Stepping away from 2020 Outreach so I can do 2020 outreach

Ruby Sinreich's picture

A few days ago I sent the following message to my fellow members of the Outreach Committee for Chapel Hill 2020. Apparently having and stating strong opinions is incompatible with leadership in that process. Rather than spending time struggling to lead the internal outreach process, I think I will be a more effective and way more authentic advocate from the outside. It's a pity the Town can't make room for vocally opinionated comunity members to be leaders in creating our new comprehensive plan. We all have opinions. Some people are just more blunt about them than others. There are precious few "neutral" leaders who are qualified and motivated enough to serve.

Hello, Outreach colleagues. As you will be learning at today's meeting, I am no longer serving as a co-chair of the Outreach committee, although I remain 100% committed to the success of Chapel Hill 2020. During last week's theme group meetings, I made a comment on my personal Twitter account that George and Rosemary (and perhaps others, though none have contacted me) did not agree with. They felt it was inappropriate for a person in my position to openly criticize the process or the people involved with it. 

While it might not have been my finest hour, I stand by my comments. I think it is important for the integrity of this process that we be able to critique it. However, we all have more important things to do than spend time debating my "position," so I agreed with Rosemary and George to resign as a co-chair of 2020 Outreach. It is my strong hope that they will find someone else who can continue to help lead the committee, especially with respect to engaging people who are young and people who are less privileged, as their voices are not being heard enough at the 2020 meetings right now.
 
I will continue to participate as a stakeholder in Chapel Hill 2020, and will also continue to advocate for more broad community involvement in the process. I think my time will be better spent doing this work directly than serving on the committee at this point, and I don't want to serve as a distraction to your important work. I very much appreciate the time and personal energy that all of you are investing in this critical mission, and you can be assured that you will still be seeing me in person at 2020 meetings, and online at the 2020buzz.org and orangepolitics.org talking up the plan.

Thank you, it's been a pleasure working with you and I hope our paths will cross as we continue to work to improve engagement in Chapel Hill's Comprehensive Plan!

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Ruby Sinreich's picture

Actually

The tweet that preceded the request for me to step down said "Someday I want to go to a meeting where straight, white affluent men don't have the assumption that their ideas are a gift to the world".  This was not to say that there weren't some excellent contributions from nearly everyone in that meeting, but I noted the dynamic of men repeatedly interrupting women and it frustrated me. George mentions a previous tweet which I deleted and apologized for in which I said I would have to "take a shower" after the meeting. This wasn't a reference to the business community or most of the leaders we were meeting with, but one or two people there that made me feel uncomfortable about the level of personal outreach we were doing to them as opposed to other leaders representing environmentalists, civil rights activists, or young people (just for example). I'd rather not name names, but Aaron Nelson was definitely not the person in question. I disagree with him frequently, but I also consider him a friend and oftenappreciate the work he is trying to do.I still stand by the concern that I tweeted, but I also realized that the way I said it could lead to some misinterpretation by others, especially if they were not at the meeting. This is why I took it down and apologized (to Rosemary and George, to my Outreach co-chairs, and to Aaron). What has been particularly strange about this to me is that the comments being objected to were made on Twitter, a place where people can and frequently do enagage in dialog. In fact I have had robust conversations with other community members such as Fred Black and Kristen Smith of the Chamber when they have questioned my tweets. In both of these cases related to Chapel Hill 2020, I have heard complaints from no-one but George and Rosemary so I am unable to find out more about why other people object nor to do anything to help us understand each other's concerns better.

George C's picture

This Was The Basis...

Rosemary (Waldorf) and I (George Cianciolo), as Co-Chairs of the CH2020 process never said (nor expected) that having "strong opinions is incompatible with leadership in that process."  Indeed, it would be hard to find effective leaders who do not have strong opinions.  But we did (and do) expect the Co-Chairs of the CH2020 Outreach Committee to believe that all members of the community are entitled to be represented in our outreach efforts and to act in a way that, if at least not welcoming to all members of the community, is at least not excluding or demeaning to any members or groups of the community.Regarding the tweets referred to, the Outreach Committee had scheduled a luncheon meeting before Thanksgiving with Aaron Nelson, representing the Chamber of Commerce, and several downtown business persons.  Ruby, as a Co-Chair of Outreach was at the meeting.  During the meeting she tweeted that she would need to take a shower after the meeting.  When someone tweeted the question "why" she replied that "I feel slimy".Rosemary and I, over the next several days, received a number of emails asking how we could have an Outreach Co-Chair who showed so much disdain for a segment (business) of the community.  We explained to Ruby that as a Co-Chair we considered her responsibility to acknowledge that outreach was to the entire community, not just to those segments that she felt a particular kinship to.At the December 1st CH2020 meeting the theme groups met in work sessions.  Ruby attended one of the theme groups (Good Places & New Spaces) as a stakeholder.  After the meeting Ruby tweeted "Why do all old straight white males think they know it all?"  Rosemary and I met with Ruby and she agreed that she should probably step down as Co-Chair of the Outreach Committee and she said, at that time, she would give some thought as to whether she felt she could stay on the Committee and continue to be effective.Neither Rosemary nor I dispute Ruby's right to have strong opinions and, if she so desires, to express those opinions as bluntly as she wishes.  But we both felt that a Co-Chair of an Outreach Committee does have an obligation to not show disrespect nor disdain for any segment of the community if the outreach effort is to be viewed as truly inclusive.

