Oregon: Council member wary of foundation spending

By: 
Omar Smaidy

The Oregon Economic Development Foundation (OEDF) is a non-profit organization that was formed in 1993 by a group of Oregon business owners and city officials to help promote economic development by retaining and attracting new businesses to the Oregon area.
Last month, city council approved an ordinance authorizing the administration to enter into an agreement with the OEDF for another year for $100,000.
The agreement states that OEDF will continue to provide economic development services to the city, including providing a relationship between city departments, business owners and other economic development agencies.
The OEDF can also assist the city with property management and funding pre-development work on strategic sites for future projects. The foundation also monitors local, state and federal legislation relating to business development and applies for grants or private funding.
The ordinance to fund the OEDF was passed as an emergency measure without three readings and was supported by all members of council - except one.
Beth Ackerman has questioned transferring tax dollars to the OEDF for purchasing properties for the past three years.
Now in her first term on council, she claims the language in the agreement allows the foundation to spend almost “at will” and she’s called for more transparency on how city tax dollars are being used.
Ackerman, who lives on a farm on Bury Road, first started attending city council meetings regularly in 2021 to express her concerns about the city’s potential plans to develop an industrial park on 400 acres in East Oregon. Ackerman was one of several property owners who were approached by city officials that year to consider selling their property for the proposed project.
Last week, she said that she questions the wisdom of the city spending millions of dollars on business development that could be used for public safety services and pointed to a proposal to increase the city income tax rate to 2.5 percent from 2.25 percent.
The administration recently floated the income tax hike proposal, saying it would help pay for the hiring of additional firefighters, upgrades to Fire Station 42 on Wheeling Road, and other improvement to the fire department.
But council voted 5-2 to not place the tax request on the November ballot.
OEDF President, Alec Thompson, declined to comment on the foundation’s spending plans.

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