A positive kind of retreat

Published 9:21 pm Monday, September 21, 2009

Most business owners would agree that it’s exceedingly easy to become overwhelmed by the little things. Folks have a tendency to get so caught up in accomplishing their everyday tasks that they often put a low priority on — or even ignore — the need to set long-terms goals and make the plans necessary for meeting them.

It’s true in business. It’s true in most folks’ personal lives. And it’s true in government.

What’s also true is that the most successful businesses, the most fulfilled people and the most responsive governments all find the time to step back and look at the bigger picture every once in a while, just to be sure that, no matter how beautiful each individual brushstroke might be, the picture that is being created is the one that is intended and expected.

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Suffolk City Council will step back and look at the whole canvas of city affairs this week, during a retreat to be held in a conference room in the new Health and Human Services Building, located at 135 Hall Ave. The retreat will be held from noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday, from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday and — if needed — on Friday. The public is invited to attend.

Regular council meetings are dominated by public hearings on zoning requests, by the discussion and payment of bills, by the planning of annual budgets and the like. In other words, those meetings usually focus on the reactionary aspect of government. They leave little room for the proactive discussions on topics that will affect the city for years to come. They leave little time for thoughtful, considered policy-making of the type that will have a lasting, positive impact not just on projects and proposals currently in the works, but also on those that still haven’t yet made their way into the public realm.

The beauty of a retreat is that it gives the City Council a chance to evaluate current policies and examine how they can be improved — without all the pressure of a regular meeting. The free flow of ideas that can be generated in such a meeting is healthy both for council members and for the city as a whole.

Suffolk has some important items on this retreat’s agenda. Items related to the Southeastern Public Service Authority, economic development priorities and budget concerns all will compete for council’s attention during the two- or three-day meeting.

Better to focus that attention now, though, than to be left wanting a set of clearly defined goals when those items come up in future council meetings.