Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Community Conversation?

Today the new (short-term) Council had its first session. One of the main topics of discussion was the plan for the Council to have a series of "Community Conversations" on each of the ferry-served islands.

What's a "Community Conversation" you ask? Well, the Council is still working that out, but as it stands now, the idea is to have facilitated meetings on each of the ferry-served islands, lasting perhaps as long as three hours each. The Elway Group in Seattle has been recommended as the consultant facilitator. The estimated cost for all the meetings is $20,500. These conversations will take place between early February and late April.

The topics are still to be determined (content discussion next week), but Bob Jean threw out an example topic of "sustainability," and he explained that a meeting could be set up to hear and recognize opposing views and eventually end up with a consensus at the end. Jamie Stephens floated the idea that the County might want to specifically invite certain groups, such as the Land Bank, fire districts, and school boards.

Many things about this idea make us go ... hmmm. The Trojan Heron will follow the idea as it develops, but already we have several questions.
  • Why are these conversations taking place during the campaign season?
  • Could these conversations be used to set up certain issues that favor one candidate more than another?
  • Could invitations be used to create an audience more favorable to some views than others?
  • Is it really the responsibility of the Council to drive community consensus around any issue?
And of course, these conversations are likely to be occurring simultaneously with the lawsuit against the County for "secret" CAO meetings. That will be an interesting temporal juxtaposition.


  1. Why not just give this one to Lisa Byers? She's a community facilitator.

    A proactive community conversation to envision resilient sustainability and thriving new revenues to celebrate diversity and social justice.

  2. Enough consensus already!!! How about we try the democratic process? God forbid 40% of the people should feel defeated, but isn't that how this system is designed to operate.

    Anyone seen my copy of the constitution laying around anywhere? I cant find it under all of these Friends of the San Juan's mailers I keep getting!

  3. The only conversation I want to have with the county is how they can leave me alone. Please, just leave us alone. We want police, schools, libraries, roads, and a place to throw our garbage, but really, that's about it. We don't want to be conversed with. We don't want to be planned to death. We don't want to be picked on. Just leave us alone.

    But the people who will show up at these meetings will be all the ones who want something. We want this and we want that and could we please have more money for this and a grant for that. Arrrrgghhh!

    And then the County will say, "We had this conversation with the community, and our community wants all this stuff, so we'll have to raise taxes to pay for all the things our community is wanting. But we're only doing it because the community asked for it."

  4. Rock Candle Circle LadyJanuary 9, 2013 at 7:10 AM

    I love this. They won't be talking about what we are already spending $50 million on; they'll be asking what ELSE we'd like to have government do for us. And of course they threaten to throw our seniors and school kids under the bus because $50 million is simply not ENOUGH. You are right, people with jobs and lives and families will not have the time to go to all these meetings; those with functioning brains will not be able to tolerate the "proactive" "resilience" "sustainability" "thriving" "social justice" facilitation. So the left-wing nut jobs (er, "progressives") will show up and wax ecstatic about "free" buses and "free" housing and "free" medical care and "free" yoga . . . in the usual visioning format. No numbers, no zero-based budgeting, just wishful thinking. San Juan may sit still for this, but Orcas will go ballistic and Lopez will go nuclear.

  5. P.S. Can somebody find the cite for the report that shows that our County has 50% more County employees per capita already than other rural counties? (Many of them poets and visionaries who get part-time grant-funded jobs with full-time taxpayer paid benefits.)

  6. I think you were looking for THIS delicious article:


    Perhaps the new Lopez councilman should nominate Jones for County Auditor?

    Great Letter to the editor today in the Sounder by John Evans BTW

  7. Can you post a link to John Evans letter? Can't find it.

  8. Could you post a link to John Evan's letter? Can't find it.

  9. Our county government recently told us they didn't have enough money for basic public safety and health services, and extorted a tax increase out of us.

    Yet they now propose to drop $20k of taxpayer money on "facilitators" to run meetings on yet-to-be-named touchy-feely topics that could perfectly well be run by our paid Council members as part of their normal job talking to their constituents...



    Let's remember that, come the next election.

  10. The Evans letter is in the print edition on page 5, oddly only accessible through the green edition feature on the website.

  11. Evans' letter makes good sense. It was stuffed into the back of the letters to the editor and not published in the online version. It needs to be brought to a larger audience.

    I hope the Trojan Heron will re-publish the Evans letter and encourage some real public commentary, something the local papers for some reason don't seem able to do anymore.

  12. As Alexandra Gavora, once succinctly said: "Why is it in San Juan County, that the resolution of any problem has to be achieved by spending more money or proposing a new tax?"

    That 20K must have wings on it, and we'll never see it put to any public benefit.

    Sorry to see the new council wimped out and made Stephens, an endorsed political candidate, the new chair.

    Huge stupid mistake #1

  13. I couldn't agree more. I was sickened by the election of Stephens for the same reason. I was sickened by the discussion of the community conversation. I want someone to break the mold. I want them to break the mold, burn it, pulverize it, and then throw it off a cliff. I am tired of people who sit there and watch the business as usual of this county. Watching is participating. I want someone to stop it. Throw your body in the way of the moving train. Stop this crazy thing.

    Whoever that does that. I will vote for you. Enough.

  14. It has to be rude and smart at the same time. It has to be heart felt and it has to be real.

    Having covered mundane council meetings for years, I know it takes real heat to get elected people to pay attention.

    Yes, you gotta talk very directly to them, and yes you must talk to them as individuals. Do a work-up on them as people. (I once saw a vote turn because the speaker knew a councilman made his own pickles.)

    This BS of Council members staring into computer screens to avoid the glare of the public has got to go. Public hearing starts, SHUT EM DOWN AND CLOSE EM UP!

    A GOOD chair would have roasted Howie on his first snore. He would have never nodded off again.

    Council people, your only job is to clearly understand the public; come prepared, listen to the public, speak your mind, VOTE.

    It's all so F...... basic.

  15. "Total county spending per capita, including general fund and non discretionary spending, ranges from $825 per capita in Island County (Whidbey and Camano Islands), $990 per capita in Clallam County to $1084 per capita in tiny Wahkiakum County, with practically no services provided by incorporated towns. San Juan County total spending currently runs $2613 per capita, or 241% of Wahkiakum County's expenditures." Nick Jones said it well: Rather than asking for more money, perhaps our leadership should be asking how it is that Pacific County manages to administer a larger, more diverse, more ecologically fragile, more socially complex county than SJC with a fraction of the workforce, at a fraction of the cost and with no recession induced reduction in office time or front-line staff."

    Think that will be part of the Community Conversation"?