Hey… that hurts. Don’t do that!!

By: Fresno Chamber of Commerce President & CEO, Al Smith

Last month at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the City luncheon, Mayor Ashley Swearengin, in a very determined way, detailed many of the challenges she has encountered while trying to change age-old, and not necessarily efficient ways of doing the City’s business. She talked about it being not easy to change a culture. The old, “we have always done it that way” may be the easiest mantra to live by, but, as she proclaimed, it is not necessarily the best way. And we all know, sometimes, change just plain hurts.

But, as was said to the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz, “you gotta have coour-age.” Well, she suggested more than that. It has to be courage combined with thick skin, determination and a “damn the torpedoes – full steam ahead!” attitude.

Who among us does not want to see our City move forward? Where things begin to get hairy is which methods are necessary for doing that.

Problems surface when inquiries made begin to fall into this line of questioning; “Does the rest of the city have to sacrifice for the efforts to revitalize downtown?” “Whose job should it be to pick up our residential garbage?” “Why spend money on lawyers to file legal action against our neighbors over development?” “Why are some businesses bypassing Fresno to find friendlier environs in other communities?” “Is this another Met, downtown parking garage, Granite Park fiasco?” (I’m sure I won’t be the only one who will be glad to see that phrase sent to its eternal resting place…)

“Problems are the price of progress” said Charles E. Moss Kettering, the Inventor at General Motors. He told his staff, “Don’t bring me anything but trouble. Good news weakens me.”

But it is exactly these problems that start the process of each side beginning to push back. Comments begin such as, “You are not being reasonable.”

Reasonable? Should we?

As George Bernard Shaw wisely said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one – persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

So our challenge is going to be how unreasonable people on one side are going to deal with unreasonable people on the other, without spilling blood on the carpet or creating permanent divisions.

In the end, these collisions, while painful, should be welcomed. All this fear, this uncertainty and this discomfort are the compasses for success. All of this is vital if we are going to transform our City into one that is financially healthy; is job creating; is exciting to live in and one that we are proud to be a part of.


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