See county commissioners read. Read, commissioners, read. Do you see commissioners read? Read, read, read.
Hear commissioners talk. Talk, commissioners, talk. Talk, talk, talk.
Watch commissioners balk. Balk, balk, balk.
Commissioners found themselves in a kettle of fish of their own creation Monday when they concluded that their economic development task force was writing above the comprehension levels of average citizens.
We’ve come to learn that Chris Hernandez, the group’s chairman, has a way with words befitting an obviously well-read and educated person. We’ve also learned that he’s picked up the jargon of economic development and corporate change gurus. When was the last time you heard the word “synergy” in casual conversation?
Hernandez and his group gave commissioners a list of economic development principles that read like they’re cobbled together from a combination of top-level economists, the latest and greatest retreads of successful business strategies, and a David Letterman-esque Top 10 list titled “Ways to sound so smart that people will go ‘Duh.’”
They put it together for one reason: They want commissioners to give them some direction.
Back when all this began, commissioners gave them direction, somewhat along the lines of the “Dick and Jane” reading series mimicked above:
We want jobs. Do you see jobs? Get us jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs.
It was an elementary-level direction for a graduate-level task. The complexities of getting jobs intertwine with all other aspects of economic development; they defy simple isolation. If you want jobs, you need businesses and employers, qualified workers, and living wages. They need places to live, shop, go to school, get affordable health care, be entertained, and on and on.
Hernandez’s group wants definition and clarity at to what they’re supposed to do. They’ve been making contacts and researching, discovering in the process just how complex a recommended plan of action could be.
So they came up with a somewhat dizzying list of principles and a plea to commissioners: Use these to give us a charter, a well-defined direction with expected outcomes.
I’ll admit that a few of the items had me stumped as to how to explain what they meant. I can understand why commissioners want them to re-write them in more simple terms.
However, I strongly disagree that the committee should re-write the list for mass consumption by third graders, or more precisely adults who read at that level. That’s the level of direction the committee started with.
There aren’t easy answers, and no one should expect the committee’s charge to be an easy read. It certainly needs to be refined and honed, but it also needs to reflect the seriousness of a professional approach to the problem.
A committee charter isn’t a document meant for public consumption. Only two groups of people need to be clear about what it says: commissioners who approve it and committee members who follow through on it.
Now, if commissioners need to have it written at a third-grade level for their own comprehension, then by all means, Mr. Hernandez, revise the document. If not, then make changes for clarity without watering down what you’ve proposed.
However, when it comes to final recommendations to commissioners, those should be tailored for general public consumption. We all need to understand what choices commissioners have been given and what ones they make. Our county’s future may depend on those decisions.
See Chris write. Write, Chris, write. Write, write, write.
Watch them compromise. Compromise, compromise, compromise.
— david colburn