2020 Stakeholder Meeting, Part Deux

Tonight residents from across Chapel Hill gathered for the second stakeholder meeting as part of Chapel Hill 2020 planning process. I’m going to structure this post, the same as I did for last one, first I’ll report what happened chronologically and then give my feedback/thoughts. 

The Rundown: As with the first meeting, this second meeting opened with an open-house style meet-and-greet. Posters lined the walls with proposed vision statements and themes. Each theme also had a word cloud below it. The clouds contained all the different phrases collected at the first stakeholder meeting that were associated with that theme.

As the time got closer to 7:30, people were ushered into East Chapel Hill High School’s auditorium. On the way in, visitors were given an agenda and a clicker and were invited to place stickers on a map (pictured right) to show where they lived, worked or played in Chapel Hill. 

At this point you’re probably wondering, clickers? Why? Well the substance of the meeting involved voting on each of the four proposed vision statements and each of the eight proposed themes. The votes weren’t strictly up or down—instead participants were asked to choose one of the following statements:

  1. I have minor concerns, but am to willing to support it.
  2. I have significant concerns, but would not oppose it.
  3. I strongly disagree and would not support it.
  4. I  totally agree and would support it.

The meeting wrapped up with the opportunity for people to sign up for a theme group and for people to leave written comments in boxes in the lobby.

Speaking of theme groups, there were explained in a little more detail. The way the groups will work is that after they are formed, meetings will be held where the groups will be responsible for developing goals, implementation procedures to reach those goals and measurable benchmarks to see whether those goals have or haven’t been reached.

My Thoughts: I was a little bit disappointed with this meeting. I was hoping that we would break out into small groups again so that we could discuss what the facilitators and planners had come up with and provide some meaningful feedback.

To me, the polling done with the clickers wasn’t a very effective way for the town to get real feedback from people. It seemed that many people were also confused on what exactly they were voting for. Take the seventh proposed theme for example—a place for everyone: public safety and diversity. I think it was unclear whether people were voting against looking at diversity in the general, or whether they were trying to use their vote to vote against making Chapel Hill a more diverse place.

Looking around the room, I was also a little bit concerned with who was participating. The group was smaller than the last meeting (around 200 according to the polling devices). It was overwhelming white, leaned toward older people and seemed to be mostly middle-class appearance. When asked whether they primarily lived, worked, played, studied or invested in Chapel Hill, the overwhelming majority chose lived or worked, which means almost no students were present. 

I also got to thinking about the timing of the meeting. Starting at 7 p.m. works great if you’re a 9-to-5iver or a student, but less great if you’re a shift worker. I understand that we could never choose a convenient time for everyone’s schedule, but I think these types of things are important to keep in mind when you’re trying to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard. 

Finally, I was a little uncomfortable with the way that the vision statements, themes, principles and practical framework were developed. Synthesizing ideas naturally means cutting some out, so I’d be interested to know what was cut out and why.

I realize that there is a lot of criticism here, but before I close I want to make one thing clear. I’ve been consistently impressed with the enthusiasm and sincere desire to include everyone’s voice on the part of the Chapel Hill 2020 leadership. I says what I say not to tear down, but just to try to help those who have the ability include anyone and everyone they can.

On that note, if you weren’t at the meeting or if you were and want to add more qualitative feedback, speak up! Write on the Chapel Hill 2020 blog, town social media sites or send an email to compplan@townofchapelhill.org! Encourage others to get involved with a theme group and do it yourself! No one can hear your voice if you choose not to raise it!


Jeff,Thanks for an excellent post/recap.  In addition to the online places you pointed out that people could add more feedback, I want to mention that they can also come to the Chapel Hill 2020 Community Open House at UMall on Saturday, October 22, 11AM-3PM.  And even if folks have been to the first two meetings we hope they will come to the open house and continue to give feedback.My wife also mentioned what she perceived as lack of diversity at our second meeting.  I don't think we have a good answer for why that happened but hopefully our Outreach Committee might be able to come up with some solutions.  We're certainly trying to get people to come and we're certainly open to suggestions folks might have.

First, there was a lot to like about Thursday's meeting.  210 people, even though significantly smaller than the first meeting, is still a very large public meeting.  Hats off to the town for getting that many people out.  The event was well-managed, and the activities were clear, and there was plenty of time for reading/commenting in the hall, and the clicker exercise.Also, while still providing 24/7 public safety functions, the fire chief and police chief have clearly encouraged and made it possible for many of their employees to attend as full stakeholders and not merely in their police/fire roles. I think this is terrific and commend both chiefs for taking this approach. One of the firefighters told me about his long drive in from around Saxapahaw, and how they are coping with high gas bills to make the commute. I hope they continue to participate at a high level and share their views.I agree with Jeff on the considerable decline in attendee diversity from the first meeting. The crowd was definitely whiter and older.  At my table at the kickoff meeting, there were several grad students and high school students.  I did not see any of them on Thursday. On this point, I have two suggestions.  The first is to have other town departments encourage participation by staff the way that police/fire seem to be doing.  Can we do more to encourage sanitation workers to attend, for example?The second is that if the process will do more clicker-style polling, I'd encourage each poll to request some demographics: race/ethnicity, age bracket, income bracket, gender, and whether you own or rent a home. 


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