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Rethinking adversarial relationships

Every positive change we can make to Duluth’s increasingly outdated reputation as an anti-development and combative labor town will serve us well. The progressively positive image of Duluth will continue to be enhanced by strengthening the working relationship among various interest groups and organizations in our community.

A heightened sense of community will occur if we can avoid unnecessary controversy that can polarize neighbors, coworkers and even family members. A strong working relationship among dissimilar groups is an integral part of building our beloved community.

In this spirit of collaboration, 20 years ago, we realized that the Duluth Building and Construction Trades and the Duluth Area Chamber had much in common. We both liked to see buildings constructed and living wage jobs provided. As a result, despite the adversarial relationship that marked our public discourse in the distant past, we transformed what was once our communal negativity into a healthy alliance.

For too long, we focused on only the differences that divided us and wasted our time in combative activity. That was then. This is now. If the Trades and the Chamber can find a way to pull in the same direction, so too can those of us who wish to protect and defend our community’s greatest treasure – Lake Superior, the Greatest of the Great Lakes.

Local businesses that provide supplies and services to the mining industry and the pipeline industry are not intent on polluting our precious water supply. Nor do local environmental stewards wish to jeopardize local jobs and limit local investment.

The local uprising that occurred on both sides of the Duluth City Council’s decision to publicly support the protesters opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline has the potential to pull our community apart. The anger and combativeness generated by the Council’s quick action lessened the likelihood that different interest groups can join forces in determining how our community can most effectively work together to advocate for the protection of our precious water.

On the charged and passionate issues of freshwater and living wage jobs, when we are forced into immediate action, we run the risk of seeing only the differences that divide us. The Chamber’s leadership is hopeful that the next time issues of this importance begin to emerge within our community, our elected officials and community leaders will initiate a healthy community conversation before taking what could be polarizing action.

If the Council allows this to occur, we will have the time to understand and appreciate how there is an abundance of issues and challenges that bring us together as Duluthians. We may even be able to collectively raise a glass of Lake Superior water, or a pint of craft beer made from Lake Superior water, and toast our shared interests and our shared good fortune.

David Ross

David Ross is the president and CEO of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at 740-3751.

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