Friday, March 14, 2008

The Candidate Posts - Part III

What I Want...

is a say in what SPI will look like in 5-10-25 years... because I plan on being here at least that long! I want this bad enough that I was willing to give up almost every Tuesday night for nearly two years to go duke it out with the other members of the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee.

CPAC was a really interesting experience. I have to hand it to the board that created us -- I think they did an amazing job of deciding who should serve on this committee by handpicking a group seemingly chosen for the amount of suspicion and hostility to which we were likely to be predisposed for one another. The first meeting was in many ways a disaster. (In fact, the committee collectively requested that a photo shot that night be struck from the final document -- the memory was just that unpleasant.) Several members quit fairly early on -- I very nearly did but am glad I did not because I was able to witness an amazing transformation first hand. This group of people with completely different agendas sat down face to face on a weekly basis. We interrupted and we rolled our eyes and we threw up our hands and buried our faces, but we also took turns telling our small stories and describing the SPI of our dreams and at some point we started listening -- really listening -- to one another. And we were able to reach consensus and complete our assignment. Our last meeting was the antitheses of our first: a purely social potluck with spouses at Clayton’s amazing beach home where a good time was had by all.

(Of course it’s not all unicorns and rainbows and feel-good Obama stuff. Writing by committee is my idea of hell. There is stuff in that plan that makes me wince -- but hey, nobody wins every fight. The key of course is picking your battles carefully; knowing when to say, “I will not vote for something that weakens this statement” and when to say “all right, whatever, let’s move on.”)

I really wouldn’t have believed it possible had I not witnessed it for myself. And that makes me think that what worked in the microcosm of CPAC could work towards uniting the various factions at odds in the town.

While it is not practical to propose that the whole town gather weekly for a cozy little boardoom chat to discuss our real feelings, there are ways we can use the internet and new city hall’s fancy high-tech gadgetry to open the lines of communication.

Next: Harnessing the Power of the Island Brain Trust

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