Tweaking the Process
Our little town can be a hotbed of gossip, rumors and lies–oh my! That happens in a small community where everybody knows everybody’s business–or thinks they do.
There are more grudges and drama here than on a telenovela. We back stab and snark at each other like middle schoolers on steroids. I don’t know about you, but it’s been wearing on my last nerve.
We probably all do it sometimes when we’re stressed out and angry. I know I’ve been guilty of thinking I know something when actually, I don’t. When I start feeling righteous anger, that’s a danger sign.
I’ve written a lot about how things appear–the optics of how things are done and by whom. When a community is divided like ours is and things look wrong to one group or another, the assumption is that they are wrong. Then, the divisions between us get deeper and our opinions become more entrenched.
In my opinion, the process put in place back in August for appointing new members to committees is a huge step forward from mayoral appointments, but it can go a little further to improve the way things look from the cheap seats. I heard the Councilors talking about this at the goal-setting workshop on Friday.
It was good to see that even though the first Council Meeting hit some speed bumps there was a collegial atmosphere and good energy on Friday. I was happy to hear the discussions among the councilors. The presentations of stuff I don’t know about by our City Manager, Leila Aman, made some complicated things easier to understand because she communicates them so clearly and knows her stuff.
In the first use of the brand new process to select three Planning Commissioners, the select committee worked hard to come up with their candidates. I believe they chose the people they felt were best. They had criteria for choosing from the ten applicants. They had a process to follow and they followed it, but like a lot of new processes, it can be made better with a little fine-tuning.
As a writer, I’ve applied for things like fellowships and awards. Because the pool of people applying are usually the same people, you’re asked to “blind” your submissions so your name isn’t attached. It adds a layer of objectivity to the process so that judges, who might know you, don’t know that they’re reading your work. We could do something similar.
When applications come in, a staff person could blind them and assign a number to each. After the deadline for applying, the file would go to the select committee and each member would read and rank each application before meeting as a group to go over their choices. It makes the process more objective, fair and transparent.
If personal friends of the select committee are chosen for interviews, they could recuse themselves from voting. Kind of like ex parte contact recusals on the Planning Commission.
For arts awards and fellowships there are usually past applications and submissions of the people chosen that are posted on the organization’s website so you can see what a successful applicant’s materials looks like, in case you want to know why someone was picked. We could do something similar with appointed candidates.
These are just ideas, some which the Council and Mayor spoke about at the goal-setting meeting on Friday. Ultimately, the process should be made as objective and fair as possible to encourage all interested people to apply.
At the first Council Meeting I felt badly for the select committee who did all the work to come up with their three candidates. I felt worse for the candidates and applicants.
Regardless of who is chosen by whom this time out, I intend to offer my support and my gratitude. We create the community we live in by the way we treat each other and the things we say about each other. We can do better.
Kim Rosenberg. email@example.com