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Upcoming City Council business

I’ve already heard from one citizen with a question about an item on the April 13 City Council agenda (the agenda was posted Friday), so I guess it’s high time to discuss some of the business items. There’s a rezoning, action on the Chamber of Commerce contract, numerous bids and contracts including purchase of new police vehicles, “and much more.” Here are my musings about a few of these items (I’m interested in hearing what other residents think):

Rezoning request (updated April 7th)

The proposed rezoning is for a 1.25-acre lot at the corner of Tulsa Road and Tusculum Drive (there was a rezoning sign on the property, which is next to the entrance to the Burnham Woods subdivision, but I didn’t see the sign on Saturday). Requested rezoning is from R-4-B (multiple family residential) to O-2 (office district), to allow SMB Group (a construction contractor) to build a company office. (The company now has its office in the building at 100 Tulsa Road, at the corner of Tulsa and South Illinois Ave.) In addition to offices, permitted principal uses in the O-2 zone include multi-family dwellings, churches, hotels, day care facilities, and barber/beauty shops.

The Planning Commission recommended the rezoning by a unanimous vote at its March 26th meeting. The impact of the rezoning isn’t entirely clear. The R-4-B zone is supposed to be phased out, and uses in the new R-4 zone (which presumably would replace R-4-B) are pretty much the same as in the O-2 zone. The biggest difference I see are (1) in the R-4 zone buildings can occupy no more than 50% of the property, but the O-2 zone allows them to cover up to 80%, and (2) building plans in the O-2 zone require Planning Commission approval, but only staff review is required in the R-4 zone.

One possible concern is that the lot is mapped as being in the floodplain (of East Fork Poplar Creek and Gamble Valley Creek), but outside the floodway. Oak Ridge’s zoning ordinance does not restrict development in the portion of the floodplain outside the floodway (this is called the “floodway fringe”), as long as the ground floor is at least 1 ft about the calculated height of the 100-year flood. Fill already placed on the lot appears to have raised it above the flood level, so this is no longer a concern. The contamination (by mercury and PCBs released from the Y-12 Plant) in the floodplain of East Fork Poplar Creek also should not be a concern because the project should not disturb soils.

We’ll learn more about the rezoning proposal at the City Council agenda review work session on Monday, April 6 (6:30 pm in the City Services Center on Woodbury Lane, behind K-Mart), and there’ll be a public hearing at the April 13th City Council meeting (7 pm in the municipal building courtroom).

Chamber of Commerce contract

The City of Oak Ridge has a contract with the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce under which the Chamber (including the affiliated Oak Ridge Economic Partnership) provides economic development services to the City. The current contract is worth over $250,000 annually, including a $20,000 addition that the Council approved by a 5-2 vote in January of this year (Tom Hayes and I were the two who opposed this) to help fund an additional staff member to support the Chamber’s “Live Where You Work” residential recruitment program. The current contract expires June 30, 2009. It could be renewed for an additional year, but the Chamber wants to negotiate a new 3-year contract to begin July 1. City Manager Jim O’Connor is asking for Council authorization to negotiate with the Chamber to determine which option is in the City’s best interest.

Although it’s unlikely that meaningful changes will be made between now and July 1st, I hope to re-open meaningful dialog on the purpose and scope of the City’s relationship with the Chamber. Many residents question the City’s whole relationship with the Chamber of Commerce, asking whether it’s in the public interest to subsidize a chamber of commerce, which is fundamentally operated for the benefit of its membership. The cost of the contract and its benefit to the city are also perennial concerns. The rationale for the contractual relationship with the Chamber has to do with a concern that open-government laws would conflict with the need for confidentiality in business recruitment, as well as a perception that city government is inherently not very good at economic development. I think there is merit in this rationale, but it does appear to me that the City is essentially subsidizing the chamber without having a clear picture of what the public is getting for its money.

Much effort went into creating quantitative performance metrics for the current contract. It’s clear to me that it’s a lot of work for the Chamber to calculate and report those metrics (it turns out that the statistics they are asked to report are not readily available or easily determined), but it’s not clear that the metrics serve the intended purpose of ensuring that the City’s objectives are being met. I think the metrics need to be revisited.

I’d also like to see emphasis placed on helping local businesses (both new start-ups and long-existing companies) succeed, whether or not they are Chamber members. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that many small businesses fail, but if local government resources are being spent on supporting business development, we should be helping existing small businesses (folks who have already invested in this city) avoid the types of mistakes that often lead to doom. Also, we should be helping local retail businesses promote themselves through measures like improved signage, special events, and “shop Oak Ridge” campaigns.

