One characteristic many excellent cities share is a diverse and healthy business community. Among other benefits, a thriving local economy contributes to revenues needed to sustain vital city services and amenities, provides a wide array of consumer choices to area residents, and, in resort areas like Dana Point, can be a significant driver of lucrative tourism business.
The health of a city’s business community can be greatly enhanced by governmental policies and practices that help support the commercial sector, especially in today’s troubled economy. The more a city listens to its business leaders and is willing to engage in constructive dialogue on matters affecting the interests of both the city and its commercial sector, the better it should be able to shape policies and coordinate governmental action that will strengthen the community as a whole. That was the thinking behind the City Council’s formation of the Dana Point Destiny Ad Hoc Committee this past summer.
The city held its first Dana Point Destiny meeting on June 15. Approximately 15 initial committee members, representing a large cross section of our city’s commercial and professional enterprises, were invited to participate, and close to 90% of those attended the inaugural meeting. Committee members include representatives from the city’s four major hotels, the harbor merchants, and the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce. Since its inception the committee has met roughly once a month and the meetings are growing longer. Attendance has been high and participation has been vigorous. So far there has been no shortage of robust and creative thinking about ways our business community and city government can work together to spur economic development and improve the quality of life for our residents and visitors.
Dana Point Destiny is different than a commercial trade or merchants’ association, such as our own Dana Point Chamber of Commerce. Generally speaking, such groups work hard to create and enhance business opportunities for its members through education programs, promotional activities, and business networking. By contrast, Dana Point Destiny was specifically designed to give our city’s business leaders a forum to provide the City Council with their input on business issues as part of the city’s decision-making process. The committee’s formation was an outgrowth of the economic development initiatives I proposed at my State of the City address this past April when I was mayor. The Mayor and the City Manager are standing committee members and other city staff frequently attend these meetings where it is helpful. In the future, any issues before the city that affect local business and commerce—and many if not most of them do—are likely to be vetted by Dana Point Destiny before any official city action is taken.
Since there are so many different types of businesses operating in our community, it should come as no surprise that there will not always be a consensus of opinion among Dana Point Destiny group members on all issues. What may be good for some may be detrimental to others and conflicts are certain to arise at times. However, forging agreement is less important than identifying differences of opinion, finding common ground, and working toward solutions that harmonize as many competing interests as possible. Even where there is a wide divergence of opinion on a topic, the City Council will still have the valuable input of all sides to the controversy and that should result in more informed and better planning and decision-making.
Since it is an official city organization, Dana Point Destiny meetings are open to the public. Committee agendas are posted at Dana Point City Hall and are also readily available at http://www.danapoint.org. Members of the public may express their views during the public comment portion of the agenda and are also welcome to speak on any agenda items. Public participation was sparse at first but has been growing steadily at recent meetings.
Dana Point Destiny gives the city and its business leaders an excellent vehicle to convene regularly in public to discuss matters of common interest and to pass along the benefit of that discussion to the City Council and staff. It also has a unique opportunity to help ward off potential problems as well as create substantial value for our community through the concerted action of business and government. In time, it could play a very important role in shaping Dana Point’s future. Stay tuned.
Scott Schoeffel is a Dana Point City