By Sue Botos
After months of discussion, City Council has passed a resolution entering the city into a contract with the county establishing a business attraction and anti-poaching protocol. While council members agreed to the move in principle, their approval was not unanimous. Ward 3 Councilman Michael O’Donnell and Councilman at Large Christopher Klym cast dissenting votes.
“’It can’t really hurt’ is not the best reason to enter into this agreement,” commented Klym at a prior committee session, where he announced his intention to vote no.
“There are no enforcement provisions. It has no teeth,” Klym continued, noting that violators have little to lose and that the agreement can be terminated at will by parties who have signed on. Klym also stressed that he sponsored the resolution due to his chairmanship of council’s planning, zoning and economic development committee. “This is not a resolution I brought in and changed my mind on,” he stated.
The business attraction and anti-poaching protocol was proposed last year by County Executive Ed FitzGerald, and calls for county municipalities to work together and stop luring businesses away from each other. Ed Jerse, the county director of regional collaboration, gave a presentation to council in February, highlighting the purpose of the protocol. He said the main issue was leveling the playing field among the county’s 59 communities when it comes to economic development. This will be accomplished, according to the measure, by the “respectful, confidential” notification of the mayor of the municipality from which a business is moving by the mayor of the new location before the news is made public.
Jerse had stated that while there are penalty clauses in similar contracts throughout the state, Cuyahoga County wanted to avoid penalties, which he said could especially punish less wealthy communities.
“I’m concerned about where we’re going with revenue sharing. If we don’t agree in total, it could paint us as being against collaboration,” Klym stated. Several communities, including Rocky River, do not support revenue sharing and tax abatement for businesses.
“It comes down to philosophy,” Klym said by phone last week. He added that a suggestion submitted to the county by Law Director Andy Bemer regarding the ability of a municipality to “terminate at will” was turned down.
Although many county officials have supported the protocol, County Councilman David Greenspan has spoken consistently against the issue, referring to the fact that such a contract would be irrelevant without the full participation of surrounding communities. He has also stated that an accusation of poaching is difficult to prove.
“I’m in favor of economic development, but an anti-poaching protocol is not the best way to do it,” commented Klym.
O’Donnell echoed Klym’s concerns when reached for comment on his dissenting vote on the anti-poaching measure. “It’s not much of an agreement. It’s a nice purpose statement,” he said, adding that it’s not a binding agreement because any city can walk away at anytime without penalty.