COLUMBIA — A political action committee opposed to establishing an enhanced enterprise zone in the city declined to present its views today to a sub-group of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber's Government Affairs Committee held a members-only discussion Thursday afternoon on the issue. It invited representatives from Regional Economic Development Inc., or REDI, the primary proponents of an enhanced enterprise zone, and from Citizens Involved and Invested in Columbia, or CIVIC, a group formed to fight the designation of large portions of the city as blighted or possessing conditions that lead to blight.
The blight designation is one step in the process of applying to the state for the creation of an enhanced enterprise zone.
Chamber President Don Laird said the Government Affairs Committee intended to decide whether to recommend an enhanced enterprise zone to the Chamber's board of directors, who then would choose whether to endorse the tax incentive program.
"An endorsement from us simply shows our membership is supportive," Laird said.
CIVIC members, however, decided the parameters of the discussion weren't for them.
"We feel it's not appropriate to present at this," Nancy Harter of CIVIC said. "It's kind of a closed house in there. It does not represent the community. We know the chamber has a certain way of doing things."
Harter said any discussion of the enhanced enterprise zone issue needs to be public.
"This is a very important thing that could happen to our city," Harter said. "What is put forth should be open."
Harter said CIVIC was concerned that the Government Affairs Committee's recommendation to the board of directors — and its subsequent decision about whether to endorse an enterprise zone — would not adequately reflect the opinions of the entire chamber membership.
"It's not appropriate for a group within an organization to speak for the entirety of that organization by fiat," Harter said.
CIVIC formed in response to the resolution passed by City Council on Feb. 6 that designated more than half of the city as blighted or possessing conditions that lead to blight. Since then, CIVIC has pushed for the City Council to rescind that resolution and introduce an ordinance that would reconsider the proposed enhanced enterprise zone map and allow public discussion.
The City Council is scheduled to discuss the repeal of the resolution Monday night.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.