Sunday, September 15, 2013

Eliminating "New" Economic Development Exemption

The City of San Angelo Development Corporation took up "Guidelines for Job Creation Assistance" in their September 11 meeting.  Mayoral candidate Dwain Morrison promised to return rules for business taxpayer subsidies to those that existed prior to January 3, 2012.  That date City Council loosened the rules before granting MedHab a $3.6 million in economic development assistance to locate its production facilities in San Angelo.

Mayor Alvin New sat on MedHab's Board of Directors and had filed two affidavits on his substantial conflict of interest via his MedHab investments.  City of San Angelo Development Corporation Board Member Randy Brooks also was a MedHab investor and similarly conflicted   The January 3rd change allowed the company to get the incentive and these two servants/investors to remain in their public roles.

The irony is MedHab failed to live up to its lofty employment and start up plans.  Council rushed to fund MedHab's product launch in Australia in June 2012, looming FDA approval and 227 San Angelo jobs.  As of September 2013 MedHab has accomplished none of these goals.  However, it did launch a retail product earlier this month with production in Athens, Texas.

The irony of Bob Schneeman's recent presentation to shore up City of San Angelo incentive guidelines is he made the presentation to loosen them in December 2011.  I'm sure former Development Czar Shawn Lewis played a key role in lowering ethics standards.  That said, I'm amazed Schneeman could make his presentation with a straight face.

The good news is higher ethics rules apply to City Council members, Development Corporation board members, and Development Corporation staff.  It covers investment in businesses that might ask council for funding as well as personal real estate holdings from which they might profit. 

Mayor Dwain Morrison substantially fulfilled one election promise on September 11, 2013.  San Angelo won't be a place elected officials or city officials can feather their beds with public money, not until they've been gone from their role for six months.  Hats off to the Mayor.

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