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Imminently concerned: A local view of eminent domain
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Blight Makes Right: October 26, San Diego
Eminent Domain in N.J. - Now They Just Steal Land
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Conference on Redevelopment Abuse
San Jose, California. 95103
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May 16, 2005
Better listening improves results
Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal
Government should be run more like a business, the argument goes. Public officials should be more circumspect in handling the taxpayers' money. They should manage more efficiently and keep their eye on the bottom line as if they were operating in the private sector. They should recognize the citizenry as both the stockholder and the client.
That all sounds pretty good in this sound bite world.
But there's a corollary that San Jose city officials seem to have missed -- In some cases, they are competing with other jurisdictions and adopting practices and pricing structures that aren't competitive can be a deal killer in the end.
A few developments this week put a fine point on that lesson.
A Cisco Systems vice president fired off a letter to the city saying that the proposed development fee planned to finance infrastructure upgrades in the North First Street area was simply too high. At $10.44 per square foot, it would have a chilling effect on Cisco's interest in expanding here, a potentially devastating blow to the city's hope of growing its way out of tax revenue problems.
Down the road in Coyote Valley, developers staggering under the prospect of carrying well over a billion dollars in infrastructure costs also were grumbling. Here, the city grudgingly seems to acknowledge that in this economic environment, the expressed desire to plant jobs in Coyote Valley before housing just wouldn't fly. Only by spreading the upfront costs over many residential buyers in this superheated housing market does the deal come close to penciling.
The unifying theme here is that neither of these responses should have come as a surprise. All the city had to do is listen to the customers, the people trying to do business here. And that seems a worthy addendum to the list of things government could do better.
Apologists for the status quo will point with pride to the political dog and pony show staged this week next door to PF Chang's downtown restaurant. There, Mayor Ron Gonzales unveiled a new bit of finery in his ongoing bid to dress up City Hall's relationship with small business. We'll now have a corps of ambassadors who will personally guide a business through the maze of red tape, he proclaimed. No detail on how that'll work or what success will look like. No talk of actually reducing the red tape.
Those same apologists will point to the seemingly endless string of public hearings, arguing that stakeholders have ample opportunity to influence decisions. We'll disagree. Some of those hearings are conducted as window dressing after the decision has effectively been made. Anybody recall a hearing on that baseball stadium plan, for example? Others involve officials listening but not hearing.
Listening is a skill that can be both taught and learned. If public officials want to get things done, they need to improve their listening skills. Only then will they hear what the customers are saying and only then can they become accomplices rather than hindrances in building a brighter future.Posted by Coalition Webbies at May 16, 2005 06:26 PM