Letter to Landsman et al: Balanced Development Legislation
Dear Councilmember Landsman and members of Budget and Finance Committee
As the Balanced Development Priorities legislation is coming to a vote, Invest in Neighborhoods asks that you consider the following communication on behalf of the Community Councils. In addition to multiple meetings, review, and discussion around this legislation over the past couple of months, we convened a meeting with the Council Presidents to gather their comments and concerns, which we are expressing here. To summarize, the primary areas of discussion, review, and concern for the Community Council leaders we have worked with have been around engagement, transparency, and accountability.
Councilmember Landsman’s efforts to engage the Community Councils during the process of crafting this legislation – and even before he began working on this specific legislation – are recognized: input was sought, comments and concerns incorporated in the development of the legislation, and further input was sought. Quality engagement means, minimally, involvement early, taking into account the feedback received, and providing information back as to the response to the feedback. We appreciate this effort and hope to see it continued, not only by Councilmember Landsman, but by other Councilmembers.
We feel, however, that the legislation, as it stands, could go further in the specificity around engagement in the detail of the priorities; it is simply too vague. We look forward to working with the City to continue to improve the quality and process of community engagement in this legislation, and on the recommendations for implementation of engagement processes as outlined in the Memo on Community Engagement in Economic Development.
Creating legislation that concretely presents policy priorities, provides a tool for analysis of projects against those priorities, and requires the analysis to be addressed in the transmittal package is a good step towards transparency for all: City Council, the Administration, developers and community members. There is more, however, that can be done to increase transparency: including readily accessible data and information, timing of information flows, and clearly defined expectations.
The area of greatest concern is around accountability. If accountability is weak or non-existent, then the policies and legislation are wasted efforts. We acknowledge the expressed commitment on the part of the Committee members that this tool and related processes should be annually reviewed and continued improvements made, and that the ways the project meet the priorities as described in the transmittal will be codified into contract – but then what? Until a thorough process of accountability is put in place – what is reviewed when, by whom, and what are the penalties – then there is no way of assuring that developers are meeting their commitments to the City and to the communities. It is our communities, not just residents in the specific neighborhoods, but also local job seekers, businesses, minority and lower-income groups – all those the policies are prioritizing in the analysis tool – who suffer the consequences if there is not robust accountability.
We, and the Community Councils, look forward to continued opportunities to work on these issues specifically for this legislation, and more broadly across the City.
Thank you for your consideration,