Editorial: Business Council Misses Boat on Community Involvement
By Brandi Makuski
The Portage County Business Council seems to only welcome members of the public when they fork over some cash- and even then, only during certain events.
To be fair, the council’s job is to bring money into the community by way of business growth: they court new businesses for setting up shop in the Stevens Point Community and they also support existing businesses- both of which help create new jobs. The council also brings together organizations and area businesses for leadership training and brings future leaders together through the Ignite program, all of which also benefits the business community.
The PBCB is big on social gatherings with events like Wines of the World, Business on the Green, Business After Hours, and now the first- ever Women in Business Fashion Show. Many of these events are for members only, but some are open to the public with a paid entrance fee.
One event the council closes off from the public entirely is their candidate forum. It is a “Members Only” event. This is problematic for two reasons: 1) The PCBC gets nearly $100K annually from Portage County and the City of Stevens Point, making them a taxpayer- funded, yet nongovernmental, agency, and 2) The candidate forum is comprised of candidates for public office and service. Entering the fold of local politics by way of a nonpublic Q&A is indicative of an acceptable allowance of non-transparency in local government.
This event should be a “stand alone” public event held by the PCBC and it would be a great way to bring in new potential members for the council- as well as promoting the business members they already have.
The Stevens Point City-Times was not present for this forum on March 21- we aren’t members. You may have seen coverage of the event from other news outlets only because they do hold memberships and pay annual fees.
We don’t. And we did that for a reason.
When we started this great experiment that is the Stevens Point City-Times three years ago, we never dreamed of reaching 2600 Facebook “likes” or having some 10,000 daily readers. We started with no business plan and no money, but with one main value at heart: nothing is more important in a democracy than a well- informed electorate. We’ve clawed our way to relevance without memberships, expensive photography equipment or filler stories about weight- loss challenges.
We’ve managed to steer clear of influence from business to retain objectivity and separateness. That’s the key for the success of our profession: separateness.
That this candidate forum was also closed from members of the press unless they paid for a membership shows how deeply some members of the Fourth Estate has ingrained itself with conflicting parties of business. Paying a membership fee might make a reporter’s job easier, but it doesn’t make it just or moral.
We observe. We report. End of story.