The “Live Where You Work” campaign is a great initiative (and long overdue), but I would have preferred to see it included in the current contract (which was supposed to include residential recruitment), instead of being added on as if it were an extra activity. I am waiting to hear whether the Chamber and City Manager want to enlarge the contract on a permanent basis, or if the $20,000 is a one-time thing (as Council was told back in January).

New police vehicles

Council is being asked to approve bid awards to spend $186,000 to buy six new Ford Crown Victorias (equipped for police use) and two Chevy Tahoes.

The Crown Victorias would replace some existing police cars (including some that have already broken down). Replacement of these cars is included in the City budget. I’m unclear on the purpose of the Chevy Tahoes, but the documentation indicates that the police would like to buy a third Tahoe if the city gets a federal grant. The bid prices for all of the vehicles are exceptionally low, so the City would get a good deal on the purchases.

It’s clear that our police vehicles need to be replaced on a regular basis, and that these bids are a pretty good deal, but I question the business-as-usual approach of continuing to buy new gas-guzzling Crown Victorias and SUVs. Two new directions that we should be exploring are (1) greater fuel efficiency and (2) take-home vehicles.

Fuel-efficient wheels for police. After experiencing last year’s high gas prices, and in face of the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, many police forces around the country and the world are testing more fuel-efficient cars for police use. This includes our local Anderson County Sheriff’s Department, which is trying out Dodge Chargers for patrol use. The Charger is a muscle car like the Crown Victoria, but it is rated as more fuel-efficient. Some other jurisdictions are testing smaller vehicles and hybrids for police use, including Chevy Impalas in Mobile, Alabama, the Pontiac Vibe in Cahokia, Illinois, and Toyota Camry hybrids in Salt Lake City, and even the Toyota Prius in Marion County, Florida. I know that police officers like their Crown Victoria, but if other vehicles meet the performance requirements of police work without using as much fuel, they can both save money and help reduce our impact on global climate and air quality.

Take-home vehicles. In a meeting some time back, I was surprised to hear Police Chief David Beams say that it would be possible to stretch the service life of some police cruisers by assigning them to police officers as take-home vehicles. Take-home vehicles would last longer because they would be used for only one shift (instead of being used around the clock). There’s plenty of support for this idea. In addition to saving on vehicle replacement costs, this could increase the police force’s ability to respond to unusual incidents, as officers called in from home could respond quickly. Only officers who live in Oak Ridge city limits should be eligible to take vehicles home, they should be used only to travel to and from work, and a police officer in a vehicle would have to be required to respond to any incidents he or she observes while in the vehicle. For those who qualified, a take-home car could become an added fringe benefit — this would even provide a tangible incentive for our men and women in blue to live inside the city. A take-home program wouldn’t eliminate the need to replace six cars this year, but it might be worth trying out on a small scale to see if it’s truly beneficial.

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32 Comments

  1. Stan Mitchell says:

    I really only have a couple of thoughts about what you’ve written.

    Regarding the Chamber contract, you wrote: “Many residents question the City’s whole relationship with the Chamber of Commerce, asking whether it’s in the public interest to subsidize a chamber of commerce, which is fundamentally operated for the benefit of its membership.”

    I think I’d argue, without having looked it up, that the Chamber was created to help both its membership and the city. The two basically go together and can’t be separated in my opinion.

    And on the police vehicles, having served in the Marine Corps, which gets like 3 percent of the DOD budget, but executes a huge percentage of the country’s mission (like 20 to 30 percent as of when I was there ’95-’99), you’ll never convince me that new vehicles are necessary. The Marine Corps was still flying helicopters it was using in Vietnam when I was serving. They just focused a lot on maintenance. With today’s technology, i.e. radios, computers and on-board cameras, I think the need for super-fast, practically brand new police cruisers is over. They need to be mostly reliable. After all, how does Oliver Springs get by with its 10+ year old vehicles? But before you say this in public, make sure you know that you’ll probably catch a ton of political wrath.

    Stan
    ——————
    Stan Mitchell
    The Oak Ridge Observer
    Direct: (865) 483-1866
    Fax: (865) 483-1630
    http://oakridgeobserver.com

  2. Ray Kircher says:

    Mr. Mitchell, I see you have joined our Chamber of Commerce, but what is the worth of our if you are sitting on the chamber’s board?

