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Consensus taking

Su Lum

Fifteen facilitated meetings, with 10 citizens each, to find out what the Will of the People is? I had to do it or I wouldn’t be able to bitch about it, but lordy lord I was about as eager to attend that hour-and-a-half get-together as I would be going to the guillotine.TWO hours, we were told as soon as we were trapped in our seats in a circle, the ubiquitous easel off to one side, with big sheets of paper on which to record our power points.Starting with such a negative attitude, one would think it would be easy for me to take potshots at the ensuing events, and no one was more surprised than I was to leave feeling that it had been an interesting and enlightening exercise.When I was originally negotiating my attendance date with Mitzi Rapkin, I wanted to know who was on the list for different nights. Mitzi told me that everyone picked the most convenient meeting time and it was catch as catch can whom you’d be thrown in with.That sounded fair and unbiased and, as it turned out, I knew only one of the other nine people at the table, which ran the gamut from old-timers to newcomers to retirees to development sympathizers and in age from 20- or 30-somethings to seniors, with a slight preponderance of the latter depending on your definition of “senior.”The thing I despise most about facilitated meetings of this kind is that they are designed to reach agreement on whatever subject is at hand. I assumed that this was the equivalent of “breaking into small groups,” arriving at conclusions, and that the conclusions of the 15 groups would then be boiled down to the Public Will.My premise was completelyfalse, as we were never encouraged to agree or disagree with each other, but only to give our opinions on subjects such as the pace of development in Aspen and how or if it impacted us individually.Ex-County Commissioner Leslie Lamont encouraged us to stick to the point and elaborate on our responses but didn’t give a whiff of trying to lead anyone in any direction, and Mitzi was typing her butt off like a court stenographer on her computer while someone else listed summations on the easel sheets.To see for yourself how these meetings went, go to http://www.aspenpitkin.com and click on “Core Beliefs Focus Groups,” where there is an accurate depiction of the discussions, which, if they don’t indicate consensus on the issues, show an enormous amount of concern and involvement among our citizens. The grand finale will be two open meetings at the Hotel Jerome on July 19, where questions distilled from the concerns of these participants will be put before the public, who can cast their votes with hand-held electronic devices which will tally the results on the spot – a town meeting, 21st century-style.I have no idea what the outcomes will be, either of the votes or what will transpire as a result of the votes, but it behooves you to be there.Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks we may agree to disagree. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.


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