Can We Talk?

Back Commentary Mar 1, 2017 By Allison Joy

Late last January, Sacramento Kings CEO Chris Granger cited the “interesting” and perhaps “divisive” era we live in while giving his acceptance speech for the Sacramento Businessman of the Year award from the Metro Chamber, adding: “I don’t think it needs to be that way in Sacramento.”

About a week later, Kevin Nagle nearly broke the internet when he submitted the application for Sacramento’s bid for an MLS team without listing Republic FC. Fans panicked. Republic officials seemed caught off guard. Nagle’s team assured us it was a technicality. The rumor mill churned.

Back in mid-January, Jessica Kriegel wrote an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee calling out the Sacramento Business Review’s refusal to diversify the all-male panel presenting the organization’s 2017 economic forecast. The response was swift and brutal: Kriegel’s name and photo were removed from all digital materials for the review — of which she was one of 17 authors — and the organization’s account blocked her on Twitter.

I don’t think it needs to be that way in Sacramento, either. We can look at our perceived differences not as roadblocks or cause for deepening division, but as a way to move the conversation forward.

Shawn Achor is the author of The Happiness Advantage and gave a popular Ted Talk on the topic back in 2011 called “The Happy Secret to Better Work.” He recently spoke to the Observer about a study he did of bankers in the wake of the financial crisis. Achor says he found that while almost everyone he spoke with suffered intense stress, a few outliers were resilient — even happy. The difference? It would seem that the ability to view problems as challenges — opportunities even — can be the difference between an ulcer and a solution.

With that approach in mind, there are a lot of opportunities on our horizon. Our region’s ongoing transportation insufficiencies and lack of affordable housing, the regulatory environment that makes it increasingly difficult for us to hold onto businesses — and a slew of other issues — aren’t going anywhere. But now, all of those things will be discussed within the broader framework of a federal government at odds with our state. We know that California is not the monolith political viewpoint most of the nation sees on television. Tension is high and constructive, solution-seeking conversations seem nearly impossible. But I believe there is a way to hold onto our values while still remaining open to honest discussions about the challenges ahead.

After Nagle filed the application for MLS, he and Republic FC owner Warren Smith met with Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg over the course of two days, and by Feb. 4 the Mayor’s Office said an agreement had been reached to sell the team to Nagle’s Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings if and when the MLS award is made. A photo of the three men, beers in hand, made the rounds.

As for the Sacramento Business Review: Ultimately, a husband-and-wife team, both also authors of the review, co-presented data leading into the panel discussion, so at least one woman did end up gracing the stage. (Kriegel remains blocked by the organization on Twitter.) But hopefully Kriegel’s outspokenness on the issue will lead to further evaluation of the conversations we are having throughout the region, and which voices are being brought into the discussion. Kelly Rivas, deputy chief of staff to Steinberg, confirmed that the mayor has accepted a pledge not to participate in any all-male panels.

I would encourage all of you to make a concerted effort to have difficult conversations in the weeks, months and years to come. Have unusual conversations. Ask lots of questions. Take stock of where your boundaries are, but pay attention to where there might be room for growth and compromise. What opportunities are currently masquerading at your fingertips as unaddressed problems? Think about your values and your vision for the future. For an idea of where we are headed, check out this year’s crop of the Capital Region’s top emerging leaders in our March issue and learn more about what they see for our region’s future.

Our new podcast, Action Items, launches this month. The name comes from our intent to not just foster conversations, but to, at the end of each episode, leave listeners with a tangible way they can address local issues in their own lives. We’ll share our conversations with you, and encourage you to share yours with us.