For the first time in the 25-year history of PILOTs in this community, the process has been doused with a healthy dose of transparency.
For this, we can all thank the city-county economic development board EDGE, which is in the process of posting on its website all the records associated with every tax freeze, and things will get even better as the website is made more intuitive to eliminate any lost motion in searching for the needed files.
We’ve been calling for transparency in the PILOT process for longer than we care to remember, so we were remiss in not catching the fact that EDGE has done what was previously thought to be unimaginable by its predecessor boards – posting agendas, applications, cost-benefit analyses, leases, and audits for tax freezes as well as audio recordings of EDGE meetings.
It’s been a long-time coming, but it’s a major step forward in responding to those of us who have questions about the process waiving almost $100 million this year. To EDGE’s credit, it has emphatically answered our questions about its commitment to becoming the poster child for the public entity that is taking the lead in showing other boards, departments, and agencies what real transparency looks like.
We were notified of the trove of documents in the EDGE website’s archive in an email from Trey Heath, EDGE’s information specialist. Here’s what he wrote:
After reading your article that references the transparency of the EDGE PILOT program, I wanted to reach out to you and make you aware of our efforts to make information regarding the PILOT program readily available.
First, we have posted EDGE meeting files (this includes PILOT applications, PILOT analysis, resolutions, etc.) on our website, growth-engine.org, since December.
Not only have we posted files regarding upcoming PILOTs, but we’ve also spent hundreds of man hours creating an archive of current and past PILOTs. This is currently on our website and has been accessible since December.
To date, the archive holds 1,648 files that include meeting minutes for EDGE and the IDB dating back to 1989, recorded audio from meetings, PILOT applications, PILOT analyses, resolutions, leases, compliance reports and so on. You can find this information here: http://growth-engine.
We are constantly scanning and updating the archive, so you can expect that to continue to grow.
A week prior to all board meetings, we e-mail more than 400 people details of the meeting and links to download all of the meeting files. People sign up for these e-mails on our website every week.
We also post an overview of the project with links to download the meeting files. For TJX, you can see an example here: http://growth-engine.org/?p=
Beyond this, we have been actively working with a local Web development agency for the past three months to create a more intuitive EDGE Database.
We hope to launch this in April, and it will provide a great deal of search functionality.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
In a followup email, he wrote:
I will let you know as soon as the new database goes live. I don’t know if you’ve had time to go through the archive, but meeting audio is available. You can find it here: http://growth-engine.
There is much that still needs to be organized and added to the archive. As we set out with the developers to build the new EDGE Database, we recognized that getting it up would take time and that these files should be in the public domain.
The archive was created and put online to ensure that was possible.
We appreciate Mr. Heath’s email and you can sign up for notices from EDGE. You’ll find the signup option at the bottom right of the EDGE home page. We may not agree on our community’s overreliance of tax freezes, but we can all agree that we salute EDGE’s openness.