When I first saw the news that Mayor Beth Weldon is moving toward forming a task force to study tourism issues I was encouraged. But then I remembered the words of a great facilitator about the five stages of a task force. Here they are, modified for present circumstances:
1) Formation; mission statement; who will be on the task force.
The most important stage. Make a mission statement that is sufficiently vague. Make liberal use of the words “stakeholders” and “collaboration.” Tell them they should address the question whether tourism should somehow be “managed.” Make sure there is an equal number of members who are in favor of actually doing something balanced against those who do not favor doing anything. This will ensure that nothing gets done.
2) Initial meeting; talk about “the mission”; refine “the mission.”
Hold hands; exchange pleasantries; establish who’s who. Give collective deference to the real players. You know, the ones from the tourism industry; the ones who are being paid to be there. It is also important to refine the mission statement with sufficient ambiguity so as to guarantee success. Proceed with the underlying presumption that even if the task force actually recommends something that would change the status quo, industry representatives will stage a political end run to make sure it doesn’t happen.
3) Have meetings. Lots of meetings. Get input.
Have one or more public meetings where members of the public are invited to show up and offer their views. This is where one interest group gets the word out and loads the meeting with its members.
4) Prepare the report; Make recommendations.
Here the most important thing is to write the report in such a way as to try and please everyone. Try to make it be all things to all people. Above all, make sure no one is offended. This means use of even more vague language. Make sure that a major recommendation is (that’s right): more study.
5) Deliver the report; Denouement.
The report is resolutely delivered and resolutely received. Everyone on the task force is congratulated for their stellar efforts, the status quo is maintained, and peace returns to the realm.
• Ray Preston is a retiree who lives in Juneau.