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Article Title: Getting a Vision of Montpelier with Judy Walke -- City Council Outlines Goals and ObjectivesEdition: May 2002
Category: Montpelier City Page
Author: William Fraser, City Manager
As I write this we are in the middle of an unusual heat wave, it seems strange to be focused on spring activities when its like mid-summer outside.
The City Council and I engaged a professional facilitator recently to assist us in sorting through our collective long term vision for the city and our top priority activities for the next year or two. The council has not formally adopted the goals yet so I will describe them in greater detail next month. I think residents might find it interesting, however, to hear about the process that their officials went through in establishing a work plan for the upcoming year.
On Monday, April 15,2002, the Mayor, Council Members and I met with local consultant Judy Warriner Walke for over five hours in a public meeting in the Police Department Community Room which began at 5:30 p.m.
In preparation for the session, we were all asked, in advance, to think about the following questions. (As residents and interested citizens you might like to engage in this exercise yourselves).
For our next exercise, Judy had posted eight sheets of paper around the room with broad categories listed at the top - Housing/Neighborhoods, Social Life and Support Systems, Arts/Sports/Leisure, Physical Infrastructure, Business and Work, Education/Learning, Nature and Environment, Government. We each went to a separate sheet and listed what we thought were Montpelier's positive aspects in that category and areas that might need change or improvements. After a period of time we rotated to the next list. This continued until each of us had the opportunity to offer comments on each category.
When this was completed, we reviewed what was written and discussed the comments. I think we were all struck by how complete the lists were and how "on target" they seemed to be. It didn't seem that there were any comments that generated significant disagreement or controversy. We all thought that the range of comments properly represented a large cross section of community feeling, both positive and negative.
After a much needed pizza break, this led into a discussion about shared assumptions or common threads about the community and areas where there were differences in perspectives. It appeared that everyone appreciated getting all those issues out on the table in front of us.
The next exercise was to line up in order of our length of residency in Montpelier. We were all paired up so each set of "partners" would have a differing perspective on the city. We were given a blank sheet of paper and asked to draw (using pictures not words) what we "saw" in Montpelier in five years. We then reviewed and discussed each set of drawings. Ideas ranged from parking structures to ski like gondolas shuttling people down from National Life, from the loss of a major employer to the growth of an office/industrial park, from completion of the Carr Lot project to a modest, appropriate scaled housing project in Sabin's Pasture.
Taking a side trip away from the overarching goals of the meeting, Judy then introduced the topic of respectful resolution of council differences.
As a group we listed behaviors which were helpful for productive decision making and responsible discussion -- even when there were differing opinions. These included staying on topic, listening, letting everyone be heard, waiting for the proper time to make comments, explaining the basis of comments rather than flatly stating positions, sharing sources of information and communicating which issues an individual has strong feelings about.
Next we listed those behaviors which are detrimental to group discussions and decision making. Those included interruptions, raising voices, shutting off others, non-disclosure of information, using misleading or incomplete information on purpose, arrogance, assuming rather than asking about another person's perspectives, and disrespectful body language.
The group agreed that we have an obligation to professionally represent the citizens of Montpelier, conduct the city's business in an honorable fashion and work through disagreements appropriately. Judy shared a conflict resolution model with us.
All of this activity led up to the final portion of the evening -- establishing this Council's statement of goals, priorities and action items. Judy gave us all pads of "sticky notes". We were supposed to think about the long term vision and concerns we'd considered earlier and then list the top issues or activities that we felt the Council needed to take leadership on during the next year or two to help accomplish that vision.
We each listed one idea per sticky note. People generally completed 6 to 8 issues in the time allotted. We read off our lists without any comments from the others then placed the sticky notes onto four blank sheets of paper. Judy then asked us to silently work together to group the ideas, issues, projects etc. into what resulted as 10 different main categories.
We were each given four blue dots and asked to place them on the categories that we each felt were the highest priority. Once this was done we looked to see which areas had the most interest. We looked at the categories again, regrouped some of the items until we had four main areas and some leftover items.
Once again, we broke up into groups of two with each group taking a major category. The groups had the assignment of turning the collected ideas into a goal/policy statement with a series of specific action items. Once completed the statements were reviewed with the entire group for concurrence or "tweeking". The leftover items were then looked at to see if or how they could be integrated into the work plan.
All in all, this was a very fascinating exercise (probably more interesting to participate in than read about). As I said earlier, the formal goal statements will be approved at the next council meetings. I can report, however, that the general goals and themes embraced by the current City Council are as follows:
Please Remember to Lock UpI'd like to simply remind people to lock their cars and houses. Even though we live in a relatively safe and low crime community we've had some recent instances of car theft, items removed from cars and homes entered. In almost all of these cases the cars or homes were left unlocked, keys were even left in the cars in at least two car thefts. We don't like to think about these things but they do happen. Please take the extra few seconds and lock up.
Thank you for reading this article and for your interest in Montpelier City government. Please feel free to contact me at 223-9502 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions/comments about this article or any aspect of your local government.
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