    I’m happy to see local business in the chamber. It is a vital when healthy non-profit. The chamber can build on business ideas. Any good company does, so why does a citizen like myself question what a chamber does with its budget? The answer is in why businesses located in Oak Ridge must subscribe to your chamber while our property taxes pay for it? You could always raise the subscription rate.

    Isn’t our residence worthy enough to support chamber businesses? I would think so.

    What I didn’t think was possible is that a non-profit could collect money and still fail miserably with the business idea partition. I couldn’t see anything more redundant than a “Work Where You Live” program while taxpayers are still subsidizing an Oak Ridge Visitor’s and Convention Bureau, and let‘s mention the Hotel Tax why it is never given to this city‘s needs. It makes me believe the chamber is completely void of thinkers, businessmen. I have seen nothing but copy-cat ideas with a city that gives money away.

    It comes down to service Mr. Mitchell. I dropped your subscription for Sudoku is space you will cut over stories about a place that is fenced in, still. Who Cares, what about Oak Ridge? I hope you can see your bluster. Also, as a resident, I have favored Councilwoman Smith. I know it is difficult doing what she does, and I believe her when she says it. This city needs to make some choices, and many of hers I like.

  3. Stan Mitchell says:

    Hey Ray,

    I appreciate your comments. A couple things worth mentioning. First, the city doesn’t have to “contract” with the Chamber. I believe the city does so because it’s worth it to the city to partner with local businesses to execute an important mission. City revenues are matched dollar-by-dollar by local businesses who share some of the same goals. Namely, finding a way to send Chamber representatives to recruit new businesses to Oak Ridge from around the country.

    Did you know our city doesn’t even have an economic director right now? If the Chamber isn’t out looking for new prospects, who is? I’ll tell you. No one.

    I get scared when I think what would happen if we didn’t a Chamber trying to round up business for this city. They have a track record of success (which I can get you info to back up). Can you imagine what are property taxes would be without them?

    Stan
    ——————
    Stan Mitchell
    The Oak Ridge Observer
    Direct: (865) 483-1866
    Fax: (865) 483-1630
    http://oakridgeobserver.com

  4. Ray Kircher says:

    Mr. Mitchell, your fears are unfounded and rather immature for a city our size. This city has been through more than what we are experiencing now by subsidizing the chamber. You are correct that our city is recruiting business, but no one is recruiting residents. Why do you think the chamber can do both successfully? When will the chamber start paying for streets, protection, education, life and death responders, etc.

    Mr. Mitchell, the chamber has too much hidden to be accepting from this city’s tax payers money over the subscription cost that the board and you have set. In fact, for every business that is located in Oak Ridge and the owners live in Oak Ridge the chamber should have a free pass for those businessmen to the chamber events and meetings, for those people should not be paying twice to be a member of a business club.

    Stop the double taxation Mr. Mitchell and focus on Oak Ridge business and stop taking money from Oak Ridge residents. If you want that money, create a membership for residents in the chamber that will spread your newsletter and give local business another avenue of advertising.

  5. Stan Mitchell says:

    Ray,

    Your comments seem to imply the Chamber, and myself somehow, are taxing Oak Ridge. That’s hardly the case. Again, the city is paying through a contractual agreement for services to be executed by the Chamber.

    If you don’t think that should be happening, then I encourage you to e-mail City Council, who actually do control the taxes around here.

    For those who don’t know what all the Chamber does, I encourage you to visit this page and spend just five minutes educating yourself: http://www.orcc.org/about-us/mission.html

    Stan
    ——————
    Stan Mitchell
    The Oak Ridge Observer
    Direct: (865) 483-1866
    Fax: (865) 483-1630
    http://oakridgeobserver.com

  6. Ray Kircher says:

    Mr. Mitchell, your last response to what the chamber does other than reach out for this city’s tax dollars is nothing more than what Mr. Hardy and other have sent out as a form letter response. The same type of response should be sent to the chamber about its successes, if there is anyone there who can talk about the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce.

  7. Stan Mitchell says:

    Ray, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this one. I do appreciate the discussion though. It helps me see where others are coming from, and I think as a city we need to do a better job of having folks on both sides of the fence talk to each other.

