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.
e-mail Doc at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or
send me a Facebook Friend request.
A little less defense and some better planning would help the information