Speer: Communication limits thorny issues

Watching government officials of different jurisdictions interact with each other often provides an interesting lesson in non-verbal communication.

Sometimes it isn’t the words being said that are so important, it is the reaction of others as they listen – when they grimace, or that continual look at the clock that conveys what they really are thinking.

Occasionally non-verbal communication takes on a different form as well, such as traffic cones narrowing the traffic flow over a bridge. If in doubt, just ask New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Generally speaking, communication between area officials is a hundred times better than what it was a decade ago. Many readers will remember the original intergovernmental gatherings when people like Russ Townsend worked so hard to get the township, city and county at the same table.

Still, that’s not to say there aren’t still some thorny issues out there.

Few would argue, for instance, that economic development should be more a regional approach than just focusing on a particular government entity. Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce Director of Economic Development Jim Klarich has done a great job of emphasizing that very point.

When a new business goes into the region we all benefit. Yet, we don’t all collect taxes from that business, and it is only natural that eventually that fact has to wear thin on those not realizing the new development in their boundaries. If not careful, it could become a friction point.

Roads are another possible friction point. Everyone agrees we need good transportation routes. How to pay for them, or where new ones should be placed often can lead to conflicts. Sometimes the “Not In My Back Yard” philosophy can get in the way. If one entity believes it makes better sense for a road to be sited elsewhere and it’s not, that again can be a friction point.

Then there is the potential ongoing friction caused by just general negotiations for things that are shared between entities. It seems like Alpena Township and city officials, for instance, have been negotiating forever now water rates for the township.

Thankfully when thorny issues have developed locally, government officials have tried to treat them more like roses and less like thorns. The region has benefited as a result from their spirit of compromise and common sense.

However, if you see traffic cones begin appearing in the Bagley/M-32 intersection area anytime soon, you might want to question why. Who knows, there might be a message with each orange cone.

Bill Speer can be reached via email at bspeer@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 354-3111 ext. 331. Follow Bill on Twitter @billspeer13. Read his blog, More BS?(Bill Speer) at www.thealpenanews.com.