I’m glad to hear that the position of Director of Community and Economic Development has been filled and that there is unified support amongst the Mayor and the Council for Robert von Hasseln to do the job. I think it’s a potentially big step in reviving our city’s economy and culture.
The one thing that still concerns me is that a list of specific, measurable goals for the position has not yet been made public. Back during the budget debates in June, there was an understanding of sorts between the Council and the Mayor that the position would be evaluated within a year and continued based on it’s effectiveness*. However without any clear, mutually agreed upon goals, then it’s likely to come down to a battle of opinions again when budget time comes around next year.
Right now there seems to be a genuinely positive vibe on this subject between the Council and Mayor. With the appointment of von Hasseln, I think now is the opportune time to establish specific targets for this position. That way, the decision to continue or not next year can be made on a rational basis (wouldn’t that be refreshing!)
Additionally, I think that taxpayers need to see a tangible return on their investment in this position, even if it’s a small one. Many people today are skeptical (with good reason) about government spending because of the out of controls debts our national and state governments are racking up. I think voters are going to need to see some good results here before we support additional city-government spending to stimulate Amsterdam’s economy.
About a month ago I asked Mayor Ann Thane for some details about the new Director of Community and Economic Development position. In response, she provided me with her finalized, expanded vision for the position. I’ve included a pdf version of the vision here. I think the overall vision is a good one, it describes in mostly broad strokes the range of activities that the CEDD will be responsible for. Along with this, Mayor Thane explained that the specific 1 year goals for the position were still being determined and she could use some help in that area.
So with that in mind, I’ll offer my own suggestions for 1 year goals for the CEDD…
- Directly assist in the formation or re-location of at least 2 small businesses in Amsterdam
- Present a draft five year plan for specific economic development projects that will foster small business growth. This plan should specifically address how Amsterdam will integrate with and benefit from the emerging regional economy, most importantly considering the Global Foundries plant and NY’s TechValley initiative.
- Have at least the beginning structure of a web-accessible database that catalogs all Amsterdam properties available for business development (both for sale or rent).
- Produce a written document that describes the structure, leadership roles, and decision making process for the Neighborhood Watch, Neighborhood Association, and any other community organization associated with City Hall. Those of us who are active and supportive of these groups are still often left scratching our heads over these issues and I believe the confusion has hampered wider participation and growth.
It’s a tall order, and I certainly don’t think that 100% completion of all these goals should determine whether van Hasseln passes or fails. There’s actually only 9 months left before the budget process begins again, and we have to understand that it takes a while for a person to settle into a new role. But I think that along with successfully completing the day-to-day administrative tasks outlined by the Mayor, these would be good goals to target.
Let’s hear some other ideas for appropriate one year goals for the CEDD. I’d don’t want to debate whether the position should have been approved or not, that decision has already passed. But rather, what results would you like to see that would justify the money spent?
*“A’dam budget passes” by Rebecca Webster, Amsterdam Recorder, Wednesday, June 20, 2012