When considering which way to vote on the upcoming Economic Development Corp. election, it is all too easy to get lost in the claims and counter-claims and counter-counter claims. In the end, however, it comes down to one basic question: Who do you trust?
Among the contests to be determined on the Nov. 6 ballot, Big Spring voters will be asked to decide whether to change the EDC from a Type A to Type B entity. Changing the EDC's mandate to Type B would allow it to allocate sales tax money for community improvement projects, instead of having the funds strictly designated for use in economic development.
Needless to say, this is a highly important decision we're being asked to make, which is why the question of trust is so important.
Do we trust the current set-up of the EDC? During its 20-plus years of existence, it has provided money to new and existing businesses, adding hundreds of new jobs and millions of dollars to the local economy. Firms such as Western Container, Desert Tank, GEO and the Settles Hotel Development Co., which is renovating Big Spring's most notable landmark, owe a large debt of thanks for the helping hand they received from our EDC.
Has the EDC had its failures? Yes. Could the corporation have done more to help grow our economy? Perhaps. One thing is clear, however: There would be fewer jobs available in Big Spring and less money on our tax rolls if we didn't have the EDC riding shotgun on economic development in this area.
Or do we trust the 4B proponents, most notably Big Spring Mayor Tommy Duncan and the majority of the city council? Let's consider a few things:
• Earlier this year, Big Spring voters approved a measure to provide funds to improve the city's wastewater infrastructure. One of the major reasons the issue passed was because of an agreement was reached between the city and EDC in which the corporation would provide 40 percent of the financing for the improvements in return for a city promise that it would not seek any further EDC funds while the bond was being paid off.
Yet, scant months later, Mayor Duncan and his supporters want to negate that agreement and make all the EDC money up for grabs.
• Mayor Duncan has said time and time again that, if EDC changes to a Type B operation, it can still pursue economic development possibilities. In effect, he's saying we can have our cake and eat it, too.
This is a pipe dream. The city faces too many infrastructure needs for the council to ignore the EDC money. And remember, 40 percent of the corporation's budget is already spoken for over the next 20 years — thanks to the conveniently-ignored agreement between EDC and the city on the wastewater improvements project. That leaves a smaller portion of the funds available for future use. Given the choice between voting the remaining money for community improvement projects and having the discipline to keep funds earmarked for economic development, we have little doubt which choice the council will make — it will take advantage of a figurative bird's nest on the ground and economic development efforts would be dealt a crippling blow.
• Under the current EDC set-up, Type 4B projects can be funded, but only by the public's vote in an election. That option would disappear if the 4B option is selected Nov. 6. The public could still have input at meetings — much as they do at just about any board meeting in town — but projects would be funded by a majority vote of the council, not the public at large. In short, four or five people would make the decisions on which 4B projects to fund, instead of the electorate.
In conclusion, we are asked to decide between the EDC's proven track record and a group of people who ignore agreements, make dubious claims and want to reduce the public's role in the decision-making process.
With that in mind, we have little choice but to implore voters not to change EDC to a Type B entity.
Early voting begins Monday and we encourage everyone to head to the polls. This issue is too important for a handful of voters to decide.
Nothing less than this community's future is at stake.