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KEDCO Review Committee

By: James Jeff McLaren
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Opinion Piece on The Work of the KEDCO Review Committee

The KEDCO Review Committee was struck because of public concerns with the openness, transparency, accountability and results of KEDCO’s activities and performance. Council heard these concerns and we want to make economic development and KEDCO better and to make them supported by the people.

However, there seems to be something wrong with something about the KEDCO Review Committee. Over the last several weeks we have heard many allegations. But, like the seven blind men who argue about what an elephant is really like, we believe that we have been grouping around in the dark with too little useful or meaningful information.

The problem as we see it is that there is a conflict between an out-group and an in-group. These groups seem to be ideologically based. For the vocal core of one of these groups KEDCO can do no wrong; for the other KEDCO can do no right. Because the truth is always somewhere in between, we find it very difficult to take the advice from either side without a grain of salt; that is without fact checking.

In the course of reviewing KEDCO, we do not believe that we should give any undue advantage to either one of these groups. So we have invited the public to be a part of our committee and the KEDCO CEO and the members of the KEDCO board who sit on the Review committee have voluntarily given up their voting rights. We believe that this levels the influence of both sides because both sides will still be able to voice their opinions but will not have undue influence over the process. In the interests of fairness, openness and transparency we feel it had to be done.

Going forward, and realizing that our objectivity and legitimacy were challenged, we need to work harder than ever before to earn back your trust. We need the support of people who care about what is best for Kingston and who can see two or more sides to any issue. We need new creative solutions to some of the major issues that we have heard.

Among the most frequently cited concerns are “where did the money go?” I think our committee does not have the time to do a detailed audit of every moment of the past but if we were to look closely at a few random months we may determine that a full deeper audit is called for or we may see that everything really is well in hand. We believe that we should at least see a few months’ worth of personal expense claims and corporate credit card statements. With this information we can craft new policy standards that allow for economic development but which reflect fiscal prudency and what the people what.

One of our goals is to create the processes that generate meaningful two-way communication so the public’s voice is always heard and we never have to have a review again. It has been suggested that consulting committees of stakeholders (as for example from the business community) should be formed. We believe that invaluable information could be gleaned from such committees if we can set up the proper processes.

Another goal is to ascertain existing capacities and capabilities to see what can be done. We may need to change what we do to get better results. We could get a better picture if we were to consult with the experts in the field, with KEDCO staff, past and present who have valuable insight into what is possible. By conducting a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis we can get a better sense of what needs to be considered going forward.

One of the questions that came up frequently at our first townhall was “is KEDCO worth the money?” We feel that this is an important question that must be answered coldly with hard numbers. We believe that we should conduct an economic evaluation and compare the return on investment of the money put into KEDCO with what the return on investment would be if we had left the money in the hands of taxpayers.

Lastly we must never forget that it is the people whom we serve. We must have continuous public townhalls to listen to concerns and to explain, give answers and or change our operations based on legitimate feedback.

I hope that you will give us a chance and help us to improve KEDCO and economic development in Kingston for generations to come.

Added on: Feb 7, 2016
By: James Jeff McLaren
© 2008 - 2018, James Jeff McLaren