get a clear understanding of where the line stood.
Article 13 states:
"The City Council may, in its sole discretion, and at any time, alter or change the structure organization, programs or activities of the Corporation, and it may terminate or dissolve the Corporation, subject to the provisions of the Act and subject to the limitation that no such action shall be taken in any manner or at any time that would impair any contract or right theretofore executed or granted by the Corporation."
Mayor Glen Robertson had expressed his concerns in regards to LEDA's accountability. He requested a presentation, which LEDA made at a City Council work session.
"I was very pleased with the presentation, quite frankly, I expected smoke in mirrors," said Mayor Robertson.
Currently, the Council approves LEDA's contracts once a year. Part of the solution, displayed in the presentation, would mean more frequent meetings between LEDA and the Council for each contract.
"We're going to start doing quarterly briefings in an executive session for the City Council," said LEDA President and CEO John Osborne.
No votes have been made, but quarterly meetings for various business contracts, or one by one meetings for each contract has been proposed. Robertson said he prefers approving each contract individually to ensure thoroughness.
"I think that's what really got the Council's attention," said Robertson. "That would give the City Council the final say in the dispense of incentives and I think that's what's important because the City Council is held accountable for tax payer dollars."
Osborne hopes the added transparency provide more confidence to the community.
"Ensuring we give better communication to not only City Council, but also to the general public about what we have going on and what we're seeing from an economic standpoint," said Osborne.
Osborne says additional language has been submitted into the most recent business contracts which address some widely held concerns from competing businesses.
"They are able to look back 12 months prior to the start of the contract to make sure that if the company did lay off someone, they are not able to rehire someone back for that position and have it count towards their job creation," said Osborne.
Ultimately, Mayor Robertson says more discussions need to be made, but that he is overall pleased with the outcome of LEDA's proposal.
"So, the good news for the tax payers is this City Council is held accountable every 2 years. Every 2 years your mayor is up for election and half your City Council is up for election. That board, as good as they are, they're not really held accountable to anybody. So this puts the accountability on the elected official where it needs to be when it comes to giving away tax payer's money."
More discussions are likely to take place in the next coming weeks to finalize a deal between LEDA and the Council, as to how often business contracts are approved by the Council.
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