Downsize Comox Valley Economic Development, save millions

Dear editor,
Municipal candidates: Where do you stand on my proposal to save Comox Valley taxpayers $2.5 million over the next five years?

Dear editor,

All municipal candidates: Where do you stand on my proposal to save the Comox Valley taxpayer $2.5 million over the next five years?

I propose the immediate dismantling and restructuring of the Comox Valley Economic Development Society (CVEDS).

Over the years, CVEDS has been virtually institutionalized and has seemingly enjoyed strong political favour from the “majority” of our elected councillors and regional directors. The current annual budget is a very cool $890 million, which includes $740 million to run CVEDS and $150 million for the Chamber Visitor Info Services.

In other words, taxes from about 700 individual households support CVEDS.

Fellow taxpayers, CVEDS exists as a totally “community optional” organization that has drawn multi-millions over the years. Every community approaches economic development in their own way.

Parksville has an Ec Dev Board board with a comparatively nominal budget. Port Alberni contracts a full-time Ec Dev officer plus an assistant operating out of city hall, for a total annual cost of $136 million.

The $150 million funding for Chamber of Commerce Visitor Information Centres on Cliffe Avenue and Cumberland flows

from your taxes to the regional district, then to CVEDS, which  distributes to the Chamber Visitor Info Centres.

This spring, the Cliffe Avenue VIC is being shut down and the Chamber of Commerce will no longer run the outlet. The new VIC on the Parkway will be contracted out to a yet-to-be-named group. Excuse me? Just how did this happen?

Chamber of Commerce-managed VICs are arguably the most efficiently managed, professionally staffed, biggest “bang for the buck” on the planet! What’s more, staff at the current VIC will be out of work.

What I like about CVEDS: Having all levels of local government at a board table working to attract business to grow the Comox Valley economy.

What I don’t like about CVEDS: Incredible cost versus results (return on taxpayer investment), duplication of premises, gross duplication of services that already exist through Community Futures, Chamber of Commerce, Visitor information Service, YQQ, City of Courtenay, Town of Comox and the Village of Cumberland.

I propose:

• Closure of CVEDS premises at 102-2435 Mansfield by March 31, 2012 and relocation to the regional district office.

• Sale of CVEDS premises and repatriation of sale proceeds (our taxpayer dollars) back to the regional district.

• Reduce the annual CVEDS budget to $200 million, ample for two talented staffers. Annual funding to be results-based.

• Regional district to regain control of the $150-million annual VIC funding and negotiate a contract directly with the Chamber of Commerce for management of the new VIC on the Parkway.

Net savings over five years would be a whopping $2.7 million.

Elected councillors and regional district representatives sit on the CVEDS board and have the power and influence to make these changes.

It would be most excellent to hear from all candidates on where they stand on CVEDS along with any other tax savings initiatives they propose. Within your responses, please be short on rhetoric and long on specifics.

Submitted with the utmost respect towards all of the candidates who choose to run for local office.

B. Peterson,

Comox

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