Monday, January 26, 2015

KURA Communication Missteps   
     Urban renewal programs can be salutary for a city. They can also be abused, faultily used, and even harmful. A lot of fuzziness has accrued to the concept since its birth over 60 years ago. One observation holds true, however: urban renewal must be properly understood if it is going to fulfill its promise. Sadly, public communication about Ketchum's Urban Renewal Agency (KURA) has been poor from the start. 
     I've written previously about the bigger management missteps by the KURA: poor return on investment, favoritism to private interests, conflict of interest, unapproved changes to approved plans, backroom dealing. The KURA's less than helpful efforts to accurately inform the public of its activities are a more subtle issue. 
     It often seems that KURA's mantra has been "less is more," i.e. the less clarity about it among the public, the more likely people will ignore its operations. A signal source of information, the Mt. Express, has made frequent reporting errors (especially initially) without being corrected by the URA Board. This may not be a conscious strategy but the lack is there.
     Then there was the URA sponsored workshop in 2012, ostensibly asking for public input for the URA's future but a strangely empty exercise:
     1. There was no effort to provide meaningful group education and questioning. Instead, favorable displays of URA projects were placed around the room for public viewing. Questions could be asked of not always well-informed volunteers and staff.
     2. Nowhere was River Run's designation as an urban renewal area indicated. In fact, when asked, few citizens realized it had taken place.
     3. The URA's Assessed Value and Revenue Estimate wasn't available (having been "redone at the last minute" by the external consultant). When a staffer produced a copy, the City Administrator couldn't answer questions about apparent flaws. The estimate was withdrawn to be redone.
     4. A "URA project" on display was not, in fact, contained in the URA. An audience member pointed this out.
     Further, there has been virtually no communication by the KURA with the several other affected taxing districts or attempt to bring them onto the KURA Board (a recommended practice). Of course, one might ask why those districts have not complained about about their lost revenues! 
     Its not likely that the average resident will learn that Starbucks relies on the KURA to take care of its maintenance problems: e.g. toilet repair and cold air sweeping inside when front doors are open.
     Nor would the average resident know to pose this question for the KURA accountant: Why is there a discrepancy between KURA's stated yearly tax income for the past six years and the income reported paid to Ketchum by the County Treasurer? If there's a reason for this, why is it not clear?

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