    Stan
    ——————
    Stan Mitchell
    The Oak Ridge Observer
    Direct: (865) 483-1866
    Fax: (865) 483-1630
    http://oakridgeobserver.com

  8. Ray Kircher says:

    Mr. Mitchell, you are the one who placed a form response to what the chamber is doing. Why is it you cannot speak for the chamber? I don’t see any disagreement to what the chamber does, but I do disagree in what you have shown me to be non-taxing and progressive. Do you agree that taking tax dollars from the city and still asking businesses to pay a membership for the chamber is double taxation for businesses, which ultimately the customers of local business pay for?

  9. Stan Mitchell says:

    Ray,

    I didn’t place a “form response” for the Chamber. Do you really believe Parker Hardy or any Chamber staff member would write something as blunt as this: “Did you know our city doesn’t even have an economic director right now? If the Chamber isn’t out looking for new prospects, who is? I’ll tell you. No one.”

    Of course he wouldn’t. The city is a client of the Chamber, and businesses don’t point out such shortcomings about their clients, from whom they derive revenue.

    It takes a brash, I’ll-say-what-I-want kind of guy to make such a statement, and I’m that kind of guy. Truthfully, Ray, if Parker had sent me a form response, I wouldn’t have used it anyway.

    Two reasons. First, it would probably just be a copy and paste job from the website that people could already read if they want. Second, I don’t work for Parker. As you know, I’m on the Board of Directors for the Chamber. That means Parker, who is the president of the Chamber, works for us. The Board of Directors. Voted on and elected by the members of the Chamber. Like nearly 700 or so businesses and organizations.

    Now, these businesses may decide they don’t want a brash guy like me on the Board after they see me in action for a year, and if that’s the case, then I’ll respect their opinion. But until then, I’ll do my best to do what I think is right.

    To your question: “Do you agree that taking tax dollars from the city and still asking businesses to pay a membership for the chamber is double taxation for businesses, which ultimately the customers of local business pay for?”

    No, I don’t agree. Look around. This city is hurting. Badly. We need a great Chamber to help us grow. Ask any business man or woman in town and they’ll tell you they want more business growth here, they want a city that works better with businesses, and they won’t admit it, but they are struggling to even make it; i.e. they couldn’t pay more dues if they had to.

    We need someone “selling” Oak Ridge outside Oak Ridge. The Chamber does that.

    We need someone taking the side of all these struggling businesses, making the case for why sign ordinances and other ideas often generated by planners will ultimately hurt businesses here; and long term, the city itself.

    And we need someone making the case to people who don’t live here that Oak Ridge is a great town to re-locate to and raise a family.

    I think the Chamber does that. And so do the majority of businesses in town. And to date, so does a majority of the elected City Council. I hope they continue to see the value of having such a strong Chamber work for this city.

    Stan
    ——————
    Stan Mitchell
    The Oak Ridge Observer
    Direct: (865) 483-1866
    Fax: (865) 483-1630
    http://oakridgeobserver.com

  10. Ray Kircher says:

    Mr. Mitchell, thinking signs is why local businesses are hurting is absurd. If this is the kind of issues the chamber is selling at those three-ring city expos, you have just proven my point that the chamber is failing miserably. So stop the burden the chamber is putting on our community or come up with what the chamber has done to improve all businesses in Oak Ridge for the over a quarter of a million dollars the chamber receives from taxpayers, not businesses. With a budget of $1.6 Million and only 11 square miles to affect with it, I think the chamber is not looking for a better City of Oak Ridge..

  11. Stan Mitchell says:

    Ray,

    The Chamber’s budget isn’t close to $1.6 million. It’s more like $500,000. Maybe $600,000. I’ve e-mailed Chamber staff to find out.

    And sorry, Ray, but signage regulations are a big deal. But, that’s just part of what the Chamber does. Like I said above, it also markets the city to prospective businesses looking to relocate from out-of-area markets.

    The Chamber also helps the city lobby. For example, see the three new signs posted up on the Interstate. That took two years of work by Chamber folks, many of whom are volunteers.

    I could go on and on, but let’s assume for a second that you’re right. The Chamber is a complete waste of time and money.

    What is your solution for fixing this community?

    Stan
    ——————
    Stan Mitchell
    The Oak Ridge Observer
    Direct: (865) 483-1866
    Fax: (865) 483-1630
    http://oakridgeobserver.com

  12. Ellen Smith says:

    It’s important to recognize that the City made a deliberate decision to contract with the Chamber to serve as the City’s economic development agent, rather than performing this function in-house. This is why the City doesn’t have its own economic development staff.

