Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Devil You Know?

The Fall River Redevelopment Authority agreed by unanimous vote to retain the Fall River Office of Economic Development. Are you shocked?

To be fair there is good reasons, I suppose, to support the decision the RDA made. After all FROED is the devil you know, and CRES-RI is the devil you don’t. More than that, as a friend of mine pointed out there is “institutional memory” and with it the idea that CRES-RI may make mistakes and go down roads that FROED has already explored. The Redevelopment Authority and the city already know how the relationship with FROED works. Changing partners could result in getting your toes stepped on. Did CRES-RI ever show any clear proof that they could handle the job and had ideas to handle the job more effectively than FROED? If so I never heard or saw them.

However, there is equally good reason to have voted for partnering with CRES-RI. First and foremost is in the lackluster, or perceived lackluster performance of FROED. I personally cannot recall one single thing FROED has done that has been really beneficial or had a significant impact on the city of Fall River. Seriously, in the last 20 years what forward direction, job wise, have we achieved? The only thing I can think of is Meditech and the well known story there is they found US, while driving by. Is it just my memory, or does it seem to anyone else that every other ‘economic development’ involve small companies and low paying jobs? But then again, Ken Fiola feels that economic development in Fall River is tough, because of Fall River’s low educational attainment. Gee Ken, we’re aware of that problem, if that wasn’t the case more folks would come to us and we wouldn't need you. There is also the difference of $1,500 a month between the two proposals. CRES-RI has proposed $6,000 a month vs. the $7,500 a month that FROED has proposed. That's a savings of $18,000 a year and when in the meeting the Chair of the RDA is worried about how to pay the bills, $18,000 is a lot. Now the CRES-RI proposal did include a 2.5% fee on real estate transactions, something that the FROED deal did not. However there are a few things to consider here. The first is there was discussion about negotiating the FROED contract to a lower monthly fee AFTER excepting the proposal. Why couldn't the same have been done for CRES-RI deal? Why not try to eliminate the fee or cap it, to a maximum amount, say 15k a year. Now I'm not just pulling that number out of my hat. It turns out the previous FROED contract included a 4% real estate fee capped and $15k. The idea of negotiating this with CRES-RI doesn't seem to have crossed the minds of the board at all. Honestly, less money, fresh new approach, and lackluster performance by FROED, I can't believe that at least ONE member wouldn't have voted in favor of CRES-RI.

Disappointing to say the least.

Honestly I'm wondering why do we need either of them? Why don't we just bring this in-house and do away with FROED all together. If any members of the RDA are reading this please consider looking into this as an alternative! Why pay FROED around $100k a year and have to deal with this quasi-public agency that seems to be able to cloak anything and everything in a veil of darkness.Why not create a Economic Development office that would be answerable and transparent to the public, the city council, the mayor. FROED gets a great deal of its operating budget from other sources, the CDA being a big one. Can that money instead be shifted to an in-house? Someone asked me why did we go with FROED in the first place instead of having our own department and I couldn't figure it out either. It just didn't seem to make sense, until a saw THIS meeting and learned, or was reminded that for over a decade FROED provided its services free to the city. Well of course the city would except that! It's not that case anymore though, and now that FROED seems to be expanding it's duties outside of Fall River and into neighboring communities, we really need to bring this in-house so the focus and the accountability belong to us.

I'll leave you with this pet peeve, was this meeting filmed to be aired on the Government Channel? The only taping I saw was by a private citizen. We're talking about a decision that HAS A DEFINITE IMPACT on our community. If this wasn't taped for GTV, it should have been.


Anonymous said...

Lefty I asked FRGTV to record this meeting. Below is their response.

"We are unable to tape the meeting tomorrow. My staff is committed to other projects. We may be able to tape future meetings, but we don't usually tape FROED meetings as our schedule is pretty packed right now."

Now I was under the impression that FRGTV received the money from the City to record all city meetings not just a few.

Anonymous said...

Maybe FRGTV was busy following the Mayor on one of his many photo ops. Whenever I turn to channel 18 thats all I see.

Anonymous said...

Who granted the funding for FRGTV???

Anonymous said...

In case you don't understand how it works, little Willy controls the purse strings of FRGTV and they only tape what he tells them to tape. If he doesn't want them to tape it, they don't tape it. They can give you whatever lame excuse they want but they just didn't want to tell you this truth.