Letter to the Editor: Economic development for real life
According to a recent story, the newly formed Economic Development Council regards polarization on the Board of Supervisors as a major impediment to economic development, along with a vague contention that supervisors are not sufficiently “pro-business.”
The EDC has considerable over-lapping membership with one of the major actors in the current campaign, a PAC called Responsible Leadership for Shenandoah County.
The name of the PAC is somewhat ironic, because it, and the EDC, support a leadership style that is in fact largely responsible for the economic decline of Shenandoah County. They reject efforts to rejuvenate stale models of development.
Both economic theory and national experience teach us that the road to development is to unleash the energies of our citizens through free markets. Governments have an important role to play in enabling these efforts, but it cannot and should not insist on adherence to any pre-ordained plan (note that the county’s current “Comprehensive Plan” is mostly from 2005), and it should not be picking favorites and giving them special breaks.
The crucial questions about our government’s contribution to economic development are: does Shenandoah have good infrastructure of telecommunications, transportation, education, and health services? Are private providers of essential services efficient and non-discriminatory? Are permits processed quickly, and does government work with new businesses to say “yes” rather than put up blocks? Are zoning and land use decisions impartial, or stacked for the good ‘ole boys, and are plans realistic and flexible? Are teachers allowed to control their classrooms, and teach?
Unfortunately, in Shenandoah County too many answers are negative. Telecommunications are substandard. Zoning decisions are often slow and arbitrary. Government agencies are seen as more concerned with their increasingly complex rules than with effectiveness, and resent citizens for causing them to work. Suspicions of cronyism and favoritism are rife.
Given this situation, targeting conflicts on the Board of Supervisors as the main impediment to business development is ridiculous. Thank heaven for these conflicts, because they show that at least some members and candidates want to change things. If the EDC does not, its members should rename themselves the Council for Irresponsible Leadership.
James V. DeLong, Quicksburg