Economic Development Discussion Turns Ugly

A recent budget discussion highlighted the gulf that divides the current City Council. The topic of discussion was the distribution of one-time allocations that are considered on an annual basis. In discussing economic development and 2011 requests from the Longmont Area Economic Council, City Council member Sean McCoy took another opportunity to criticize the organization. He said, “I’m not satisfied with the results. We’re not getting the information we need. Why are we continuing to do business with an outside entity?” Economic Development Director Brad Power emphasized that there is a “stated and demonstrated benefit to working with LAEC.” However, that didn’t convince McCoy or Council member Sarah Levison, who also questioned LAEC’s “bang for the buck.”

After an hour of discussion on that topic, the Council considered requests from non-profit organizations. A group called Grow Your Own Meal, an incubator for small farm operations, requested $20,000 but Council decided to provide $10,000 with the promise of additional money if the organization can raise more money on its own. Council members McCoy, Levison and Brian Hansen objected to this decision, saying over time Grow Your Own Meal could have a long lasting benefit to the City. McCoy suggested reducing the amount allocated to LAEC to fund the aquaponic greenhouse project proposed by Grow Your Own Meal. At that point Mayor Pro tem Gabe Santos said, “Trying to compare Grow Your Own Meal with LAEC just doesn’t work.” Tempers flared as the discussion continued but ultimately there was no consensus regarding economic development, an objective that should be of paramount importance to all members of the City Council.

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