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August 07, 2007



Perhaps yesterday was better than today. If not, I think you were more than generous with your light criticism.

I understand that they're volunteers, and I do appreciate what they're trying to do. But it I'm not really a process nerd and yet it was glaringly obvious that there was a serious lack of facilitation skills at the meetings.

I attended two of the three sub-groups today, and talked to someone who attended the third. They were very unfocused and it's hard to imagine what will come of them.

I am hopeful that what they said to you yesterday is true and they are somehow able to glean something useful from all of this. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's presentation with some skpeticism.

Also, it seems clear now that this is just another exercise in futility. Even the presenters don't really seem to think it's going to go anywhere. Do you have a different sense of that? Do you have reason to think that their recommendations are going to have any impact?

Miriam Axel-Lute

I'm torn on this really. Yes, as I said, I didn't feel like the groups were facilitated well. They felt unfocused and unproductive to me too, and I perhaps downplayed that too much. I tend to want people who are off-topic and/or talking about themselves to be cut-off. Others find that to be an oppressive and unresponsive atmosphere.

I'm trying to reserve judgment until the final results on account of it seems that similar processes have in fact generated momentum and results in other places the AIA has held this, and those who have participated in more than one seemed to think this compared favorably.

On the other hand, that's no guarantee, and the team is different every time. It would be very easy for this to come to naught.

My guess is it will be somewhere in between what you or I would have wanted and a total flop. There will be recommendations from a team of experts backed by some citizen input that will be non-earth-shattering, but that will perhaps give some extra weight behind pushing the city or other agencies to do what they ought to be doing. One or two things that a bunch of us have been saying need to happen may get moved forward--whether by the city or some other group. There may be some learning about how to do this kind of thing better come the comp plan.

Meanwhile, I continue to hold to my longstanding opinion that both meeting participation and meeting facilitation should be taught in all high schools and colleges.


One of the things that came up a couple times in the meta-discussion was that the findings of this team need to be very widely and accessibly publicized. There need to be graphic representations, and the Albanian on the street needs to know about 'em. This is expected to make the city pay attention more.

I don't get the sense that the SDAT team themselves hold any responsibility for making that happen. As a member of the media, do you think it's possible or likely?

Another suggestion made was that the comp planning process contain a public (on city's website?) implementation/action check-list with dates that the city checks off as they complete projects. Provides accountability, and provides opportunity for positive press when things are actually completed on time.

Miriam Axel-Lute

You're right, I think the SDAT team does not see publicizing or implementation to be their roles in this process. And to be fair, outsiders are good for perspective and ideas, but it's not really the best thing to have them actually driving implementation. Kinda disempowering.

If either the common council/comp plan board or a group like CANA (ideally, I'd say, both) find the recommendations worthwhile enough to champion, it could happen. But they'll have to do more than just send a single round of press releases out about it.

The checklist is a brilliant idea (OK, it's a fairly basic idea, but a very good one) that should absolutely be pushed consistently throughout. Presuming we end up with a plan that we want implemented, if the city doesn't maintain a checklist, the citizens should. In fact, we might want to consider making one for the planning process itself.

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