“This town needs an enema,” the Joker’s character played by Jack Nicholson says in a Batman movie. He was referring to the town of Gotham. While Boston may or may not need a cleanse, a lot of community meetings often do.
My husband and I attended tonight’s meeting of the Roxbury Strategic Masterplan Oversight Committee (RSMOC) at the Dudley Library to support Tremont Crossing: Where Culture and Commerce Connect (p3). At least that’s what we thought we were going to do.
The meeting was so disorganized we never got to utter our support. It was “facilitated” by Hugues Monestime of the Boston Redevelopment Authority. I use “facilitated” in the loosest way. I have rarely experienced a meeting conducted in such a slip-shod fashion although when I do, they are most often done for and in “the community.”
The meeting was so poorly run, I left early. During the time I was there:
No agenda was followed. After 30 minutes of introductions by the 15 committee members and several statements from the audience, I expressed my disappointment at the non-organized way the meeting was being run. I said, “there is no agenda” and no clear process. I was corrected by Mr. Monestime said that there had been 50 copies of an agenda but they ran out. (More than 125 people attended.) I was on time for the meeting and did not see an agenda nor did a few of the people sitting near me.
Be that as it may, he wasn’t following an agenda at all. He was running with the single microphone to people who had questions or opinions. Starting with 4 people on the left side of the auditorium and coming over the right.
Perhaps it’s because I am a trained meeting facilitator that I get so annoyed when meetings aren’t run well. To me it is disrespectful of the community in attendance and non-professional.
Here are my suggestions:
- Have an agenda and stick to it
- Do not do personal introductions of such a large committee (especially at a meeting that is only going to last until 8). Instead, the facilitator can say each person’s name and title or explain that there won’t be personal introductions and have people refer to the agenda or the slide where the committee members’ names are listed.
- Go down the list of the 9 parcels the Committee oversees, give a brief description of each, and then ask the committee if they have any concerns rather than having them talk willy-nilly in no order
- Use technology to project the agenda, committee members’ names, parcel #s and other pertinent information so that when printed copies are depleted the info is still available
- Record the meeting in addition to having a scribe (and let us know how the notes will be posted and/or distributed)
Once we got home, my husband, Tessil, found the Roxbury Strategic Masterplan Oversight Committee website.
This website was not mentioned during the first hour of the meeting nor was it projected on the gigantic screen that was hanging behind the committee. This is a shame because the website is organized and tells what they do, why they do, the terms served, etc.
I couldn’t stay. I had an Excedrin headache.
Except for the important opening comment given by former State Senator Dianne Wilkerson, who told how and why RSMOC was formed and what it is charged to do and how it can hold developers accountable when their developments do not have the economic benefits they are supposed to, the other comments I was there for, were well-intentioned but ineffectual general statements about gentrification… blah-blah-blah!
I couldn’t stay. My heart is dinged every time I hear former Senator Wilkerson and realize – anew – what brilliance and strong advocacy we lost when she went down. (Ditto for former Councilor Chuck Turner who was in the audience but didn’t speak while I was there.)
Unless the meeting turned golden after I left, it was a shame.* The community deserves better than this. It really truly does. The City’s representatives can run meetings well. The members of the Committee should demand that the meetings be run professionally. Otherwise, people are passing gas.
It’s time for a cleanse.
<><> *A friend who stayed at the meeting emailed me that: the conversation soon turned to p3 with a number of people speaking in support of it. Sue Sullivan who is on RSMOC attacked p3 and Barry Gaither countered beautifully.
Had I known that p3 was actually going to be discussed, I would have stayed despite the Excedrin headache. Sorry Barry.
I have not attended in a while and it’s sad to hear it is still not as organized as it should be. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Thanks for commenting. I should not have expected more.
Well-said. Having worked for the City & BRA, some of these meetings were more PR for the BRA (gas, hot air) than information for citizen consumer.
Nice to have a former insider’s view. Thanks for commenting.
We have to find a way to get down to business in these 2 hour sessions. Less introductions (30-40 minutes) and story-telling (30-40 minutes). We’re all from Roxbury and some of the 60-70 age folks need to move over and give the younger folks the microphone and stage.
We do need to get down to business. I have heard from people who’ve attended this particular meeting that they didn’t follow their regular process. As for old folks getting out of the way – I think that is true to a degree. I think a combination of new energy and ideas couple with history and mentoring is the way to go. Sometimes when we older folks move out-of-the-way, the organizations go down. This is not only because of lack of experience but the fragile financial state that our organizations are in. Our community is particularly vulnerable in this regard. Thanks for commenting.