The Chamber Circles the Wagons

The Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce has taken some interesting steps in recent weeks, from intervening in the citizen petition challenging the Brady Trucking Rezone to tossing the Western Colorado Congress from its’ membership rolls.

Chamber Executive Director Diane Schwenke wrote a guest comment in last Sunday’s paper defending the Chamber’s actions on behalf of Brady Trucking. She also went as far as to suggest that the rights of the people to petition the City of Grand Junction challenging an ordinance or other legislation were not in the best interest of business or economic development.

I was scratching my head about this assertion, particularly when these rights were conveyed to the people via the City Charter and Article 20 of the Colorado Constitution, which defines the existence and powers of Home Rule cities. These foundational documents of state and municipal government also reserve change in their structure or provisions for a majority vote of the people.

I’m curious what Ms. Schwenke thought she was going to accomplish with what appears to be a quixotic complaint at best. These provisions aren’t new, and they aren’t going away easily. They are therefore part of the cost of doing business in Grand Junction. City Market is all too familiar with this, through their struggle to make use of their land at 12th and Patterson.

Helen Traylor and Bennett Boeschenstein covered these and other areas in what is basically a rebuttal column (and a good one) in today’s Sentinel.

Regardless of which side of the debate you find yourself regarding the future of the Riverfront, one thing that can be said is that the process is being fleshed out as it should be. I’ll bet there are some members of City Council and administration who wish this would not have been dropped into their lap to begin with.

For me, this is just one more reason to re-negotiate the Persigo Agreement, which put Brady Trucking’s development application for their property (then in unincorporated Mesa County) literally on the City’s doorstep.

With regard to the WCC, I was always kind of surprised, in a pleasant way, to find them listed among the Chamber’s members. I thought that even though they advocated positions that could be considered an impediment to local business development, their Chamber membership represented an attempt to understand both sides, and achieve consensus where possible.

So much for that.

At the center of the various reports about this dispute seem to be varying accounts of what WCC said or didn’t say about a Chamber position at a particular hearing or meeting. Ralph D’Andrea is trying his best Paul Harvey to get ‘the rest of the story’ out there. Perhaps other local media will follow suit during the week.

It’s disappointing to see as influential and important group like the Chamber engage in what seems to be a retreat into a defensive, almost reactionary posture. It seems that they may have

forgotten one of the more legendary quotations about strategic management, but as it happens they are planning a trip this April that may serve to leverage exactly that sentiment.

I will be interested in seeing what lessons they will bring back from China. From the looks of their recent actions, they may have the disdain-for-democratic-process and suppression-of-minority-viewpoints areas pretty well in hand.

Have a good week ahead.

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