Northwest Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham was quoted that development authorities were created to keep politics out of the process. Not quite. To be fair, the politicians who dreamed up the concept were probably genuinely concerned about stimulating development. But they also wanted to provide cover for themselves so actions could be taken which they, as elected officials could not get away with. If you want to call that “getting politics out of the process,” fine. I call it shirking responsibility and defeating accountability and just plain wrong.
One very clear reason why development authorities were created was to get around a law which prevented councils and commissions from entering into long-term leases. Such elected bodies were not supposed to be able to saddle their successors with long-term obligations. So, presto, create an authority that can enter into the leases and then use it to do the things the elected folks were not supposed to do.
To say commissioners or council members are not involved with what the authorities do is at best wishful thinking, but it is definitely not true. They appoint the members, usually very close friends or business associates, and maintain close contact. They definitely influence decisions.
When some of the powers of the commission or council are transferred to unelected authorities, this does not remove politics. It just removes accountability.
This completely undermines the constitutional concept of one man/woman, one vote, enunciated by the U.S. Supreme Court because it effectively takes away the value of the vote. When the voter cannot vote out the development board members and thus loses this direct power or control over the political process, the sanctity of our governing process is damaged.
We think we have a representative form of government, but we find that non-elected people who do not represent us are making big decisions and are using powers we thought were only vested with our elected representatives.
No matter how much we might find that development authorities may, in certain cases, have stimulated economic development, to the extent that they undermine the fabric of our republic and may indeed be involved with unfairly benefiting some businesses over others, we owe it to ourselves to examine the process and determine if changes need to be made.