    The City Council needs to decide whether the Chamber contract is the best way for to invest a large chunk of the public’s economic development funds. As I now understand it (following Monday’s meeting), the Chamber is hoping that the City will commit to a 3-year contract instead of a year-to-year contractual arrangement. Given the current upheaval in the economy and the existence questions about the effectiveness and appropriateness of current Chamber strategies, I’m thinking that a one-year contract would better serve the City’s interests at this time, as it does not lock the City into any one approach.

  13. Ray Kircher says:

    Mr. Mitchell, that is the chamber’s direct problem, they act as if they are city council. They want tax payer funds, then to pass the responsibility of creativity and ideas on to the tax payers. We the citizens of Oak Ridge could use that money for civic infrastructure not private business associations and see a greater return than the chamber’s attempts. And your information about the chamber’s budget is wrong as stated in Knoxville News Sentinel graph about area chambers. Using your information relates to a city that is providing 54% of the chambers budget. Now are you relaying truthful information?

    You want my ideas, then stop taking tax payer funds, support the business association with business dues, have those business leaders step up to the plate of business ideas, and have more people involved with business by a citizen membership to the chamber, not an increasing reliance on taxation by the city‘s general fund. The fact that the chamber cannot be self-sustaining is a fact many should know about this election year. The chamber’s way of sneaking in funds through city tax dollars can be easily disputed. Why should the chamber be the only source of providing contracts for our city? Elitism, maybe: furthermore, I see it as a no-competition bid for services that go unchecked by our city council, favoritism.

    The chamber’s double taxation of Oak Ridge citizens is a travesty for any local business to rely on and survive, for the chamber’s efforts for its budget is dismal. The business members of the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce should be ashamed for being a member of an association that has an effort for tax payer funds yet very little effort for commercial growth in Oak Ridge. Just look at the track record of the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Mitchell. Even you have to call up for the information, for it is non-existent to Oak Ridge citizens.

    So Mr. Mitchell, how do you feel taking city tax dollars for a private business association?

  14. Ray Kircher says:

    Your comments are on track to a sustainable commercial tax base, Councilmember Smith. I don’t mind the chamber competing for contracts, but that idea is limited to the purpose of the chamber. Should it be a private business association or a non-profit to be on their own interest of commercial business? Where does that leave any Oak Ridge business on taxation? Does a business that is not supported by chamber contracts continue to pay taxes with costs passed on to its customers because the chamber is not self-sustaining?

    This discussion of our chamber is revealing the problem of commercial tax-base in Oak Ride, these businesses are looking for a tax break but are in reality paying more taxes for a business association they are not a member of, yet pay for.

    As I have read in other cities, maybe Mr. Hardy should petition congress for some of the bailout money, and run a successful chamber free of tax payer funds.

  15. Ellen,
    I believe that the Chamber is, in fact, self-sustaining but that it takes on a much larger role than it would have were it not for the City’s contract with it. What I would like to see happen is for the Chamber to petition for its one year renewal under the current contract and continue to develop metrics that more clearly reveal its effectiveness on behalf of the city. If the Chamber’s Economic Development staff believe that it needs a relocation specialist to effectively fulfill its mission for the contract, it should pay for same from the funds allocated to the contract. I’m pretty sure the city did not dictate all the specifics of how that contract would be fulfilled. When the Chamber proposes for a new contract a year from now, they can ask for more money based on demonstrated effectiveness.

  16. Ray Kircher says:

    Ms. Garland, can you please explain self-sustain? Mr. Mitchell claimed 54% of the chamber’s budget is from tax payer funds?

    No matter who fulfills the contracts (where I have not seen these contracts opened for a bidding process), an oversight committee needs to be in control of tax payer funds. Who are the people doing that?

    Now that we are on the subject of contracts, where is a list of such contracts and their committee overseeing them? It is a citizen’s right to see all of these contracts. We need a list of all the contracts the City of Oak Ridge has. It should show how much money is taken by checks written from Mr. James O’Connor’s (city manager) desk and proven by a Litmus Test of productivity and/or progress.

    And what of the ORCVB? Where is the value of a relocation specialist in that tax subsidized non-profit using city buildings, phones, and internet without payment to the city, a free lease, much like the chamber.

