Patience is a Virtue in Public Advocacy
Several well-worn adages extol the benefits of patience and perseverance in pursuit of major, long-term goals.
And while it’s true Rome wasn’t built in a day, patience and perseverance are necessities in the political arena. It’s more important now than ever in this age of precious little political compromise and bipartisan cooperation. Even solutions generally agreed to as “good ideas” across the political spectrum can take years, decades or generations to reach fruition.
It’s a sobering reality for those trying to effectuate legislative change and progress, and why it’s always important to take the long view, keep your eye on the ball and stay the course. It’s something organizations like the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and its partners at the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance face every time they gather to help chart a course to advance the region’s business sector.
Several pressing issues and challenges have been on the business community’s radar for years: affordable housing, infrastructure, workforce development, education and child care to name a few. As the years pass and the challenges continue – and sometimes intensify – it can get more difficult to convince your constituencies of progress, and that the fight is worth the time and effort.
So consistent reminders are needed – “slow and steady wins the race” – of even incremental progress to continue building momentum toward eventual success. An excellent example is the support for building a new Soo Lock – a project that’s been a plank in the legislative platform of the Chamber, the Alliance and business organizations throughout the Great Lakes for years. While legislators across the aisle agree on the need, the Soo Locks expansion has languished in Congress.
But the political landscape is constantly changing – which is why it’s critical to always push ahead on these bedrock issues. Michigan’s evolution to a “swing state” has brought new support for the Soo Lock expansion from the highest levels of government, breathing new life into an effort that “locals” have supported for more decades. While that may seem like distasteful politics to some, it’s today’s reality and our region would be foolish not to leverage that advantage in every means possible.
Progress – though sometimes incremental – is also being made on other legislative fronts. The acute shortage of quality and affordable child care and early education options has vexed our region (and state) for years. It certainly hasn’t been solved, but the level of private and corporate resources to address the problem have grown exponentially in the past several years. Political support for these initiatives has never been higher. Regulatory and licensing hurdles are being addressed at the state level, and even local zoning laws are being modified to address this complex issue.
Similar trends are happening on the housing front. While our region remains woefully short on workforce housing options, more workforce and low-income housing is coming on the market through various efforts of the private, nonprofit and government sectors. Needed regulatory changes are also being pursued to provide more flexibility in necessary private-public partnerships and more effective use of public housing subsidies.
We’re also seeing gradual – but measurable – progress in areas of workforce development with continued support for skilled worker training, and expanded resources for science, technology, engineering and math, robotics and other areas of knowledge required of the 21st century workforce. Per-pupil funding for school districts across our region also continues to grow.
On all these issues – and others – there are still miles to go before we sleep. Decision makers come and go, conditions and priorities change and it’s often necessary to make these cases again and again to keep building momentum for these initiatives. It’s imperative that the region’s business community consistently coalesce behind these issues to keep them on the political front burner. The support of each and every one of our members make a difference. It’s important to recognize that our progress – while sometimes agonizingly slow – is steady. And we will win the race.
Doug Luciani is CEO of TraverseCONNECT and the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at doug@traverseCONNECT.org.