Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
Next week the Aspen Community Vision staff will be hosting three clicker meetings, two on Tuesday, Jan. 27, at the St. Regis Ballroom and one on Saturday, Jan. 31, at Aspen High School.
Our responses to their questions will determine the course of the Aspen Area Community Plan for the next 10 years, so it is important for you to attend. Register at aspencommunityvision.com for the time/date/place of your choice.
It is hoped that 1,000 citizens will attend ” over 300 per meeting, which will last for three hours.
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At these meetings, attendees are handed a simple voting device (clicker) on which to record their responses to various questions. The first such meeting concerned the community in general and was generally well-received. The second was on transportation, containing questions/statements so convoluted it was almost impossible to respond. The third concerned the ZG development, full of ambiguity, empty of substance and so tiresome that most of the audience had disappeared by the time it was over.
For this fourth and most important meeting, a mass meeting which will replace the community marathon discussions which led to the last AACP, I have some suggestions.
1) Just get on with it. We’re there, you ask the questions, we will respond as best we can and repair back to our jobs. Cut the prologues and commentary, avoid the temptation to turn the process into a stand-up comedy routine.
2) Make the questions clear and meaningful, designed to understand the wishes of the citizens. Avoid complex questions to which we might want to answer “strongly agree” to the first half but “strongly disagree” to the second half.
3) Include “none of the above” as a choice.
4) Avoid nuanced or leading questions.
5) This is not a public hearing or a bull session. I was shocked to read that “During the meeting, we will sometimes interrupt the ‘clicker’ session and ask each table to hold a brief conversation … and write down any thoughts they’d like to contribute.”
Please rethink this. If there are 320 people at a clicker session with eight people per table, that’s 40 tables interrupting the proceedings to “discuss.” Just get on with it.
Hand out questionnaires to be filled out at the end, asking “your general impression of how the meeting went” and anything else we might want to add, but asking “if your table (your TABLE?) seemed satisfied or not” is not germane.
6) Since this process is a significant departure (and one I essentially agree with) over the old method of small groups and facilitators, it should be used wisely. If it is perceived as a bad joke, it will diminish the clout of the will of the people, the individual people, that it is intended to reflect.
7) Run the questions by the City Council and random members of the public (I volunteer!) for constructive criticism and general reactions. Clicker meetings No. 2 and No. 3 would have been well-served by this precaution.
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