Policy & Tools: Transparency Measures

Transparency Measures

  • “Do Better Bill” (Nashville, TN): In January, 2018, the Stand Up Nashville Coalition (SUN) spearheaded the passage of the “Do Better” Bill, the city’s first-ever subsidy transparency ordinance. The “Do Better” Bill rests on three values: 1) open and transparent governance that allows for public debate on critical economic decisions, 2) prioritizing equitable and inclusive economic development for public investment, and 3) creating opportunities for every Davidson County resident to provide for their own and their family’s basic needs. The ordinance requires that the Metro Council, which approves tax incentive projects, make its determination for subsidies using community benefits-oriented criteria that include worker protections and job training requirements. The ordinance specifically increases transparency in the approval process of cash grants and property tax freezes (PILOT) for large businesses. Previously, these tax incentives were passed with minimal public input or consideration of community-oriented outcomes.

Under the “Do Better” Bill, any company seeking a cash grant or PILOT must submit a project proposal to the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development (ECD) that discloses:

  • the number and type of jobs that will be created

  • a workforce plan disclosing company use of staffing agencies

  • whether the project will use apprentices from training programs certified by the U.S. Department of Labor

  • whether the company has had any safety or wage and hour violations in the past seven years.

The “Do Better” Bill allows public access to adequate information regarding project costs and benefits, provides an effective tool to determine whether the common good is served by the incentive under consideration, and provides enforcement mechanisms if a company fails to uphold the agreement.

Nashville Do Better Bill Ordinance BL2017-983: http://www.nashville.gov/mc/ordinances/term_2015_2019/bl2017_983.htm

  • Economic Development Incentive Grant program (Austin, TX): provides an exemplary disclosure website that displays annual activity. The website links to an online database that provides recipient names, project locations, approved subsidies, and current levels of payments. Also, the database provides information on project agreements, final compliance reports, and annual independent third-party audits of each recipient company’s compliance, which report actual jobs created, wages paid, investment level, and subsidy terms.

Program Website: http://austintexas.gov/economic-development-compliance

  • Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) (Memphis/Shelby County, TN): practices full transparency of its Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (property tax abatement) program with a comprehensive online database of deal-specific documents regarding proposed project developments.

Memphis/Shelby County, EDGE, available at http://www.growth-engine.org/.

  • Development Subsidy transparency (Dallas, TX): In an effort to provide public input on projects, the city requires all proposed development subsidies over $1 million be subject to approval by public referenda. Also, all grants, tax concessions or tax relief, authorizations of debt or debt instruments by the city to support the project, and the granting or below-market sale of city-owned land over $1 million will trigger a public referendum. Overall, this means projects could face a public vote before receiving approval for financing.

https://www.goodjobsfirst.org/messing-subsidies-texas

  • Local Law 62 (New York, NY): requires the New York City Economic Development Corporation to provide a detailed database of commitments and outcomes for almost every subsidized project in the city. The online database provides information on whether or not health insurance is provided, permanent and temporary job requirements and outcomes, and annual employment targets.

Good Jobs First, “Show us the local subsidies, A Second Evaluation of City and County Online Disclosure Practices of Economic Development Subsidy Programs” May 2013 at *17, https://www.goodjobsfirst.org/sites/default/files/docs/pdf/showusthelocalsubsidies2.pdf (last visited August 30, 2018).

New York City Economic Development Corporation website: https://www.nycedc.com/about-nycedc/financial-public-documents