    This city has no business leader, just businesses greedy for tax payer money, and those who are joined to the chamber are taxed doubly for the same service. A redundancy that makes Oak Ridge business customers pay three times:

    Once from the customers property tax,
    Once from the customers choice of Oak Ridge business property tax,
    And once from the customer’s choice of Oak Ridge business’ Chamber of Commerce membership,
    More if the business owner lives in Oak Ridge.

    We are now a business greedy and citizen unfriendly city.

  17. Stan Mitchell says:

    Ray,

    I need to say I’m sorry and that I was wrong about the Chamber’s budget. Parker Hardy, the President of the Chamber, e-mailed me to say their budget is $1.3 million. So, I need to say publicly that I stand corrected.

    Stan
    ——————
    Stan Mitchell
    The Oak Ridge Observer
    Direct: (865) 483-1866
    Fax: (865) 483-1630
    http://oakridgeobserver.com

  18. Ray Kircher says:

    It is very nice to see someone correcting their self, apology accepted Mr. Mitchell. I have been misinformed before, and I can assure you that is a maturity level I don’t want to revisit. Can we move off the budget of the chamber and move on to what the taxpayers are expected to pay and how tax payers funds are spent?

    Also, can you name who gave you that information? She must have been a VIP for you to give away information above without checking it.

    I urge everyone to ask questions of all of our candidates this year. Anymore false information about our elected government and its current spending habits will surely doom the City of Oak Ridge for longer than the expiration date of our city’s current contracts.

  19. LEROY GILLIAM says:

    Do you not think that the City Council is just using the Chamber as a scape goat to not tackle the real issues existing in Oak Ridge?

    As far as Stan Mitchell sitting on the Chamber Board, He has no clue as to the credibilty
    he looses with the public.

    The old saying goes when you run with the herd sooner or later you become the herd. That also applies as to the way you think and react to your peers.

  20. Stan Mitchell says:

    Hey Ray,

    No one gave me that information. I went off what I thought I knew, but turns out the Chamber’s budget that I oversee doesn’t included the Economic Partnership’s numbers. The Economic Partnership does industrial recruitment and has a seperate Board of Directors that oversees their side of the budget.

    Stan
    ——————
    Stan Mitchell
    The Oak Ridge Observer
    Direct: (865) 483-1866
    Fax: (865) 483-1630
    http://oakridgeobserver.com

  21. LEROY GILLIAM says:

    WHY DO YOU THINK THE ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP IS HAS A SEPERATE BOARD AS WELL AS SEPERATE TAXPAYER FUNDING WHETHER THROUGH DISCOUNTED PROPERTY TAXES ?

    COULD IT BE THAT ONE BIG NUMBER WOULD CAUSE CITIZENS TO HAVE AN OAK RIDGE TEA PARTY?

  22. Ray Kircher says:

    So what are you saying, Mr. Mitchell?

    What Leroy is commenting about seems plausible when, as far I have learned, nearly every board or commission this city has is laid down as dormant for lack of a chamber where our city has paid for investments. A decade of expected performance, over and above us having water; sewer; eclectic; protection; transportation; parks and libraries; and many buildings that have seen better days yet stand, has yet to show any sign of return.

    Is there a list of contracts the chamber has with the city for any and all purposes?

    I understand the private business association in a chamber, and with the condition of our city, I see a need for transparency in the budget of the chamber, besides objections of businessmen who are creating a large budget with a sizeable city payment term.

    An explanation as to why chamber contracts are failing is where I am. I’m looking for more than a website of what the chamber mission is. We are not visitors. We pay the property taxes that the chamber wants, and what Councilmember Smith noted about the relationship of private business and government does meet the expectations of concerned citizens.

  23. Ellen Smith says:

    Thanks to Stan for setting the record straight on the Chamber and its budget. As I understand it, the Oak Ridge Economic Partnership is the organization’s industrial recruitment arm and is separate because it needs a different status under the IRS regulations for nonprofits (there are many different categories of “nonprofits”, all subject to different rules).

    Regardless of the Chamber’s budget and the sources of its funding, City funding is not supposed to be provided to subsidize the Chamber, but is supposed to pay for services that the Chamber and Economic Partnership is better equipped than the City government to provide.

    As Anne G.’s comment indicates, this needs to be treated as a contract (not a grant or a subsidy). The current contract actually includes some detailed metrics. However, some of those metrics don’t obviously serve City needs, but were included (according to Chamber leadership) to reassure members that the City shares the Chamber members’ goals. Also, it was discovered after the fact that some of the required metrics were extremely difficult to calculate (because the required data don’t exist), so those metrics are creating a lot of work for the Chamber staff without necessarily assuring a benefit to the City.

