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Communication is key to Duluth's future

Local history teaches us that we often behave wisely only once we have exhausted all other alternatives. This is our shared challenge as Duluthians. If we are to survive in today's complex world, we must overcome our differences and decide what w...

Local history teaches us that we often behave wisely only once we have exhausted all other alternatives. This is our shared challenge as Duluthians. If we are to survive in today's complex world, we must overcome our differences and decide what we want for our future community. Clearly, a wise solution demands thoughtful dialogue.
We are making strides, but have not yet reached the highest level of civil discourse. Heated debate is obvious in our newspapers, at city council meetings, neighborhood community meetings and other venues. Developers and environmental groups polarize over the use of a piece of land. Opposing factions openly and routinely resist each other's vision of what will benefit the community. New ideas often fail, not on their intrinsic merits, but on how well or how ineffectively particular groups advocate for them. It is paramount that we not become discouraged in the midst of this discord.
In the very resistance to change, or at least to the manner in which change should take place, lies hope. Change causes resistance, which in turn causes tension and tension generates energy. Where there is energy, there is hope for the future. Dealing with community change is sometimes disruptive, and always demanding. The Chamber's leadership is willing to expend the energy needed to better understand how our community responds to change. It is well worth the effort.
American philosopher William James said, "A great many people think they are thinking, when they are simply rearranging their prejudices." It is essential that we do not merely rearrange our prejudices when rethinking our position on a project or person proposing change within our community. The Chamber of Commerce must guard against doing the same. How do we attain this open attitude? By engaging in unthreatened and unthreatening dialogue. When we reach an understanding of the almost unavoidable factor of resistance to change, we begin to see things from a fresh perspective -- we begin to see the positive possibilities.
The Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce's leadership is currently initiating a sincere effort to better comprehend all sides of an issue before establishing a position on it. Example? Our recent public forum on the Duluth vehicle tax. The Chamber hosted the forum, which included presentations by city administrators, staff members from both the Duluth News-Tribune and the Budgeteer News, and representatives of Duluth automobile dealerships. Only after the forum did the Chamber decide to support the repeal of the tax.
The Chamber is actively committed to moving our community forward in a spirit of openness and optimism. We believe that to foster full communication is a step toward a bright future. It is also the right thing to do.

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