Not All Applauding Haslam’s Plans for ECD Cuts

Gov. Bill Haslam says that, as mayor of Knoxville, he never even heard of the Department of Economic and Community Development’s regional planning offices, which will be abolished with 71 jobs eliminated as part of his new plans for having ECD create more jobs. But it seems some local officials had.
From the Shelbyville Times-Gazette:
Layoffs at the state Department of Economic and Community Development will affect Bedford County’s ability to study the impact of proposed subdivisions and other developments, according to Bedford County director of planning and zoning Chris White.
Haslam told The Associated Press that big cities and counties didn’t use the service and smaller cities and counties didn’t need it. “I don’t know why the state should be helping with subdivision plans,” he said.
But White said the service is invaluable to Bedford County. Bedford County contracts with the state to provide planning services, and the county’s assigned state planner, Bryan Collins, sits next to White at county planning commission meetings.
White said Collins is “an expert advisor in community planning, zoning and subdivision regulations … [and] an advisor to me on a weekly basis assisting me on a plethora of planning questions that come up regularly.”

From the Greeneville Sun, on closing the ECD office in Johnson City::
The Greene County Planning Commission and the Planning Commissions of Greeneville, Baileyton, Mosheim and Tusculum — as well as local developers, real estate agents, and individuals that deal with planning and zoning issues — have for many years leaned heavily on the advice and help of contract staff planners from the Johnson City Office.
From the Johnson City Press:
Mike Rutherford, Washington County’s zoning administrator, said the closing will be a blow to his department, financially and otherwise.
“I’m very disappointed that the governor cut that program out,” Rutherford said. “That was an essential service to the local community that allowed us to advance our planning agenda, without the tremendous overhead of employing an independent planner.”
Since Rutherford joined the zoning office in 1989, he has recommended renewing his office’s contract with the state’s planning assistance office every year. The cost of that annual contract is around $13,000, while to employ a private planner would cost upward of $40,000 a year, he said.
“They fill so many voids and allow us to devote our time to other tasks,” he said. “The information they bring, as well as the services like just keeping us advised of all changes in state statutes, is invaluable.”
Even though they provided part-time help on a consulting basis, Rutherford said, it will be like losing full-time employees.
P.C. Snapp, now executive director of the Washington County Economic Development Board, ran the local planning office from 1967 to 1998. He called the closings a “tragic mistake” that will “destroy smaller communities.”
Smaller, more rural communities rely on the office to help them keep up to date on development issues without having to pay a private planner to make numerous trips to hearings and meetings all over the region, both Snapp and Rutherford said.

And, this from the Tennessee Democratic Party:
Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester released
the following statement in response to Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Jobs4TN” initiative
of Economic and Community Development Department:
The plan’s flowery rhetoric and lack of detail doesn’t inspire much hope for unemployed Tennesseans. The only concrete action Haslam has laid out is to immediately fire 60 people from the staff that helped Tennessee land Volkswagen, Nissan, Hemlock and Wacker Chemie.
We can debate the details of this plan going forward, but the fact remains that the best jobs plan in the world isn’t going to amount to a hill of beans if the commissioner, who is supposed to implement the plan, is off part time running a presidential campaign for his old boss.
We have a jobs crisis at hand, and Tennesseans deserve their economic development commissioner’s full attention and 100-percent commitment to the job.
When you are working for taxpayers, you should have to earn your $200,000
compensation package, missing state business because your other boss calls is

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