~ by Bob Volpe ~
Last week’s regular meeting of the Woodland Park Downtown Development Authority was capped by a debate over the subject of social media and comments made by members of the board in this particular medium.
This is an issue that many government bodies now wrestle with, with some entities adopting full-fledged social media policies pertaining to the conduct of elected leaders. This occurred in Green Mountain Falls a number of years ago
At issue is whether Twitter/Facebook-related comments by board members should be reined in, or if this forum should be used to generate opinions.
DDA Board member Al Born got the ball rolling stating, “It seems like in our society right now social media has taken a very large emphasis and sway in public thoughts and opinions. When we start seeing DDA topics that people are expressing from our board members on social media that should stay within this board forum, not executive sessions, but this board forum, but they’re getting put out on social media. This is a very dangerous thing and it is not appropriate. I certainly want all of our board members to feel free to express whatever it is that they want to express in this forum, but not on social media.”
Board member Elijah Murphy countered Born’s statement, “How are we supposed to get the general consensus of the public if we’re not out there talking about the DDA? We have a somewhat limited audience here that is pretty much always the same people. And if we don’t look for public opinion, other than by walking around talking to people, then social media is a great place to do that.”
Born conceded that social media is a good way to receive information but is not a place for opinions to be expressed. He said, “One person’s opinion on social media could reflect positively or negatively on the entire board and that is not appropriate.”
Born further cautioned the use of social media saying, “We also need to be very careful because other people out there can be playing a game. They’re baiting us to make these comments and then it comes back to haunt us quite negatively on this board.”
In a compromise move, board member Jon DeVaux suggested DDA meetings should be recorded the same as city council meetings are so the public can view them at their convenience.
Moratorium on TIF Agreements Mulled
After the social media discussion, the board talked about the future of TIF (Tax Increment Financing) agreements in town. These tax incentive deals are used to entice future businesses in setting up shop in the downtown area and are also used for expansions of current businesses.
DDA Treasurer Tanner Coy read a statement to the effect that as the town is experiencing an economic upswing, perhaps TIF funds might be better used to pay down DDA debt, and improve public safety, revenue sharing with other taxing entities, landscape improvements and cleaning up the public right-of-way, etc. Coy suggested these uses of TIF funds are more valuable at this time to the public than offering tax reimbursements to new businesses.
The treasurer added, “I don’t remember who brought it up at the time but I remember somebody mentioning the concept of a moratorium on TIF reimbursements. At the time I wasn’t fond of the idea, but as our local economy has proven to be stronger than expected I’ve grown fonder of a moratorium on reimbursement agreements than I once was.”
Newly elected WP Councilperson Kellie Case was in attendance and agreed with Coy that a moratorium on TIF agreements is the only way the DDA can address its debt issue.
Coy wanted to make it clear he did not make a recommendation of a moratorium. He stressed this was just something the board could consider.