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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Elected Officials: Diversity & Dissent Must Wait

Council Member West spearheads new paradigm
City Adapts New Compact On Diversity; Balks On Implementation

Despite the recent adoption of a compact on inclusively for all city business, Emeryville's elected officials instead reaffirmed its longstanding policy of disallowing dissenting views Thursday at a meeting of the City/Schools Committee. The struggle for putting the public in public policy took the form of a vote as to whether the advisory committee known as the Partners Committee, a citizens group tasked with deciding about the ironically named Center of Community Life, should be open to all citizens or to continue as an exclusive body selected by the council majority.

The City/Schools Committee, made up of the city council and the school board, representing all elected officials in Emeryville, voted to table the idea of democratically opening up the subordinate Partners Committee to all interested citizens.

The action was not without its critics however. School Board member Cheryl Webb affirmed Council member Jennifer West's democratic vision of the Center of Community Life indicating that all citizens should be allowed to serve on the Partners Committee. Ms Webb said application to the committee should be a formality and that all interested residents, especially parents should be welcomed. She chastised her colleagues for their part in the exclusivity of the status quo calling the committee a "public forum" with accent on the public.

The compact on public participation ceremoniously brought by Ms West last month and unanimously adapted by both the council and the school board ironically spells out the necessity of full public participation, eschewing the sort of undemocratic quashing of dissent as practiced by the decision makers in our town. The compact, entitled 'Core Values of Public Participation' is a boilerplate document produced by the International Council on Public Participation and is now officially operational in all city business in Emeryville, even though its effects may be hard to gauge.

Council member West in bringing the document for colleague approval, indicated concern over constituent comments about the closed nature of the Center of Community Life and the top-down culture surrounding it.

The Partners Committee was started by former schools superintendent Tony Smith as a way to democratically usher in the Center of Community Life. Mr Smith raised the specter of the destructiveness of groupthink without dissent and he proclaimed the value in allowing dissenting voices to be part of the decision making process. The committee was consequently open to all citizens. After Mr Smith left however, the City Schools Committee moved to close down public participation and they made the committee a hand picked body as it so remains today.

The readers may read the compact adapted by the council and school board

1 comment:

  1. These guys have always kept out people they don't like. Nothing new here.