It’s no surprise that these challenging times for funding local government have caused many progressive leaders to change their mind about the type of economic development that we want in Orange County.

Over the last decade, federal and state funding has been gradually pulled back from municipal governments for many of the programs that have benefited us locally. The ever-growing military adventurism, the corporate socialism represented by the “too big to fail” bank bailouts, and the success of the tiny minority of the fabulously wealthy at off-shoring their capital and buying legislators who reduced their tax rates has meant that our tax money is coming back to us in smaller amounts.

There has yet to be any kind of pushback from local governments about this. Their response is akin to sufferers of spousal or child abuse. They profess support for the abuser while accepting personal responsibility for dealing with the effects of the fiscal manipulations. At some point there will be a breaking point, but for now we have to deal with the reality of the consensus to accept whatever financial constraints are put upon us.

So we see recognized progressive leaders like Valerie Foushee and Bernadette Pelissier vote to over-ride legitimate community concerns in an economic development district vaguely defined about fifteen years ago in order to eventually provide more tax revenue. Guided by the man behind the curtain, County Manager Frank Clifton, there is a new “take-no-prisoners” approach to economic development. The County will designate your neighborhood out of existence if it’s in an Economic Development District designed in the mid-90’s.

This new approach is to align the county with the Chamber of Commerce model that does not differentiate between local businesses and multi-national corporations. From their perspective, buying some cucumbers at Wal-Mart that yields a few cents in sales tax is better than buying from a local farmer in Alamance County that will spend his/her income all around the region. Never mind that the Wal-Mart purchase ensures that the money gets siphoned away to Bentonville, Arkansas while the local transaction keeps money in the local community for a few more cycles.  

So what is the best use of your consumer dollars? Buy from a corporate big box in Orange County and send a few sales tax pennies to the county coffers? Or support your local businesses that will circulate around the community and build local economic strength?