Thursday, July 11, 2013

The LENS Road Show - A Bumpy Start

Apparently my take on Wednesday night's City LENS Road Show is a bit different than most. The crowd was estimated at about 120 by the Sunken gardens Staff.

Leslie Curran got things going with an introduction that included statements like "we will answer all your questions", and "we will stay as long as necessary to answer all those questions"

Chris Ballestra, the LENS project manager began with a rehash of pier history. I think that lasted about 15-20 minutes. It was a waste of time since the stated objective of the meeting was to discuss the recent LENS design changes. Most everybody interested in this issue has been through the Pier History a number of times.

Ballestra's comments were followed by some mildly useful information from Raul Quintana the City's architect about the actual design changes.

The new renderings on display do indeed show some of the new design details and as was pointed out by City staff, the LENS is a design work in progress, there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

Attendees were asked to submit their questions on green cards, and the cards started coming quickly. People continued to send up questions as the meeting continued.

Ballestra started off the questions portion of the meeting by saying "we want to answer all your questions and will stay here as long as necessary". He began reading the questions and providing answers. Quintana joined in to help with some of the details.

I couldn't help but notice that there was some shuffling of question cards as the meeting progressed. After about 45 minutes or so Quintana abruptly stepped in and said that's all the time we have for questions. Several attendees quickly objected saying you have not answered the question I submitted.

Council member Curran, calmed the audience down and once again said we will stay and answer all your questions.

A crowd developed around the podium where Ballestra and Quintana were standing and the exchange grew somewhat heated. Ballestra became agitated and frequently used the phrase "let me know when I can talk" as the citizens asked some pretty probing questions.

The crowd gradually drifted away and the meeting ended.

If this "information" campaign is be successful at all, enhancing an adversarial atmosphere is not going to help. There were supporters and detractors of the LENS in attendance. All needed to hear the questions and the answers.

Someone needs to take Ballestra aside and remind him this is not his personal fight to save the LENS. If you can't stand the criticism and critical comments and react to them like a professional then the City should put someone else up front as the information spokes person.

Next, the format needs to be geared more to the subject at hand- forget the history lesson. Begin with explanation of the latest design changes and then straight to the questions from the attendees. The only real way to find out what the public wants to know is to let them ask their questions and role that information into the next presentation.

If you don't want to answer ALL of the questions, state a time limit up front and then stick to it.

Finally, don't prescreen the questions and move the ones you don't want to answer to the bottom of the pile. That may not be what happened, but it sure looked that way.

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A little less defense and some better planning would help the information flow

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