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Why The HCDC is Important

Keith Burton – GulfCoastNews.com - Editorial

GCN's interest in the Harrison County Development Commission is only over the issues of responsible and effective government. The HCDC is important because what the agency does can touch many of the things that are critical to a healthy community. New industry, new and better jobs are key elements of the HCDC’s mission.

But when public officials, current and former HCDC commissioners and private citizens express concerns and desire reforms of a public agency, it is a reflection of a problem that needs to be addressed. What is at stake is good government, and one that is accountable and responsible to the people.

Some people may feel that the recent investigative report from the State Auditor, which was not a scathing report of activities at the HCDC, ends the issues with HCDC. In fact, GCN was not expecting the State Auditor to have that much to say, which proved to be the case. The State Auditor's activities with the HCDC were only one of many issues surrounding the commission’s operations. The report did not address the reforms recommended by those working for a more effective and accountable HCDC, and the report should not be considered the end of the whole affair.

If the Harrison County Board of Supervisors and the reformers stop at this point, it leaves in place the machinery that has kept the HCDC in the spotlight. Nothing then, would have really changed.

In addition, too many people have sought to play down the whole HCDC controversy into a personality issue, or one of us against them, but such commentary does little to change the facts that have been addressed by GCN and other news media such as reported at times in The Sun Herald, and  the New Orleans Times Picayune. (See GCN Slippery Business Archive)

Others would argue that ineffective government is systemic and beyond the ability of the public to change, using the argument of Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along,” as a poor excuse to let things be.

We all should be thankful that not everyone feels the same. None of the reformers began their efforts with regard to the State Auditor or even sought removal of the HCDC’s former director Michael Olivier. Indeed, Olivier’s departure was the work of his own hands. The real issues of accountability and performance, often ignored, still exist.

Real progress can be made toward improving the Coast’s economic outlook and the HCDC’s operations, but the continuing antagonism reflected by the HCDC and its supporters to those hoping for improvements is unfortunate. People do not get involved in such issues just to make waves. They do so to help make their community a better place to live and work. And so too does GCN.

The good news is that people are talking about development on the Coast and what can be done. The leaders of the HCDC should listen. Improving development and jobs on the Coast must include input from the citizens of the Coast and not only business interests. Everyone will benefit if all the voices can be heard without condemnation or arrogance.

GCN has provided information toward that end as a means to better the Coast's business environment, and will continue to do so.

For example:

The Internet is a powerful tool to inform the public. The City of Biloxi, for example, operates an excellent website. The HCDC has a website, and one would think the incentive, to promote their work. But for some reason, the HCDC website is not functioning correctly. Its search feature, which once accessed HCDC press releases, no longer does so. Still, the press releases, going back to 1998, are available for viewing by clicking here. See for yourself what the HCDC has been doing from their own words.

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