Progress Partners, websites and political activism

Progress Partners, the newly-formed economic development arm of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, presented an update to Alpharetta’s City Council on Monday. Contrary to what you might think, the Chamber doesn’t perform this economic development task out of benevolence. They’ve asked each north Fulton city to kick in a few bucks to fund the operation. Monday was the city’s first status update after funding the project.

Among the accomplishments mentioned was the Progress Partners website. They touted that the economic development website welcomed 2000 visitors since the beginning of 2012. I don’t know if this little factoid resonated with the Council like it did with me.

I can’t speak with real authority on many things, yet I have a pretty good grasp of the amount of traffic local websites can generate. I know that a hyper-local blogger with minimal web design skills and a propensity to make grammatical errors can still manage to get people to visit a website. Let’s just say that more people point their browsers to my little blog in a given week than to Progress Partners’ website in seven months. (and I’m grateful for each and every one of you who do!)

But Progress Partners does a lot more than build high-traffic websites. They’ve been busy promoting north Fulton as a business destination. This is truly important work. However, in the time since Alpharetta inked this partnership the city has hired a new economic development director of their own. Alpharetta and Progress Partners need to better define the roles of the relationship going forward. It’s likely to be a discussion point for Council in the weeks ahead.

While discussing the terms of the city’s relationship, I would encourage Council to address one important issue…

Political Activism

Progress Partners came under fire during the Avalon zoning this past Spring. They openly lobbied in favor of the zoning application, drawing the ire of not only this blogger but Common Cause Georgia. Additionally, Progress Partners lobbied in favor of T-SPLOST. This didn’t draw criticism in north Fulton but Gwinnett County’s Chamber drew controversy over the same behavior. Organizations receiving taxpayer funding should not advocate for political issues, candidates or ballot initiatives.

Alpharetta’s Council should address this issue now, while there is not a brewing controversy. Future arrangements with the Chamber that involve the exchange of taxpayer money should come with the requirement that the Chamber doesn’t lobby for political causes. It’s a common sense solution that gives everyone involved political cover. It’s also simply the right thing to do.

6 Responses to “Progress Partners, websites and political activism”

  1. Brian August 15, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    Chambers are and always have been organizations that engage in politics and public policy arguments.

    If the TSPLOST had passed it would have encouraged economic development not only in North Fulton but across the Metro Atlanta region. Traffic and congestion are one of the few negatives Atlanta has.

  2. Kevin August 15, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

    Agreed. The chamber’s activities should be to educate and promote, not to interfere with local policy decisions like a k street think tank.

  3. Lee August 16, 2012 at 9:30 am #

    @Brian – If the Chamber wants to be political than fine. But when they take funds from city government they become agents of the taxpayer.

    It doesn’t seem like the Chamber would want to have this debate, especially over a small sum like $50,000 (the amount Alpharetta has pledged). Fund this initiative internally or perhaps from the NFCID.

  4. Mark August 16, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    Brian – if the TSPLOST really would have encouraged meaningful economic development it wouldn’t have gone down in flames like it did. People are paying attention now and they are tired of the government telling them it’s raining outside while openly peeing on their heads. Had the TSPLOST contained real and sustainable solutions to our traffic issues it would have passed.

  5. Howard August 19, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    I don’t know that I agree with the logic in your comment Lee. The city pays money to all sorts of companies for services rendered. Including software and janitorial companies, for example. Does that mean that those companies are now agents of the taxpayer?

  6. speck of truth November 27, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    I just read an article that the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and Gwinnett County Commission are getting sued by Citizens for Responsible Government over no response to an open records request to determine how much taxpayer money was used to promote TSPLOST. What does Alpharetta’s contract with Progress Partners say in terms of services expected and accounting of the money? Isn’t it time we asked for a specific accounting of what the money was spent on? Why aren’t our elected officials asking for this?

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