I gotta tell ya, I absolutely love this kind of thinking. Give me proactivity or give me death! Well … maybe not death. Perhaps a severe headache? In any event, I think the citizens of Geneva could really get used to this!
First, they hold the line on a proposed property and now a group of four alderman just called a at the just to listen to the concerns of downtown business owners.
So despite having to expose my follicly challenged head, my hat’s off to those downtown aldermen, Chuck Brown, Sam Hill, Ralph Dantino, and Craig Maladra who were smart enough to remind the rest of us what representative government is really all about.
“A couple of us were having a discussion over a brew at a local pub—just two of us, so it was a legal meeting—and we were talking over concerns about the downtown and shops that were closed and the business climate in general,” Hill said. “You know, you can look at sales tax figures, but those are three months late, so we said, let’s open the floodgates. If we have to be more assertive in our role as aldermen, we're willing to do that.”
Once again, if it wasn’t for those pesky restraining orders, at least a couple of those aldermen would learn, firsthand, exactly what it’s like to get a wet one from a somewhat overenthusiastic opinion columnist.
And it only gets better!
“We want to get it direct,” Hill said, “The chamber is a great organization, but they don’t represent every single business because they’re not all members. So we’ve offered to speak to—and listen to—every business owner … ”
Excellent! I’d go as far as saying the Chamber of Commerce has lost their way, but let's not sully a positive column by going down that road!
I know Owner Marty Kane will be there to remind everyone that, “There needs to be a reason to shop downtown Geneva.” Though folks are giving me the credit for this concept, it was actually Marty that planted the seed of an Apple Store in the former Merra-Lee location.
I’m sure that Joe Stanton, one of the members of my downtown economic dream team, will also be there. (Joe! I promise we’ll do lunch soon!) His optimism for our central business district is extremely infectious, and he knows exactly what it takes to run a successful independent enterprise.
I’d like to encourage Geneva Running Outfitters owner Eric Ott to attend, as well. He’s yet another entrepreneur who tends to look outward and forward instead of inward and backward. There’s still an awful lot of entitlement mentality going on in downtown Geneva and the last thing I or the aldermanic quartet want is for this gathering to become Gripe Fest 2012.
It shouldn’t turn into what most School Board meetings have become, where a minority has turned to harassment as a weapon instead of real dialogue.
While our municipal leaders have a responsibility to spread the kind of fertilizer that provides the basis for a thriving downtown, it’s up to the merchants to cultivate the crop.
Economic Development Director Ellen Divita has recently been pushing for the city, and thus the taxpayer, to spend more money downtown, but no one really wants to throw good money after bad. Successful businessmen already know that the good Lord tends to help those who choose to help themselves.
Remember, it isn’t about what the citizens of Geneva can do for you, it’s about how we can help you to help yourselves. You gotta meet us halfway and then take the ball and run with it.
I truly hope a majority of the downtown merchants attend and come prepared to listen because without evening hours, excellent service and a collective downtown promotion mentality, the end is near.
In great part, because of the hassle of dealing with short sighted business owners, there will be no Geneva bike race this year. That’s means a rare lost opportunity to have a couple of thousand new eyes focus on your enterprise. They may not spend money that day, but once the seed has been planted…
As Alderman Hill so aptly pointed out, this a council meeting open to all of Geneva, so please feel free to attend yourself. Again it’s March 14, the Urban Grille at 6 p.m. I’m sure Rick and/or I will be there.
“Where it goes from there, I don’t know,” Hill added. “We just want to be open to them. We feel it’s important. And we don’t always have a chance to sit down and just listen.”
Go get ‘em boys!