The dust, waiting to settle

You might think that any credit being given out for the Waynesboro Downtown Development Inc. fundraising effort that met with such success as to preclude the need for an infusion of city funds to keep it afloat would go to, well, the folks at Waynesboro Downtown Development Inc.

But then you don’t have the same circuit board as the op-ed page at the News Virginian, which thinks the credit should go to Vice Mayor Frank Lucente and his philosophy that “government should spend and intrude as little as it can, keeping taxes and regulations to bare minimums.”

Yes, again.

We’ll slide past the “regulations to bare minimums” low hanging fruit in this environment of near-economic calamity precipitated by an out-of-control, unregulated financial-sector meltdown as best we can here and focus on the local issue at hand: economic development, or rather the lack of interest in it expressed in this op-ed, or at least the lack of interest in seeing any kind of effective economic-development policy through to completion.

WDDI and the Waynesboro Economic Development Authority are “nonprofits that feed like calves off the city cow” in the editorial – technically, the EDA is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth, not a nonprofit, but I’m splitting hairs there – that the piece envisions along with Lucente moving to self-sufficiency, “meaning they would operate independent of city taxpayer money.”

The EDA idea that Lucente floated last summer has already been dealt with by City Council and the Authority itself as being a nonstarter, the flaws in the plan being obvious from the top – the Authority is an unelected body, one, its sources of potential revenues would put it in direct competition with the city, two – so I can’t imagine why this one is being dragged back out for public consumption again, except that I can, of course.

“Agencies that do not take city taxpayer money are also freed from city politics,” the paper opined, espousing a familiar Lucente-inspired refrain, referring here to WDDI and the EDA specifically, but I’m going to wonder aloud now about others who take city taxpayer money and how free they are from city politics.

I noted in a comment on the editorial posted on the NV website a potential conflict for the paper in that same vein in the context of the public-notice advertising done in the paper. I don’t have access to their books, of course, but another source of taxpayer-funded advertising occurred to me after in the form of advertising done for city-sponsored events and programs and the like.

I suggested in the comment that the NV could work toward Lucente’s goal of self-sufficiency by following what its op-ed proclaimed as WDDI’s “shining example,” which has shown money can be found in the private sector, where it can be given freely.” “Let others see the model and follow it,” the editorial backed its point regarding funding for nonprofts, still missing the point about the mess the argument could create in its own fiscal house. Speaking for our Augusta Free Press Publishing organization, the AFP and The New Dominion Magazine don’t have any ads paid for by city taxpayers helping our bottom line, and just as the NV is struggling to make ends meet in this difficult environment for media entities, we are, too, and it would be nice to have those ads to help us pay our bills.

Does not having taxpayer-supported ads make us “freed from city politics” in our reporting, to borrow from the phrasing in today’s op-ed? I’m just asking; I didn’t bring the “freed from city politics” matter up in the first place.

A bigger issue to me is the AFP’s work on the River City 2020 project with the News Virginian that is aimed at jumpstarting a renewed focus on economic development in our Waynesboro. An issue that comes up often in the meetings with the board is that we don’t want to commit countless hours to producing yet another report that is going to end up sitting on a shelf somewhere collecting dust.

I don’t know that a report written to appease our libertarian vice mayor is even worth dust, quite honestly.

 

– Story by Chris Graham


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