OT: Keeping Public meeting processes open

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The "consensus" process has become a popular method of facilitating a variety of meetings where participants have a divergence of opinion. While the method has been useful under certain circumstances, such as purely voluntary watershed groups, it is now being used inappropriately to manipulate public comment on regulations. The public is being manipulated to appear to support a predecided course of action.

One of the techniques used is the "Delta Technique." Read more about it and how to "take back" and "open up" the process. http://www.icehouse.net/lmstuter/page0003.htm

This is now SOP among federal agencies. In the days ahead, it is particularly important to recognize how you and others might be manipulated. If there is a break-down in government function, local people may be called upon to step forward and take a more active role in self-government. Lets try and keep the meeting process open and equal as has been our tradition originating from English manorial assemblies and translated into the New England town meeting.

I always try and remember that I am the government and that I hold the heritage of freedom in my care for my children.

-- marsh (siskfarm@snowcrest.net), December 22, 1999


As somewhat of an aside, Marsh, I for one have become quite disgusted in the New England process. Here in Massachusetts there are either open town meetings (any registered voter may attend and vote) or representative town meetings (perhaps a couple hundred of people who are voted by their neighborhoods to represent them).

I live in a town with an open town meeting. 13,000 residents, yet town meeting may go ahead with a "quorum" of only 100 people deciding the town's budget and future course (and that number often shrinks in the course of the evening.) The attendees are overwhelmingly of two types.

During seemingly noncontroversial meetings, the attendees are primarily town board members, most of whom are appointed by the board of selectmen and beholden to the selectmen and other boards for support on particular projects or board agendas in general. Most votes are hand votes (only bond issues are by secret ballot). Altogether, this results in a very dampening effect on the likelihood of standing up as an independent citizen to voice dissent, especially on a matter unrelated to your board's function.

For other town meetings (or portions of meetings, since they can run for several evenings), the auditorium can be packed by special interests (usually school board supporters) and the town as a whole is still not represented.

Although there are some massive egos in my town, I consider it relatively free of corruption. Even so, glimpses of a true democratic process are far and few between. The selectmen and the town administrator, and to a far lesser extent the finance committee (appointed), capital expenditures committee (appointed), planning board (elected), and school committee (elected, but generally an incestuous relationship) set the town's agenda. That's approximately 35 people out of a town of 13,000 residents and a large business community. Results of townwide surveys are either manipulated or ignored.

Short of a willingness of the population as a whole to become truly involved and to scream and scream again, agencies will continue to function as autocracies.

-- Brooks (brooksbie@hotmail.com), December 22, 1999.

Thanks. We are seeing many efforts to establish "consensus" in our local planning process. I'm sure that the material will come in handy...

-- Mad Monk (madmonk@hawaiian.net), December 22, 1999.

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