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Thread: "Public clamour" busting

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    "Public clamour" busting

    I suspect activist burn-out is inevitable if one doesn't finally stop b&$%ing and start going after opportunities to cooperate. I am trying to find documented examples of successful collaboration between activists or NIMBYs and developers, ideally happening outside Town Hall for the most part. I have read studies of successful charrette processes in cities, but would really like to find smaller-scale examples. I am imagining a process like this: 1. A developer brings a project concept to a public town meeting and is discouraged at its reception. 2. A group of worried citizens gathers to brainstorm about fighting the project. 3. As an alternative to hiring a lawyer, the group is convinced to consider negotiating with the developer. 4. Some or all members of the group make true commitments to avoid contention and seek constructive discussion with the developer. 5. The group admits some form of the project will go forward and haggles to consensus on what would make it minimally acceptable. 6. A representative is chosen to contact the developer and offer to have a work meeting about the project, with the assurance that only citizens who have committed to cooperation will attend. And 7. [here's where I begin to wonder about my sanity:] The developer agrees, realizing that, not only will letting these pesky people think they have some say get him his approval more easily, but that they actually have a variety of useful skills and local knowledge, and might add something to improve the project. Any comments, stories, links (even, I suppose, if discouraging)?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    I can't give you exactly what you are asking for. However, I recently joked in this thread
    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    The first four hour introductory special episode for "Citizen Planners: A Humanities Guide to getting things done in spite of the Stans of the world" will open with a showing of the movie Erin Brockovich, followed by careful, detailed analysis of her brilliant guerilla warfare tactics, like the use of bustiers in accessing records under the control of evil corporations. Select clips from the movie Afterburn will supplement commentary on Erin's tactics. The following night, we will play A Civil Action and compare and contrast the successes of Erin Brockovich with the failures of this real-life case.
    The three movies above are all based on true stories. I find the contrast between Erin Brockovich and A Civil Action interesting. (I don't think I have watched all of A Civil Action.) They are both about class action law suits. In the first one, a single mom without a college education does all the footwork necessary to successfully bring it to settlement. One of the things they needed was the cooperation of the entire town -- more than 400 people, I believe. She brilliantly orchestrated it. There are some great scenes in the movie where the small town folks are not thrilled to work with lawyers and she saves the day. One line about that is where she is asked if she is a lawyer and she says "No. I hate lawyers. I just work for them." The story was made into a movie because it was the only class action suit of its kind to be paid. The key to that was getting signatures from every last person in town to take a particular kind of settlement. Erin personally convinces people that this is only way this lawsuit will be settled and personally gets all those signatures.

    In stark contrast, A Civil Action is about the failure of a small law firm and how it sank into bankruptcy due to their hubris and inability to make compromises because of their high ideals. They didn't have a liaison like Erin to keep them focused, keep it practical, etc.

    The other movie listed above, Afterburn, is the true story of an air force wife who sued after her husband died. It echoes some of the same tactics used by Erin and is also about someone who is "no one" winning against all odds.

    Even further outside of the type of situation you are asking about is a movie called Cool Runnings. It is based on the true story of the first Jamaican bobsled team, who could not get ANY support or taken seriously. They make it to the Olympics and although their old, falling apart sled loses a wheel and causes them to crash in the last race, they do ultimately get taken seriously and become "heroes" for the small island nation. They returned to the Olympics 4 years later with the full backing of their country and accepted as equals. It is a very funny, feel-good movie.


    I will see what else I can think of.

    PS: What do you mean by the title "clamor busters"? The mods are cracking down on non-descriptive titles outside the FAC. That doesn't quite make sense to me. I will change the title if you give me something more descriptive.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Thanks. Haven't run across Afterburn, will look for it.

    Actually, I was looking for examples of concerned citizens actually collaborating with developers on touchy-but-inevitable projects, or constructive criticism about the imaginary process I outlined.

    PS: What do you mean by the title "clamor busters"?
    Unpopular development projects are often met with what is termed (derogatorily, by development proponents) 'public clamor': noisy citizen protests stemming, it is suggested, more from emotion than reason. I am looking for examples of people who managed to sidestep the commotion, which often accomplishes little beyond dividing the community. I think the passion that generates it could (ideally) be put to happier use, and actually help improve the project and unite the community.

    Good to 'see' you, MZ!

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by maximov
    Thanks. Haven't run across Afterburn, will look for it.

    Actually, I was looking for examples of concerned citizens actually collaborating with developers on touchy-but-inevitable projects, or constructive criticism about the imaginary process I outlined.
    The movie Erin Brockovich is the closest example I can think of off the top of my head.
    Unpopular development projects are often met with what is termed (derogatorily, by development proponents) 'public clamor': noisy citizen protests stemming, it is suggested, more from emotion than reason. I am looking for examples of people who managed to sidestep the commotion, which often accomplishes little beyond dividing the community. I think the passion that generates it could (ideally) be put to happier use, and actually help improve the project and unite the community.
    Would "Breaking the logjam of 'public clamour'" work for you as a title? Or "Public Clamour" Busters? Without the phrase "public clamour" in there, it just doesn't click.