    I hope we can obtain a revised contract that is clearly tied to public objectives, has a duration tied to the city’s annual budget cycle (not longer), and is treated as a contract (with specific expectations) rather than as a grant-in-aid.

  24. LEROY GILLIAM says:

    SHOULD THE CITY COUNCIL BE WRITING LONG TERM CONTRACTS WITH THE CHAMBER SINCE THE CITIZENS DO NOT GET A 30% DISCOUNT ON SUCH COMMITMENTS. AND
    BESIDES THAT IS WOULD BE A DISADVANTAGE FOR THE CITY COUNCIL TO NEGOTIATE LONG TERM CONTRACTS SINCE THE VARIABLES MAY CHANGE OR DECREASE??

  25. Ellen Smith says:

    I don’t think the City should negotiate a long-term contract, but I have a hunch that other Council members may not agree with me.

  26. Ray Kircher says:

    Mrs. Smith, where can a current contract for city manager be found?

    It seems to me our city manager is giving employment to the chamber. Will citizens be required to give benefits to those of the business association who have contracts eerily similar to our city manager?

    Mrs. Garland, would clear contracts solve the problem of the chamber? The problem I see is the overwhelming amount of money put into the chamber. If greed is contagious, I can see where the chamber gets it being on adjacent property with the high school. The chamber should have a competitor to bring down prices, or at best have the city boards and committees work more with an influx of funds diverted from the chamber. In addition, it is enlightening to hear a Chamber of Commerce member say yearly contracts is all that is needed to perform.

    Mrs. Garland, are you the same Anne Garcia Garland running for city council?

  27. Ellen Smith says:

    Yes, Ray: The Anne Garcia Garland who posted above is the same Anne Garcia Garland who is running for City Council.

    The city manager’s contract is a public document. I believe the current contract is included in the online agenda package for the July 2008 City Council meeting (if not in that meeting’s agenda package, try the packets for the June and August meetings).

  28. LEROY GILLIAM says:

    I WAS READING ABOUT HOW THE CHAMBER HAD BROUGHT A
    PERSON THAT SUPPOSED KNOWS OAK RIDGES DIRECTION

    QUOTE BY Whitephrog
    What Kibben said was that 95% of the ‘market rate’ apartments in Oak Ridge were occupied.
    #############################

    THAT WHAT THE DOES THEY GET SOMEONE TO SPREAD IN TRUTHS THAT DO QUANTIFY WHAT THEY SAY– THE NEW HALLMARK APTS ARE STILL UNFILLED AND WHILE DRIVING AROUND I SAW SIGNS ADVERTISING TELLER VILLAGE APTS FOR RENT. UNLESS THIS IS REFERING TO
    SOMETHING THAT HAS NEVER BEEN BUILT IN OAK RIDGE.

    I NOTICED THAT ONE OF THE OTHER APT COMPLEXES WAS ADVERTISING FOR RENTERS.

    COULD IT BE THAT THE UP COMING YOUTH HAVE DO ESTABLISHED WEALTH—– AND OAK RIDGE WANTS TO RUN SENIORS AWAY. THERE MAYBE SOME EMPTY HOUSES
    BE THE SENIORS ARE FIXING UP THERE PRESENT DWELLINGS.

  29. LEROY GILLIAM says:

    I ATTEMPTED TO SAY “THATIS WHAT THE CHAMBER DOES THEY GET SOMEONE TO SPREAD UN TRUTHS BUT THEY DO NOT QUANTIFY WHAT THEY SAY– THE NEW HALLMARK APTS ARE STILL UNFILLED AND WHILE DRIVING AROUND I SAW SIGNS ADVERTISING TELLER VILLAGE APTS FOR RENT. UNLESS THIS IS REFERING TO
    SOMETHING THAT HAS NEVER BEEN BUILT IN OAK RIDGE.

  30. CrackerNation says:

    Ellen, how can you possibly know whether a one year or a three year (or some other period) could be better for the city without knowing the term of those contracts?

  31. Ellen Smith says:

    CN: Particularly in today’s current uncertain climate, I don’t think it makes sense to enter into a contract with the Chamber that runs longer than the city’s budget cycle for its own programs.

  32. CrackerNation says:

    Do we have any other multi-year contracts?

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