Monday, April 23, 2007

Broaden the view of the EDC

John Setterstrom, president of the Thurston County Economic Development Council, wrote a column for the Olympian yesterday, trying to refute some recent Olympian coverage (and here) of the EDC. I don't particularly like the kind of column he wrote, its an attempt to argue against the original case of the Olympian, but it basically sandbags the reader with points that really only someone very close to the action would get.

Anyway, it reminded me of some quick research I did after reading the original coverage.

1. The TCEDC is 59 percent publicly funded, either through direct funding from our local governments or through programmatic funds from the state. Despite that, 13 of the 20 board members are from private industry. And, all three executive officers (separate from the board) are from private industry.

2. The RCW that governs the state's relationship with organizations like TCEDC says: "The organizations contracted with in each community or regional area shall be broadly representative of community and economic interests ." Here is the RCW. I think there is an argument to be made that the TCEDC doesn't really represent Thurston County's community (no church or nonprofits) or economic (no labor) interests.

I could imagine recruiting board members to represent local faith communities, labor unions (who from the make up of the board, seemingly don't have an opinion in economic development?) and non-profits. The voice of economic development in Thurston County, especially a mostly public organization, should reach beyond the business community.

A statement on economic justice from my own particular faith tradition has some relevance to the purpose of the EDC:
As people of faith, we believe we are one family, not competing classes. We are sisters and brothers, not economic units or statistics. We must come together around the values of our faith to shape economic policies that protect human life, promote strong families, expand a stable middle class, create decent jobs, and reduce the level of poverty and need in our society. We need to strengthen our sense of community and our pursuit of the common good.

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