Part 4: So Where Does that Leave Rudnick and the Partnership?
I’m a member of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership for the networking aspect; it gets me in front of people whom I would otherwise not get the opportunity to meet. Some will argue that this benefit is not worth the dues one must pay to be a member and that’s a fine argument. For now though, I’ll continue to pay my dues.
In addition to networking the BNP has (if I may paraphrase from their website) three other goals:
- Support of business growth
- Business services
- Political advocacy
The third item has always been controversial as not all members may think like Carl Paladino or I do, putting the Partnership in a position where virtually any political advocacy in which they engage is bound to alienate some of their members.
I am in full agreement that the BNP (and all Chambers of Commerce in WNY) need to recalibrate, but replacing its leadership with someone who fits Carl Paladino’s expectations is no different than what Tom Golisano is doing to the State Senate, and likely to result in as much chaos as construction.
I think that if you’re going to work in both the community and in the political realm, diplomacy is of utmost importance. Carl’s diplomatic efforts are, well, erratic at best (and I wish I could emphasize how badly we need more people like Carl, if only he could color the arguments in a more positive way). He sees the BNP, BNE and other local organizations as structures that are in such bad shape that they must be plowed under and rebuilt from the ground up.
I think that Andrew Rudnick’s public persona is one of civility and diplomacy. But what he also does behind the scenes matters, especially if he is not following the Partnership Board’s directives. This is important: Corporate leaders are beholden to their boards, not the other way around.
Should Rudnick go? A friend of mine suggested that all public leaders be subject to term limitations. I find that term limits have merit as long as they don’t apply to me or anyone else doing a spectacular job in his/her position; fans of Rudy Giuliani would agree as well.
Boards remove their executives when they fail to accomplish the board’s strategic directives. If the Board decided that the Partnership should recommend voting against every incumbent next November (I hope I hope I hope), and Rudnick fails to execute, then that’s grounds for dismissal. If the Board decides to take less provocative or behind the scenes approaches and Andrew complies, then he’s doing his job. If the CEO is doing as the Board wishes then the CEO is doing his job. Paladino is screwing up the chance to foment real change because he’s shooting at the wrong target. If he doesn’t like what Rudnick is doing he should focus his attention at the Board.
But really, when it comes to Upstate success stories I can’t think of a single organization (and I’ve been thinking about this for well over a month) that stands out as having produced major, consistent results over the past 15 years, the Partnership included. And by major I mean consistently media-grabbing. In that regard, even Carl has only his Thruway toll initiative to brag about; what else has he done that has made a real difference for the community?
This is in no way meant to impugn Carl; indeed, in private he seems extraordinarily gracious and charitable, and I suspect he has impacted this area in many small ways, as has the BNP, the BNE, Catholic Charities, UNYTS, the Red Cross and so many other organizations. The problem is that none of us are creating blockbuster initiatives with major, consistent impact; and none of our very worthwhile behind-the-scenes activities will ever make the press.
Maybe it’s because we can’t create those initiatives. Short of taking up arms – short of a revolution – none of us, collectively or otherwise, can make a revolutionary difference given the political structure of our city, county and state governments.
So that leaves an evolutionary approach, a strategy that the BNP appears to be addressing at least as well as any other group. I don’t think replacing Andrew Rudnick is an agent of change any more than I think creating a new chamber of commerce would be an agent of change.
In summary: Two polarizing figures, two different approaches, neither one visibly successful on a regular basis but striving for the same thing.
They’d be so much more effective if they’d figure out how to work together.