Good decision

Hello Ruby (and all). Based on all the info here it seems you made the best choice. Outreach is not always the best place for people with strong opinions. That being said, it depends on whether your co-chairs' POVs bring balance to yours.I'm a newbie here at OP, but not to the workings of municipal governments and extra-governmental efforts. The fact is that orgs addressing development always (always always) include a preponderance of people interested in seeing the enactment of policies and initiatives which continue and expand development opportunities, rather than keep them under control. This is because they are professionals and can spend all the time necessary in meetings such as those in which CH2020 is engaged in order to maintain the process control they seek. They know the time investment will eventually pay off, and very frankly, that the rest of us (working stiffs :) lack that kind of time. Wearing down the opposition is a key tactic in development interests' broader strategy for continuing to build what they want, where they want, how they want. This is natural, of course; we as humans seek to protect what we consider our best interests, and tend to view things which limit our expansion of those interests as negative. It may be natural but, particularly when it comes to development, it is utterly wrong, and is the reason so many downtowns are deteriorating, so much sprawl is afflicting our landscape, and so much of the food we eat and products we buy come from overseas.I have fought (and I continue to fight) the development battle for more than 15 years, first in my native Pennsylvania, and now here in Eastern NC (Greenville). It wouldn't BE a battle if developers were FORCED to answer, in a public venue, some very basic questions; questions more and more communities are answering in ways that benefit their entire populations, not just those interests seeking to extract financial gain. If residents were included at the design stage. If charettes were the norm instead of the exception. Developers (and development-centric interests, like chambers of commerce) which have been made to look long term, to work with the residents their projects affect, and to consider the real wants and needs of their communities' populations, have helped those communities experience a rebirth of their urban cores. They have seen firsthand the economic benefits of protecting and enhancing their communities' quality of life. And they have come to understand the importance of creating highly integrated "places" which attract people - including new residents - rather than simply building an endless series of disconnected projects.IMO, Rudy, you are 100 percent correct that your outreach to advocates of such long-term thinking will be more successful if you are unyoked from the strictures of "politeness," another tactic development interests use in trying to keep control of their little kingdoms (also known as OUR TOWNS). I'd be willing to bet the questions your co-chairs received around your tweets came mostly from just such interests - and must add that I'm always amazed by how quickly their concerns over politeness are dropped when their old, inevitably white rear ends are "threatened" with accountability to something OTHER than their organizations' bottom lines.Good luck.

Welcome to OP!

"and now here in Eastern NC (Greenville)."

Cool to see someone else with ties to that part of the state here at OP (my work takes me out to Greenville & eastern NC pretty regularly).  How did you hear about this site?I think that some good points have been made here, and that between this thread and Mr. Miles "Downtown Partnership Shares Its Views on Chapel Hill 2020" thread there is a theme emerging of a need to actively reach out to the groups that have lower capacity/experience with such participation.  I think he said it well:

"It’s my hope that other groups have the chance to do the same. The business community is one of the best-organized interests in town, so it’s my view that they don’t need any special attention.That being said, I don’t expect invitations to come to other groups on a silver platter. There are a lot of constituencies in our town—students, transit riders, drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, users of the library, young families, retired people, the LGBT community, the Latino community and the African-American community are just a few." 

Thanks!

Thanks for the welcome, Jake. I'm involved with a political group here in Greenville whose main issue is smart growth. We are beginning to talk about a web presence as an alternative to the legacy media, a place where respectful but spirited debate can take place and community journalism can flourish. One of our participants did a quick search of community news sites and OP was atop the list. I can see why. Just terrific stuff, and my hat's off to Ruby for her vision in creating and building it, and to all who post here. If our discussions manifest in a similar resource for Pitt County, we'll be learning much from this terrific site.(Oops, sorry for not nesting this. Forgot to hit "reply" on your original...)