David's Blog

Monday, June 13, 2005

Partnering for Progress

I am often asked the question: “How’s the mayor doing?” When I receive these inquiries, I readily respond by sharing my belief that Mayor Bergson is a good person who is working hard to improve our city. Affirming the mayor in this manner generates a myriad of responses, almost always based on each questioner’s own assessment of the mayor’s performance. I find myself fascinated with those who believe that I, as a representative of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce, am not demanding enough of the mayor. Others, however, agree with and affirm my position.

Regardless of any assessment – mine or yours – of the mayor’s effectiveness, I suspect we can agree that when individuals and organizations enjoy a collaborative relationship and a shared work effort, the entire community benefits. It seems prudent that the mayor and the Chamber president, in particular, maintain that effective, trusting working relationship. We all win when the mayor’s administrative team and the Chamber’s leadership work in partnership for the good of the community. It is certainly to everyone’s advantage when we coordinate our efforts to advance economic development, legislative initiatives, and develop public policy.

It is disconcerting, therefore, when I hear criticism directed at Mayor Bergson or me for the supportive working relationship we enjoy. The implication is that such a relationship is in someway counterproductive or undesirable. The truth, however, lies in exactly the contrary view: there would be valid grounds for concern if the mayor and the Chamber president did not encourage a healthy relationship between our organizations.

Questioning citizens should know that our constructive working relationship does not preclude our intense disagreement on some intense issues (e.g., taxation). We are unequivocal in the expression of our organizations’ views and concerns. However, the disagreement is confined to issues and initiatives, and, to the greatest extent possible, it remains impersonal and private.

Other individuals, organizations, and interest groups appear to take pride in publicly challenging the mayor and his administration. The challenge sometimes goes so far as to take on a tone of chastisement. True, this approach can generate attention, affirmation and support within the community. Yet, I believe these gains are short-lived. They cannot be sustained and can work to polarize both the issues and the people involved.

The Chamber has been in the business of advocating public policy for 135 years. We intend to remain in this business of building collaborative relationships designed to move our community forward. Maintaining a positive working relationship with this and future mayors will affirm our good intentions, make civic progress possible, and enrich the future of our city and our citizens.

posted by David Ross at

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