Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Finding the opportunity in our differences

diversityPick up a paper and the headlines are likely filled with trouble and unrest. Last year, the nation watched in anguish as cable news displayed the riots resulting from anger in Ferguson, Missouri. The racial tension was not confined to that region as protests and violence erupted across the country from Seattle to Downtown Davidson as students and teachers alike participated in a “Die-in.”

Spectators attending the annual Christmas in Davidson event looked on as protesters lay in the streets, their hands behind their backs, in a silent protest to a not guilty verdict. Christmas carols fell silent as the discontent seeped into the evening Yule Tide event

The last few weeks has seen our community gripped in a much less violent demonstration at the recent Kerrick trial of a white police officer accused of using unnecessary force in the attempted arrest and subsequent death of a black man. The mistrial again provoked demonstrations in the minds of some that somehow justice did not prevail.

Frustration, anger, and tension are not just confined to race as our state legislature in Raleigh finds rural lawmakers pitted against their urban counterparts. Perhaps at no other time in history has our state been so starkly divided between communities that are growing and those who are not.

Look no further than here at Lake Norman as we wrestle with the notion of tolling what many consider our main street – I77. This year marks my 20th year at the Lake Norman Chamber and at no time have I witnessed an issue which has so bitterly divided our community and region with the “haves” vs the “have nots.”

While transportation and some elected officials would point out that Express Lanes provide “choice” and guaranteed mobility to drivers, opponents which refer to them as “Lexus Lanes” see them as a tax on a “local road” that many simply cannot afford, and in the case of truckers, are prohibited from using.

Against the backdrop of these trying times, I am reminded of the words of the Reverend Martin Luther King.  In the midst of the Civil Rights struggle, Dr. King said, “The measure of a man is not where he stands in times of comfort and Kingconvenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”

The one thing we can be assured is there will be change.  Challenges are brought about by change. Today is different than yesterday and tomorrow will be different than today.

Perhaps there is no more stark contrast politically to Rev. King than former President Ronald Regan. Regan too understood diversity when he reminded us, “It’s not enough to be equal in the eyes of God.  We must be equal in the eyes of each other.”

In September, the Chamber embraces “Diversity” and recognizes those companies, businesses and individuals who promote and encourage inclusion in their business practices at our annual Diversity Luncheon on September 17th.

As we face each new sunrise, let us move closer to the day, when we as a community, nation, and people find the opportunities in our differences and the strength in our common ground.

Bill Russell

Advertisements

August 31, 2015 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts from a cluttered desk – What direction are we headed?

What direction are we headed?

AliceIn Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, there is an exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat
“–so long as I get somewhere” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

I’m sure many of us feel like Alice.  Stuck in the congestion of I-77, if we wait long enough, we’ll get to our destination. The promise of express lanes to expedite our travel seemed like a solution months ago given the option of HOT lanes or no widening of I-77 at all. The leaders of the chamber of commerce felt the former option was the only option.

There are times looking back on this issue, I feel like our elected leaders…and yes…the business leaders too, including me, struggled with the right road to our funding. How do you get “there” when you don’t know where “there” is?

As I write this, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce has joined other business and citizen voices in calling for the cancellation of the contract between NCDOT and I-77 Mobility Partners. It is an action on our part brought about by the groundswell of residents, small business owners and chamber of commerce members who saw the direction we were headed and said that is not the direction we need to go.

The Lake Norman area is unique. The Interstate which runs through the heart of our lake communities, yet is the common bond uniting our region, makes us different than other cities and towns in North Carolina.  I-77 is a local road.  It is how we get from one community to the next.  We may live in Huntersville, work in Cornelius, go to church in Davidson, and shop in Mooresville – but for many of us, we use I-77 to get there.I77 express lanes

Tolling and Public – Private Partnerships may well be the means to fund road improvement projects in other areas of the state.  That said, it’s not the best option for Lake Norman.

It doesn’t take a Cheshire Cat to figure out that not any old road will do. The path we were headed down was the wrong road. It was bad for the citizens living here.  It was bad for business. More importantly, it was bad for the legacy we leave to our children –  those who will inherit the results of our decisions today.

I sincerely hope we change the direction of this dialogue, and more importantly take a different direction in our actions. I’m not sure if we will be successful or not.  I simply know now, and I think I’ve always known, we have to try. We have a responsibility to the next generation of Lake Norman citizens and we dare not fail in our task.

W.E.  “Bill” Russell, CCE IOM

July 6, 2015 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment