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Potluck economics

There’s no better feast to be found anywhere than a Marion County potluck dinner.

Having sampled such fare from Chicago to Dallas and St. Louis to Spokane, I have no difficulty dismissing without tasting all the others in the country. Marion County is the potluck capital of the country.

Many folks are known for the dishes they bring to serving tables. With little to no direction, all the expected favorites magically appear in ample supply. There’s usually a few dishes that spark raised eyebrows from some, but by the end of the meal, they’ve gladly been devoured.

Our county commissioners have undoubtedly regaled in potluck paradise (some apparently more than others), and perhaps that’s where they got the idea for their economic development committee.

“Put out the word,” they said, “we’re having an eco-devo potluck, and everyone’s invited.”

Now, folks around here are familiar with church, social club, and neighborhood potlucks, and they dive headlong into those.

Few knew what to make of an invitation to an economic potluck. Some didn’t think they had anything to bring, so they didn’t respond. Others had lingering sour tastes that sent them skeptically sauntering away.

However, 14 people were swayed by the lure of making a difference with their own special recipes. They responded to the invitation, and after brief deliberation, commissioners welcomed them all.

It wasn’t until they arrived, however, that many discovered it wasn’t a potluck at all. Commissioners wanted to pick from a menu, but they weren’t even there to sample the choices; they left that to someone else. Seven made the cut. If the rest want to come, that’s OK, they said. Go ahead and talk, but you can’t vote. Voting is just for the chosen.

I don’t know about you, but if I’d have shown up to a potluck with my spinach and mandarin orange salad and was told it wasn’t wanted, I wouldn’t be too keen on coming back. I’m a darned good cook, and it’s a delicious salad.

It’s too darned bad they couldn’t stomach a potluck. The beauty of a potluck is found in its variety. There’s room for everything. If everyone brought only the best ham loaf and green Jell-O salad, it wouldn’t be much of a feast.

We won’t quibble about the commissioner’s choices — there’s some talented cooks among them, and as long as they stay within established parameters, they can come up with a recipe for a slice, and just a slice, of economic development commissioners may find palatable, even tasty.

But as with other fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants actions, it’s the commissioners’ process with this that’s left a sour taste in my mouth, and undoubtedly a few others. Here’s hoping the end is worth the means, and that we’ll be sitting down to a potluck of economic plenty in the future.

— david colburn

Last modified June 29, 2016

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