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Tuesday, March 29, 2005
An Uncertain, Potentially Ominous Signal

A source told me several days ago, and now a Daily Herald article affirms, that the next city budget will not include funds for the services of an outside economic development specialist, as it has for the past few years. Mayor Barratt hastens to assure us that the economic development role will not disappear; it will simply be performed by existing City employees.

This is the predictable response to an inevitable concern. It may actually be true, but I do not find it comforting. It has seemed to me for a long time that more could be done to encourage economic development, especially downtown; are we now to believe that more will be done in this critical area, when there are fewer people to do it? Are we to believe that someone in the City administration has the expertise to pull it off and is not already busy enough without this new assignment? Yes, it could prove true, and I'm sure the Mayor believes it, but right now it is only words. The opposite possibility, that this actually foretells a further de-emphasis of downtown, seems likely to become reality as soon as the next pressing local issue distracts official and public attention.

In any case, the budget in question takes effect July 1, if it is approved by City Council vote, which hasn't happened yet. It is still a proposal; perhaps there is still time for discussion, persuasion, and so forth.

The rehabilitation of downtown American Fork probably should not depend entirely, or even mostly, on the efforts of government. But those who care would welcome a convincing sign that the City at least is interested in it.

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