Morning Sun
  • OUR VIEW: City, Chamber better off apart

  • Trash is more important than economic development.

    That’s the message the Pittsburg City Commission could send to the public this week.

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  • Trash is more important than economic development.
    That’s the message the Pittsburg City Commission could send to the public this week.
    The issue of trash is so important to the city that they formed a task force to look into options of a centralized (in whatever fashion) trash system in the town. The issue of economic development is so important to the city that they will pay someone else to take care of it.
    We’ve written plenty on the trash issue, and we’ll leave that for another day since a formal plan has not yet been crafted by that task force. But at the very least, the task force will be examining different systems for trash collection, most of which include the city taking into its own hands some sort of additional function, whether billing, bidding or franchising.
    Tuesday, the City Commission will look into taking one function out of its own hands — economic development.
    It’s a coincidence that one man is at the center of both of these issues. Blake Benson, the Chamber of Commerce president, is the co-chairman of the trash task force. He would also be paid to be the city’s economic development functionary if the proposal is approved by commissioners on Tuesday.
    We have no quarrel with Benson. His involvement in this community in his role as Chamber president is commendable. In his role, he is a wonderful host, ambassador and asset to the community. The Chamber performs its function marvelously.
    But with that said, we don’t believe the City should be directly hiring them for economic development.
    First, the City would be punting on a primary function of a city government. The argument, according to City Manager Daron Hall, is that the Chamber already performs many of the same duties as an economic development director would, so why not operate through them? But that’s a poor argument.
    Habitat for Humanity helps those who are in need find homes. So why do we need a city housing department? SEK Humane Society does a lot of work with local animals. Contract with them and no more animal control department! There’s already Pittsburg State Police and various security companies in town. Well, in that case the police are no longer necessary, since people already perform similar duties.
    Those examples are intentionally ridiculous, but leads us to the point: Just because private and public functions overlap does not mean the city should cede power to do it themselves. Economic development is the role of the city, not the Chamber. They should work closely together, but that doesn’t mean the Chamber should be responsible instead of the city.
    Second, there is a potential conflict of interest.
    Page 2 of 2 - The Chamber exists because businesses pay for it to exist. Most of the time, if a business comes to town, it is not an issue. But what if a competitor to a local business wants to move to town? How would the Chamber, who is paid by existing businesses, bring that company in to compete with the same businesses that fund the Chamber?
    We realize that may be confusing, so here’s a hypothetical: MegaGoods, a fictional new business, wants to come to town to push out Acme, which is a Chamber member. Acme pays the Chamber to promote their interests. Bringing MegaGoods to town would work against their interests. Suddenly the Chamber would be caught in the middle of both trying to please the city (bringing MegaGoods to town) and trying to please a member organization (Acme doesn’t want them in town).
    That’s a position the Chamber shouldn’t be in, and shouldn’t put itself in.
    Third, the Chamber president is already busy, serving many functions in the community. The city’s economic development director was a full-time director-level position. Both roles involve many hours, much effort and plenty of work. To believe that the hours involved in each position can be merely combined into one means that either the economic development director did nothing (which can easily be disproven) or that the Chamber president has enough free time to take on the areas in which their positions do not overlap.
    Ultimately, we believe this is not the marriage of two things to make something better, like combining chocolate and peanut butter to make a Reese’s peanut butter cup. Rather, this is like ice cream and mashed potatoes. We love both, but it’s best that they not be combined.
    For the Morning Sun
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