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Public accountability pleaded for economic development

| February 2, 2006 11:00 PM

To the Editor:

The Western News editorial of Jan. 20 discussed the evolving nature of economic development in Libby and Lincoln County. Some people even question the need for tax-supported offices for economic development, preferring to let the private sector develop its own local business opportunities.

Given the likelihood that Lincoln County will create a position for economic development, the county could benefit in a number of ways:

There would be a job description. I worked for a government-funded non-profit. I know how nebulous some of these jobs are.

The effort would be county-wide, as it should be. The Port Authority/Industrial District Stimson mill site redevelopment is only one part of a big county with a lot going on.

There would be some accountability. As a non-profit, KRDC has no accountability to the voter and is not required to have elected officials on its board. They are indirectly responsible to the city council, who approved their funding from Libby's $8 million federal appropriation.

Whenever large amounts of public money are being expended in handsome salaries it is particularly important that the voter and elected officials are not outside looking in.

Having grown up in Libby and lived and worked in other parts of the country I see great potential for Libby to restore its business base. I hope it retains its character as a working community with a lot of highly skilled and professional people.

Some of the big employers we have had were not good land stewards or corporate citizens of the community anyway and we are better off without them. It is partly because of the power vacuum created when the big industries closed down that allowed the disposition of public funds and community decision-making to drift away from democratic process.

With Libby's skilled workforce I would like to see our town become a research and development center for renewable energy sources in collaboration with Montana State University Northern in Havre.

The prospective redevelopment of old Libby High School is an excellent example of private sector initiative for the future of Libby, especially the revitalization of downtown.

Ron Carter