11/06/2005

Tribune Endorsement

Well, no surprise here: The Tribune endorsed Randy Gray in the Mayoral race. I've let my feelings on this be known below, so I won't rehash the reasons why Dona Stebbins should be elected.

I was frankly quite pissed off when the Tribune pulled their little stunt trying to tie Dona to the gaming industry, and I am sure that showed up in my piece. I wasn't alone. I've said before that I know many people at the Tribune, and the ones I know are generally decent enough folks, even if I do disagree with them on just about anything. Perhaps my comments are sometimes a bit shrill, perhaps even offensive, to those people at the paper. Emotion is emotion, though, and part of the fun of writing this blog is the license to let emotion permeate my written words. And I will not back down on my fundamental point: The Tribune is here to observe and report. Not take sides and manipulate. They crossed the line on Friday.

With all that behind us, though, I laughed out loud when I read the Tribune's editorial endorsing Mayor Gray. Could these people be any more condescending if they tried?

Over the past decade, the Tribune consistently supported economic development in Great Falls and the region, and we criticized things that didn't strike us as contributing to the social and economic well-being of the community in which we live.

It's a simple rule of thumb for our editorial positions.
Who are these people? Can you even imagine appointing yourself as the community guardian of what contributes to "the social and economic well-being of the community?" The "social and economic well-being of the community" is a simple rule of thumb? If you ever doubted whether the Editorial Board fancies itself as the omniscient overseers of all that is good and just, your doubts can be put to rest.

Doesn't it make you wonder just what expertise exists on the Editorial Board to support such grandiose claims of beneficent knowledge? Maybe they could do a piece in the future outlining their experience running a small business that supports their positions on taxes, health insurance and the like? All of their Ivy League engineering degrees to support their positions on the environment and energy? Their big time economics degrees to support their endorsements of political candidates?

A Daniel Boorstin quote is appropriate: "The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance -- it is the illusion of knowledge." Or better yet, Mark Twain: "All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure."

Here's a well deserved "smirk" to all of 'em.

As far as the rest of the editorial, I will agree that Mayor Gray has presided over some positive economic developments. Most of these can be attributed to the hard work of John Kramer and the Great Falls Development Authority, which is in no small measure supported by private sector contributions. I have a hard time believing, though, that any Mayor would have been more or less supportive of GFDA.

To a certain extent, our Mayor is along for the ride. Once the GFDA was created and funded with Kramer at the helm, I believe its success or failure was essentially cemented. Who would not have cooperated? How much credit we give Mayor Gray, it seems to me, depends on how much we each support him.

I think the Tribune's editorial also betrays an alarming lack of understanding of the economic process. If our community's success or failure at economic development is dependent on City Government, we're in for a big disappointment. Government does not, contrary to the beliefs of our economic 'experts' at the Tribune, drive the engine of economic development. (See, e.g., Hong Kong; Ireland) Planned economies don't work, they have never worked, and will never work. Mayor Gray cannot plan or create economic development any more than Dona Stebbins can.

The GFDA is one part of the process. The GFDA attracts businesses to our community, and to the extent those businesses bring out of state money in, that's a good thing (as opposed to taking local money out which, paradoxically, seems to be what most locals want, i.e., Red Lobster, Lowes, etc.)

But what about the businesses that are here? What about the Tim Murphys of the world, the man who single handedly developed the "Fun Hundred block" of Central Avenue, yet found himself excoriated on the front page of the Tribune by our Mayor for daring to question a no-notice deal that would have impacted Murphy's tenants' parking? Two Randy Gray problems that the Tribune overlooks:

He wants to dictate, not govern. When he is challenged, whether by Murphy, Stu Lewin, or anyone else, he does not react well.

Second, he has taken sides. As a member of an industry he frowns upon, one cannot be fairly said to be in favor of economic development when that person thinks he, and he alone, should choose what is a 'good' business and what is a 'bad' business.

The bottom line is that Randy Gray and Dona Stebbins will perform equally on the economic development front; both will fully support John Kramer. Mayor Gray, though, has demonstrated a desire and/or willingness to assume too much power on his own behalf, apparently convincing himself that, like the Editorial Board, he is the arbiter of "social and economic well-being of the community in which we live."

(One other thing. This is politics. We're allowed to disagree with each other. I would hate to have anything construed as personally attacking Randy Gray, the Editorial Board, or anyone else. )

3 comments:

Jim Rohrich said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
david said...

I like your last bit, GeeGuy; much as we might disagree with others, they are opponents, not enemies.

Anonymous said...

Well put, GeeGuy. Had to laugh at the editorial the Trib "blessed" us with today. What's amazing is... how many times they're on the wrong side of an issue. Gray's issues with traffic law, his flippant answers about the city losing 500K on the Lewis and Clark fiasco... the ace staff at the Trib doesn't care. It's embarrassing to call the Trib a newspaper.

Vote for Dona Stebbins.