Councilors consider moving economic development duties to Redevelopment Authority

Sep. 18—Councilors revisited the idea of moving the city's economic development activities under the purview of the Muskogee Redevelopment Authority.

The concept appears similar to a proposal approved a couple of years ago, when revenue dedicated for marketing tourism and those duties were transferred to the authority. The experiment was short-lived, and both the money and responsibilities were transferred again into a newly created public trust.

Ward IV Councilor Traci McGee said placing the city's economic development department under the umbrella of MRA, a public trust administered by the city's nine elected officials, gives councilors "direct input."

"This allows councilors, for the first time, to really have direct input to economic development and really have an impact in our community," McGee said in August, expressing concerns about projects are selected or rejected. "Direct input — access — is very important — instead we are getting secondhand or thirdhand information."

This week, McGee restated the steps that would have to be taken before her proposal could be implemented. Her colleagues tabled it for further review. It is expected to be taken up next week for the purposes of establishing a task force.

City Attorney Roy Tucker said the task force would be able to meet and "work through the bylaws and negotiations with employees." Because the task force would be populated with a number of councilors that is less than a quorum who could work work behind the scenes, that would "help speed up" the process.

Mayor Marlon Coleman emphasized the importance of reviewing the proposal before moving forward. He said economic development is important, and "we need to be certain that we have the best economic development opportunities in Northeast Oklahoma."

"Let me say, we can have formal discussions with staff during the week," Coleman said. "That way we have enough information so that we come up on Monday we're ready to do something."

Ward I Councilor Stephanie Morgan said she would prefer to "have a lunch on that." Morgan was referring to communication lunches, a function attended by less than a majority of councilors to discuss issues that might be presented during future meetings.