There are evenings when the words "Resident Speakout" can produce a certain anxiety in the hearts of local board members. If you have had this experience, I don't have to explain. If you haven't, I'll try to make myself clear.
Both CA Village and Board meetings have
a time set aside for residents to sign in and speak about a topic that
is important to them. As you might imagine, most people are motivated
to do this by something that concerns them. They may be upset,
offended, indignant, outraged, or just generally cranky. I'm pretty sure
that it's rare for a resident to come down to a meeting to thank the
board members for something they have done right. It may happen, but I
don't think it is a regular occurence.
It has been my experience that volunteer board members are not
sitting around waiting for people to come and sing their praises. Our
board's most pressing goal is often simply to get through all the items
we need to consider during the time we have allotted to meet, and to do
them justice. And let's not forget all of the work our Village Manager
has done beforehand to prepare for the meeting. It is amazing the
amount of groundwork she covers so that we can do the best job possible for our village.
Now, back to Resident Speakout. Perhaps
none of us is at our best when already unhappy about something. But it
seems to me that we are seeing more and more people in our culture who
come to these opportunities to speak in a combative and suspicious
state. Whether at the Village level, Columbia-wide, or throughout the
county, citizens jump from concern to conspiracy theories, from
irritation to "it's us vs. them!"
This type of mind-set produces very little progress for the resident and extreme stress for the board members.
have found myself deeply concerned about local matters this week. I
want to write about them, but I'm not quite ready yet. Despite feeling
low, I still had a glimmer of hope: this week's Resident Speakout.
group of residents came to speak about a matter that is extremely
important to them. They spoke eloquently, and with great respect. They
were accompanied by an elected official who had clearly done his
homework and was ready to work with the Board. Meanwhile, the board was
ready to discuss the issue because we had been kept abreast of the
particulars by the Village Manager. We had a wonderful discussion, even
a few laughs. Progress was made and, I believe, everyone went away
feeling valued and respected.
For those of you feeling as disillusioned as I have been, take this: sometimes, it works.