Monday, April 06, 2009

Bobcast: Doing the CDA shuffle

Latest Bobcast is up. Listen here or read below.

You convene to the left.
You meet to the right.
Hand out a bunch of dollars.
Attract a bunch of jobs.
Now you’re doing the CDA Shuffle.

Commercial development authorities (or CDAs) are an instrument Alabama cities can use to, well, develop commercial centers.

As recently demonstrated in an Anniston Star series, Oxford has put its CDA to heavy use. The secretive board has handed out almost $9 million in no-bid contracts over the past 15 years. CDA advocates point to phenomenal retail growth during that time.

Yet, the riches came with a price – the CDA board and its benefactors are deeply inter-connected through of campaign contributions and professional ties. Using public money in a largely accountable way can lead to mischief.

Anniston officials say they are looking at the creation of a CDA, though with more public accountability than Oxford’s.

Nothing wrong with CDA’s in theory. Cities need reliable tools for developing commer-cial districts. Let‘s not let the sunshine of open government be a casualty of a commercial development authority.