Climbing ‘The Hill’ during a short session

John McDonagh

My first Hill Climb was 12 years ago on newspaper day. A fledgling publisher, I charged the hill wide-eyed if not bushy tailed. I went to listen and learn not with a specific agenda. It was worth the climb, but I wouldn’t make it back for the next dozen years.

Last month, I attend the Hill Climb day organized by the Association of Washington Business (AWB). The morning was a series of panels focused on carbon emissions tax, minimum wage, predictive scheduling, the two distinct regions in our state and education. The panels consisted of business owners and executives who are dealing with the realities of our state’s laws and regulations and anticipating – along with the rest of us – the consequence of new bills being debated on the Hill.

Our visit with three of the county’s legislative contingent confirmed the realities of a short session and a split legislature; few if any new legislation is likely to move forward. Legislators are prohibited from fundraising for their campaign during the session. One of the legislators put it simply, “it’s a short session and we’re focused on getting back home and on to the campaign trail.”

Consequently, the motivation is clearly to conclude on time and get to campaigning so they can return, which doesn’t assure anything. Unless the results are markedly different at the polls what really changes? Decisions are being driven by ideology rather than focusing on what is good for the state. Without a change of mind or a change of legislators how can we expect a different outcome?

A case in point: After an apparent deal brokered by the governor having to do with education funding in light of the McCleary decision, an amendment was introduced at the hearing which essentially says nothing needs to happen until 2018 so we’re not going to do anything until that time. After all, if we make a decision we run the risk of losing the election, so we’ll wait. Really? This is what is best for our kids?

It is time we get past the extreme partisanship and have the necessary discussions that provide solutions the state needs to thrive.

Time at the Chamber of Commerce

Most of you are likely aware, but if you are not, I agreed in December to take on the INTERIM role as President/CEO of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce. The last month and a half has given me the opportunity to work with a staff passionate about serving its membership and advocating on behalf of the business community in the Greater Vancouver area.

Getting an insider view of the operations, financial situation and member engagement of the chamber has been fascinating. On one hand, it is a totally new set of experiences and causes me to think about and use all that I’ve learned over the years. On the other hand, it is about business and people, two of my passions. When you can spend time involved with your passion the time goes quickly.

The search is on for the next Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce executive. In fact, interviews are underway. When the board finds the person who shares their vision and has the passion to lead their members in creating an innovative and collaborative business community, that person will find an organization committed to pursuing that vision and continuing to lend support to the business community.