Making sausage or beautiful pictures?

01 Feb Making sausage or beautiful pictures?

It is often said that making laws is likened to making sausage. You may not like looking at the process and what goes into it though the end product may taste very good.

The process of community problem solving, or even a city council deliberation, could also be described as such.

Rather than sausage making, I prefer to think of the process as more like mixing paint colors on a pallet to create a picture the community will like or at least accept.

Let’s say one element of the group believes “the answer” is red while another thinks “the answer” is green. If both parties are inflexible, there is stalemate - nothing will get done and both sides remain dissatisfied.

When tying to bring the parties together to face what may seem like an intractable matter, I do my best to ask the reds to put a little red on the page. Then I ask the greens to put a little green next to the red.  As each party puts a little more red and little more green on the paper, there comes a point when just the right mixture of red and green meet on the paper to create yellow.

At that point, I ask each side if they can live with the yellow. If they say, “I can live with yellow but not that shade of yellow,” I ask each side to work together until we create shade of yellow that is acceptable to all on the paper. Through this process, whereby each side is engaged and heard by the other, by giving and taking and working together, we have established a compromise or consensus. The problem is solved, the sides shake hands and we move on.

If either side insists on adding a little more of one color than another and yellow never appears, the deal may fall through and nothing happens. However, assuming all parties come to the table wanting to solve a problem, the process generally works.

There are a number of issues currently brewing in the City where there is a stand-off between those who see red and those who see green as the answer. Among these issues are unresolved differences about short term residential rentals, differences of opinion between members of the Old Commons Neighborhood Association and The Baptist Church of Beaufort about a playground in the neighborhood and the issue among those who want  less late night “loud music” in the downtown entertainment district. From what I know, the parties on these and perhaps other issues are at a stand-off whereby nothing is getting done.

Some will come to City Council to solve differences. In most cases I think the issues can be resolved more efficiently and to the satisfaction of more if the parties can resolve the problem among themselves.

In cases where after an honest effort the parties cannot resolve an issue, the City Council might have to step in. But, we will use a similar process to make the decision on behalf of those who cannot. This should be the last resort rather than the starting point.

If those who support and those who oppose short term rentals in their respective neighborhoods will sit down and talk, over a period of time I am certain they can come to an agreement.

If the members of the Old Commons can sit down over a period of time with the Church, I know the differences can be resolved.

If the owners of the late night establishments that have entertainment work together, I feel certain they can come to a reasonable compromise with those opposed.

We have demonstrated through the Blue Ribbon Parking Task Force that parties with differing views can come together and find answers through consensus.

Let’s give this process a chance. We might just be surprised what we are able to accomplish if we really set our minds to it.