Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Betty Phillips: City Needs More Seats on JEDO

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Betty Phillips: City Needs More Seats on JEDO

Article excerpt

The decision whether the entire Topeka City Council should vote on matters before the Joint Economic Development Organization, which currently consists of all three county commissioners and only three of the nine city council members and mayor, should be self-evident.

For 10 years after 2001, the JEDO meetings weren't televised nor were public comments allowed. Also, the former president and CEO of Go Topeka/Chamber of Commerce received a reported $406,000 salary.

In 2006, Garner Economics, selected by JEDO and Go Topeka to create an economic development strategy, offered 25 recommendations. Of those, eight were implemented "at varying degrees of success, which is considered a low ratio."

The 2015 Garner report concluded, "The messages from the public have been clear: more transparency, better utilization of how public money is deployed, how JEDO's agents and funding partners are performing. ... JEDO should encourage GO Topeka to be a standalone, autonomous organization and a JEDO Board of Advisors should be created." They strongly recommended an open-communications policy.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reported, "Jay Garner, president of Garner Economics, told the Joint Economic Development Organization that one of the most significant issues he identified while preparing his proposal is a lack of public trust."

"I haven't been involved with an organization that has communicated its message as poorly as JEDO," Garner said.

In addition, "significant issues were raised by the League of Women Voters, as mentioned in the article, 'League of Women Voters concerned about JEDO operations.' " That organization "plans to submit a proposal for changes to JEDO sometime after April. ... Members also raised concerns about transparency within Go Topeka, noting that board meetings are closed and documents are difficult to find or understand. …

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