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A Question for Idaho's Elected Leadership

Do we have a plan?

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Ladies and Gentlemen: First and foremost, thank you for the selfless service you offer our state. Although it is easy to second guess from the comforts of the sidelines, as President Teddy Roosevelt said, it takes courage to "be in the arena." I followed this year's legislative session with great interest as we all dealt with very diverse and challenging issues spanning a retreating economy, lost jobs, education funding, state government, and most controversial, road maintenance funding options.

Although we did come to somewhat of a conclusion on most issues, this session left me with a question I hope you can help me with: What is the state leadership's vision for Idaho and have we collectively agreed upon a long-term strategy for a prosperous Idaho and defined those principles that we as Idahoans stand for? I ask this respectfully as a fellow Idahoan because not only do I not know, but I cannot find any reference to such a plan or process.

Although our governor and legislative leadership did commit years to promoting the need for specific programs and funding initiatives, it seemed to me, with respect to the very interesting and lengthy 2009 legislative session, it was not clear exactly what our collaboratively derived Idaho strategy is, what priorities the strategy drives, and as such, what strategic funding decisions had to be made to successfully achieve Idaho's long-term goals and priorities. Some in the media have written we merely punted the tough decisions down the road. I sincerely hope not.

As strategy is the orchestration of means to accomplish ends, I was somewhat confused by what appeared to be a focus on the crisis or issue of the moment with no apparent guiding priorities founded on a clearly defined vision. This seemed to then frustrate the legislature's ability to make the necessary adjustments to coordinated funding allocations that matched our state's defined priorities and principles. Again, I could be mistaken but I just did not see it. Others suggested looking to Idaho's constitution but having read it, I don't believe it defines such a collaborative planning process or answers my question.

If, however, we have not built the long-term strategy foundation that allows our executive and legislative branches to fine tune it and as such, align funding priorities to established principles, then I offer the following as one Idahoan's opinion as a possible planning template prior to the next legislative session.

In partnership, work to define Idaho's vision, strategy and principles as:

-Strategic: Where do we want Idaho to be five, 10 and 20 years from now?

-Operational: What do we need to accomplish in the next one to four years to attain our long-term goals?

-Tactical: What current planning and execution actions do we need to do today to shore up the operational foundation allowing us to achieve our long-term vision?

By accomplishing this, we establish and institutionalize Idaho's "brand." Next, re-structure to fit the strategy if needed. Truly forecast and plan Idaho's near- and long-term activities to ready capacity and set goals. Remember, a vision without funding is a hallucination. Establish routine strategic, operational and tactical communication protocols and clearly and frequently communicate them between our elected leadership and most importantly, Idahoans. Finally, invest in yourselves, as your leadership is critical to Idaho's future.

In conclusion, I believe the challenge for Idaho today, steeped in the traditions, paradigms and perspectives of the past, is recognizing opportunity, embracing it, and capitalizing on it before someone else at the federal level does it for us. Machiavelli said: "There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things." He might also have added that there is nothing more worthwhile.

Bruce Wong is a retired Air Force Colonel, prior Senior Vice President for a national merchandising company and former corporate manager for Albertsons/Supervalu.