|Jackie Parker. Stolen from her Twitter page|
When Jackie Parker walked away from her executive director post of the Chester Economic Development Authority (CEDA), she shared some parting words in the Delaware County Times about the city’s business climate.
She said the mayor and city council had an economic goal to get the city grocery stores and that goal has been met. The other big goal is to make the downtown business district more attractive to business owners. Next is to rekindle discussions about developing the waterfront and 2nd Street (Route 291).
"The goal of any development in the city is to improve the economic situation and improve the community, Parker said. To that end, housing has been a focal point of the city’s strategy. The city has the processes in place to encourage business to come in,” Parker said, "and that will help Chester to move away from reliance on public funding to drive development. From an economic standpoint, you need to attract private dollar. You can’t do it all with government funds.”
It appears CEDA is floundering. It’s had a rocky run since the new administration has come on. They started with the long time director held over from the old administration being replaced by the mayor’s guy who was ultimately kicked out by people not friendly to the mayor’s guy. Jackie Parker joined with much fanfare due to her experience and connections but she allegedly is voluntarily leaving after only 18 months on the job.
Who will be the 4th CEDA business leader in less than 2 years?
The most interesting comment Ms. Parker left us with has to do with how Chester City government is set up.
She would like to see Chester move away from its Home Rule Charter and go to the more traditional strong-mayor or city manager form of government.Currently, Chester uses a weak-mayor form of government, where the mayor is a voting member of the five-member council. Each council member is the head of a different city department. Parker thinks this puts Chester at a disadvantage. “Everytime there’s a change in administration, you get new department heads,” she said. “There’s no institutional memory to keep things going.” With a strong-mayor or manager government, department heads would be city employees and council people would be involved with the departments, but not directly run them.
I’ve often wondered why our city council people don’t represent neighborhoods instead of running departments. It would be great to go to MY city council person as the first stop with an issue as opposed to trying to figure out who can answer my question or resolve my problem among the current crop of council people or other people in charge of city departments.
I remember poor Shep Garner at the Mayor/Council debate before the 2010 election. He was trying to convince folk that he was the only person in the room with financial experience especially with regards to city finances. He wasn’t too convincing as most people where sold on the young upstart deserving an opportunity to show what he could do.
Well, I think any objective person would agree that this administration is struggling to get their budgets, audits, and financial house in order and has been called out by a prominent business man as creating a 'business unfriendly atmosphere'.
As Jackie Parker says as she rides off into the western sunset of Harrisburg...
“It has to come form the residents. It’s really an examination. Is this what the people really want?”