Magner: The value of constructive dialogue

Last month, the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce hosted the second in a series of Town Hall Meetings linking the design and development community with the Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC). The first Town Hall, held in mid-April, provided architects, engineers and developers the opportunity to provide specific input into the Unified Development Code (UDC). The second meeting was designed to enable the MPC to provide responses to the feedback submitted at the first meeting, as well as the chance for businesses to provide input on the Site Planning Process.

First, the Chamber would like to thank all of those in the business community who took time out of their busy schedules to fill out the online forms, attend the town halls and offer your ideas for what can help the entire development community of Shreveport. Secondly, we’d like to thank the Metropolitan Planning Commission for their willingness to listen to the building community and their concerns. Progress could not be made without both sides making a concerted effort to work together.

At the latest town hall, the responses given by the MPC staff proved that our efforts were not in vain. The MPC listened to what the developer community said and proposed improvements to the UDC based on the feedback they received. However, there definitely was not 100% agreement on all of the issues brought forth. The Chamber appreciates the efforts of the MPC Staff in detailing their response and in proposing changes that respond to the needs of business and the needs of our community. We now call upon the Board of the MPC and the elected leadership of the City of Shreveport and the Parish of Caddo to work expeditiously to implement these recommended changes to harness the momentum from this dialog and demonstrate that our governmental bodies are engaged, responsive and a partner in the economic development of our community.

While the relative merits of specific recommended changes or those items left unchanged are best left for a different venue, the fact that an information-based and constructive dialog has taken place is an important milestone for our community. It demonstrates, we believe, not only the important contribution that groups like the Chamber can have in energizing collective action to foster change, but that dialog itself is essential to resolving the challenges facing our community and divining what is necessary to move our City and Parish forward.

We will continue to follow these proposed recommendations to the UDC and Site Plan Approval Process through to fruition. We pledge to keep the community abreast of the changes and continue the dialogue that has led us thus far.

Strategist Dr. Max McKeown has stated that, “if you find a system that is failing, then you have also found a system that is failing to adapt.” At the Chamber, we believe that constructive collective dialog is an important hallmark of an adaptive community. Further we believe that it is the Chamber’s responsibility to convene these discussions to move our community as quickly and responsibly as possible toward the changes, large and small, that will allow us to adapt to, as well as to define the future for our region. These steps with the MPC and UDC are an initial effort, and we welcome your attention and participation in helping us improve the place we all call home.

Dr. Tim Magner is president of the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce