Second Theme Group Report Out Gives Me Cause For Optimism

Last night marked the second theme group report out, and in many ways the third round of theme group meetings. Compared to the report out held on November 19, this meeting was more focused on small groups. After some welcome messages and short presentations from each group on where they were in the process, everyone broke out into separate rooms and continued hashing out what town staff and school of government facilitators are calling the big rocks. 

After the last theme group working session (held December 1), I have to admit that I was pretty discouraged. The conversation in my group broke down into bickering among a few individuals with very strong and differing opinions, and there was an over emphasis on the part of the facilitators on “filling in the sheet” of goals, justifications for those goals and objectives for achieving them. It’s my personal feeling that the theme group conversations should be a bit more organic than that. I think that it’s in these more natural discussions that people’s true feelings and good ideas emerge.

This time around, I felt the discussion was much more productive. People brought up some really great points about the linkages between parking, transportation and land use. Though the facilitators did try to initially keep us “on the sheet,” the will of group members ended up driving the discussion. I was also impressed by the intelligence with which people spoke about complex issues and about the appreciation they have for the process and other people’s opinions.

Despite these great things, I have some concerns. The first is the declining level of participation. I don’t know if it’s the holiday season or a feeling of frustration or what, but each successive meeting seems to have less and less people at it. The second is a general confusion as to how exactly the plan will be written and how public comment will be incorporated. I think some simple communication would solve that. 



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