On the other hand…

By: President and CEO of The Fresno Chamber of Commerce

The great Broadway musical, Fiddler on the Roof begins with the resounding song, “Tradition”.  Half way through the play, the lead character, Tevye does a monologue trying to balance his viewpoint of “tradition” when it starts to clash with a transforming world. Boldly, he tried to see both sides of a life-changing situation – stating long standing beliefs, and then “on the other hand,” trying to understand a world demanding something different.

Like Tevye, I am right in the throes of two things that keep clashing.

First of all, let me publicly admit that I am a Libra, always balancing the scales.

Also, my chief compatriot at the Chamber, my COO, is a Gemini.  Between the two of us, on any given day no one can figure out what we are going to do next.

I am also a conservative that believes in smaller government.  On the other hand, I think of myself as a pragmatist, which means sometimes hard-core principals have to be softened to meet demanding change.

Here’s my dilemma: My pragmatic side says that when opportunities are presented that can alter a community, create jobs and improve the quality of living with little cost to you individually, you should “take it”.  On the other hand, my principled side says, “reject it and don’t be tainted with those new dirty words, “Federal Money”.

My pragmatic side says, “But federal money is really our money.  We are a donor state sending more money to Washington than we get back.  Why shouldn’t some of it return home?”

My principled side says, “Yes, but if we do, Washington will continue to spend more.”

My pragmatic side says, “Yes, and it will just go to some other state.”

My principled side says, “It’s a boondoggle and someone has to take a stand.”

My pragmatic side says, “If it is a boondoggle, can’t we have one in our back yard for a change?” After all, there are 39,000 people in our county out of work and these billion dollar infusions will create desperately needed jobs that can feed, clothe and lodge our hurting neighbors.

My principled side says, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

My pragmatic side feels that by taking billions of dollars in federal money to open the Fulton Mall, develop an efficient Bus Rapid Transit system and create a state-wide High Speed Rail system, we could diversify our economy and avoid being totally agriculturally  dependent, which makes sense.  I wonder why these federal funds are toxic but federal funds used to expand our airport runways, to widen Highway 99 to six lanes, and to retain Lemoore NAS and the 144th Fighter Wing are not. (Note: California will need $300 billion dollars in the next decade just to maintain our current highway system.)

My principled side is having a problem responding, other than wondering if all this pencils out as the proponents claim…

This internal mental ping-pong match is hurting my head as well as relationships with some of my friends.  I am sure I will hear from them.  I welcome your thoughts, as well.

So, just like Tevye, you can see my dilemma. On the other hand, maybe you can’t.

I think I would rather be a Gemini.


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