Planners in GW: Limited Scale, Limited Imagination

Andrew Pask and his Planning team have issued a draft Terms of Reference and associated documents for a limited scale and limited scope style of Citizens’ Assembly for the GW Community Plan.  This is my open letter in response.

Andrew:

Thanks you for putting together these documents. I only wish they could have been created and improved through a much more extensive collaborative process. For reasons that are external to this process, it was only today that I have managed to read the documents. These notes in this open letter are therefore first thoughts as they occur.

I note in the Summary of Citizens’ Assembly Design Choices, p.3, that the idea of co-management (as first raised in GWAC’s letter to Brian Jackson, 10 September 2013) is explicitly rejected, but no reason is given for that decision; just a plain rejection with apparently no appeal.

The rather grudging acceptance of granular-level discussions at the Assembly (Summary, p.4) is read and understood. However, I do not think enough weight is being given to the importance of the sub-areas for peoples’ buy-in to whatever very local changes the Plan ultimately includes.

The Summary at pp 7-9 suggests that a significant majority of participants preferred the number of Assembly members to be less than 60, and that a “minority” supported an open option. That was certainly not the case at the Info Sessions I attended in January, where a clear majority expressed the opinion that an open-sized Assembly was the preferred option. That has also been the consistent option pushed by the Our Community, Our Plan! group.

Broad scale and broad scope were the clear messages coming your way this year. That has been rejected.

The forced nature of the quota-based system of Assembly membership is unfortunate. The proportion of each sub-area’s population that meets a gender and ethnic and age filter AND is available for ten full Saturdays over the summer is disappearingly small. This will give the external impression of diversity but will not in fact be so.   Also, what criteria will be used by Mass LBT to “select” from those – presumably more than 48 — who do meet the various criteria?

Allowing any adult resident of Grandview to be a part of the Assembly is the only way to ensure that genuine diversity is offered without strings.

The refusal to fund even the most basic translation services (Summary, p.10) is unfortunate. While it may be true that 95% of GW’s population can conduct a conversation in English, it is equally true that a far greater percentage would be more comfortable – and therefore engaged – in their own language discussions. The cost for this must be miniscule in the scheme of things.

With regards to the Final Products of the Assembly (Summary, p.12), I support the amended process and final product suggestions as described.

Finally, I am obliged to note the suggested timeline (along, I suspect, with the last 7 months delay) is designed to push the entire process beyond the next municipal election. Given that we have now reached May, I guess that is now inevitable. But regrettable.

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