Public-private business lobby needs to go 100% private, residents say
COLUMBIA, 5/11/12 (Beat Byte) -- REDI chairman and flooring baron Dave Griggs may have made the best case yet for taking REDI -- Regional Economic Development, Inc. -- out of City Hall, a move more and more Columbia residents are demanding as knowledge of REDI and its insider deals increases with the EEZ/Blight Decree controversy.

With a sneer about people who've cast him as a "villain of the community" for his enduring role as the EEZ's cheerleader in chief, Griggs recited a litany of REDI costs and expenses that business owner volunteers -- "just like me" -- pay out of their own pockets, including over $150,000 toward REDI's new headquarters at the bottom of Garagezilla, space originally planned for private businesses.
The argument against REDI's presence in City Hall couldn't be more simple: What in the world is a privately-funded business lobby doing doubling as a City Hall department? Why is over $500,000 of public money spent annually on a department its business owner overseers clearly consider their own property, and finance -- as Griggs told the Columbia City Council Monday night -- out of their own pockets?
"You were just chastised" about REDI's new Garagezilla digs, Griggs told the Council. But we -- private business owners -- furnished REDI's new offices, he insisted. "The city didn't do any of that."
Griggs then recited another litany, about how REDI exists "for the public good," not just to benefit a few people. But his own actions cast doubt on that idea. Griggs has repeatedly used his position as REDI chairman to get hundreds of thousands of dollars in flooring contracts with organizations the group endorses and helps, including Columbia Public Schools and IBM.
And those are only the contracts we know about. So notorious has the situation become that critics have developed a new jingle for Dave Griggs Flooring America. "No, it's Rigged," the voice says after the usual "Dave Biggs" tune.

"The 1% -- and 0.01% -- are using their money so the country’s governing bodies are funded to do their bidding," said Nancy Harter, a member of local political action committee CiViC who wants REDI out of City Hall. "EEZ/Blight is one of those things, like so many coming out of 'our' governing bodies, paid for by a rich few."