    Also, this website (from the "toolbox") might help: http://www.gcastrategies.com/ They have some articles online here: http://www.gcastrategies.com/books/ I attended the presentation at the APA conference in San Francisco a few months ago. They talked also about personality types and some other things like that which I have familiarity with. The emotional stuff is the hardest to deal with. One comment from the presentation (which fits with my experience) is that, usually, the thing most people need is to feel that they have been heard. Stating "I hear you" or "I understand what you are saying...but...(and then nicely explain why that doesn't work or whatever)" can go a long way towards calming people. In my experience, trying to see things from the other person's point of view can also do wonders. My mom taught me that when the kids were little. She sat on the floor with them to see if they were too cold and commented "Adults sit on the couch and feel fine, then think the kids are just being bad if they cry. You've got to get down where they are to know if they are warm enough." That basic rubric has stuck with me for many years now and often helps me sort things out in frictional situations.


    "Getting to Yes" is a short book that might help you out. A better book but harder read is "The heart and mind of the negotiator" (or maybe "mind and heart" -- I can never remember the exact order).
    Good to 'see' you, MZ!
    Hey, I am always here. You are the one has been MIA. Good to see you too.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    We have a long-standing community activist (nut-case) who finally decided to relocate out of state. Gave up. Thank God. After years of haranguing local government over a situation she helped to create, she's gone. Everyone in planning is heaving a collective sigh of relief. And yeah, she was not willing to negotiate at all.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    Would "Breaking the logjam of 'public clamour'" work for you as a title? Or "Public Clamour" Busters? Without the phrase "public clamour" in there, it just doesn't click.
    Sure, MZ. "NIMBYs collaborating with developers: a fantasy?" would describe what I was actually trying to ask. But, you decide, you know best!

    The emotional stuff is the hardest to deal with.
    Very true. Fortunately it also makes moments of cooperation all the more rewarding.

    I have seen spontaneous collaboration between opposing parties do amazing things. I guess I'm trying to frame a specific process for doing it on purpose, that would work for projects in a small town. And some evidence that it just might be successful.

    Thanks for the suggestions!

    You are the one has been MIA.
    Mea culpa. Still pluggin' away, busy busy, happy to peek in here and beg for help again.


    We have a long-standing community activist (nut-case) who finally decided to relocate out of state.
    Uh oh, Zoning Goddess, I think I know where she went!

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by maximov

    Uh oh, Zoning Goddess, I think I know where she went!
    You're safe in Utah; this one went to NC; look out, planners up there! If she settles near a university, you're in for it!

  8. #8

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    The Sonoran Institute is the best source of examples of collaborative action at the community level. Check their web site and publications.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Lee is right about the Sonoran institute. Barb Cestero (formerly of SI) has a publication out there called "Beyond the 100th Meeting" that talks about collaboration, etc.. mostly between public land managers and private groups/non-profits. Would be a good place to start, though- you can get it from them. Also, check out their publication "pilgramage to a community" or something like that. Talks about Custer County, colorado and the work SI did there. Also, don't let Lee Nellis get away with only a two-line answer here. He's the guru.

    Another great individual who preaches the collaborative message is Dan Kemmis... he used to be the mayor of missoula, MT back in the '90's and is now working for Center for the Rocky mountain west. That organization might have examples. Google them.

    There is also an outfit out there called the Red Lodge INstitute.. don't know much about them, but they fit the bill for collaborative work.

    Finally, there is a growing number of private-lands oriented non-profits that try and do something along the lines of what you are interested in. Greater Yellowstone Coalition, here in Bozeman, has done that type of work. Salmon River Working Group (I think that's what they are called) out of Salmon, ID also is in the mix over there (it's another project of SI). The Jackson Hole Alliance is also someone you might want to investigate, as is the Flathead Valley Citizen's group (in NW MT). I suppose Valley Advocates for REsponsible Development (VARD) in teton county, ID would also be right up your alley. Now that I'm typing away, they might actually be your best model. Google them.

    Good luck and don't get burned out... we need people like you!

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    Quote Originally posted by vaughan
    Also, don't let Lee Nellis get away with only a two-line answer here. He's the guru.
    He's a guru with a baby on the way. I am grateful that he takes the time to participate at all during this hectic time in his life.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    Off-topic:

    He's a guru with a baby on the way. I am grateful that he takes the time to participate at all during this hectic time in his life.

    Good point... even short-and-sweet responses are worth something...

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Thank you very much, vaughan, and thanks to all. I am away, but am reading, and working, and will report back. This is kind of exciting.

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