Three new volunteer citizen commissions will study and recommend changes in city revenue, real estate investment and neighborhood improvements, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson announced today.
“People are genuinely concerned about these issues,” Tomlinson said in a release today. “When you have a company tell you they pay $95,000 in occupational tax in Columbus, but would only pay $5,000 for the same tax in LaGrange, you have to ask, ‘Are we keeping Columbus competitive for jobs and economic development?’
“When you have significant land that sits vacant or abandoned; or, when we have neighborhoods struggling to stay safe and desirable, you have to ask the same question.”
The commissions, made up of 44 private volunteers, will study the issues and make final reports to the city, which will consider their recommendations for future policy, Tomlinson said.
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Attorney and former state senator Seth Harp will be chairman of the revenue review commission.
“I think it is a very prudent idea to review all the revenue streams of Columbus,” Harp said. “We will determine how fiscally sound they are and if they are equitable and fair and transparent.”
Harp said the commissions will only make recommendations to Columbus Council, which will have the ultimate say in what, of any, action is taken. The commissions’ meetings will be open to the public, and possibly televised on the city’s public access channel.
“I go into this with the idea there’s not a single solitary voter in Muscogee County that wants to pay taxes,” Harp said. “In my many years in politics, I haven’t met that soul yet.“But the other side of the coin is that we have a city-county government to run, and they’ve got to have revenue in order to operate the thing.”
Philip Thayer, vice president of the J.P Thayer Co., a real estate development company, will be chairman of the real estate investment initiative commission.
He said his group will look over the city for areas that are undeveloped, underdeveloped and underused for whatever reason.
“Mayor Tomlinson has assembled a group of developers and stakeholders throughout the whole city to first identify potential areas that might be underutilized and poised to be developed or redeveloped,” Thayer said. “Our second charge is to find ways to encourage development in those areas – to find out what the stumbling blocks area and why these properties haven’t been sought after.”
Ken Henson, an attorney who helped establish the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, will be chairman of the neighborhood stabilization and improvement commission.
The commissions include:
Revenue Review:Seth Harp, attorney (chairman), Carl Brown, business owner; Travis Chambers, real estate; Chuck Ford, attorney; Mike Gaymon, chamber of commerce; Morton Harris, attorney; Chris Miller, Better Business Bureau; Eddie Pritchett, business owner, Pete Robinson, gubernatorial advisor; Will Taylor, CPA; and Tyler Townsend, financial manager.
Real Estate Investment Initiative:Philip Thayer, J.P. Thayer Co. (chairman), Robert Anderson, Citizens Trust Bank; Douglas Bryant, Wells Fargo; Neil Clark, architect; Brandon Cockrell, Fort Benning; Dave Erickson, Grey Hawk Properties; Tom Flournoy, Flournoy Development; Becca Hardin, chamber of commerce; Otis Scarborough, Woodruff Co.; Willette Roundtree, CB&T; Stella Schulman, Jordan Co.; Ed Sprouse, Development Authority; Will White, Greystone Properties; Len Williams, Housing Authority; and Chris Woodruff, W.C. Bradley Co..
Neighborhood Stabilization and Improvement:Ken Henson, Habitat for Humanity (chairman), Philip Adams, business development; Phillip Aldridge, banking; Andy Bussy, builder; Johnny Cargill, builder; Danita Gibson-Lloyd, banking; Tim Gregory, builder; Leslie Anne Heard, MidTown Inc.; J.A. Hud, volunteer; Scott Jones, builder; Justin Krieg, land bank suthroity; Jimmy McCorlew, McCorlew Realty; Dorothy McDaniel, Trees Inc.; John Paul Marvets, homeowner; Will Rembert, builder; John Ryles builder; and Cathy Williams, NeighborWorks.