Vol. IV No. 3 2/1/2023
Editorial: Getting to Yes
It was like that lightbulb in a cartoon. I was watching the Select Board (SB — January 12, 2023) meeting when a bright idea occurred.
Chair Patrick White said, "we always know how to get to no, tell me how to get to yes." What if that were a perpetual instruction from the Chair?
The SB is the top of our governmental hierarchy. The three elected members of the SB sitting together are the final decision makers.
The job descriptions of many others is advising the SB — Town employees such as Town Administrator, Town Counsel, and Assessor are advisors; committees and commissions including Finance Committee, Stockbridge Bowl Stewardship, Agriculture and Forestry, Water and Sewer Commissions are all advisers to the SB.
Here's the bright idea...
Why shouldn't they advise the SB on both — how we get to no, and how we get to yes.
Wouldn't it be lovely if the SB were provided with the road map to no and the road map to yes, the possible outcomes of no and the possibilities of yes — important information on which they reach the best decisions.
For example, our Town Counsel (TC) rendered an opinion on the Daniel Chester French garden structure and its demolition. It seemed to boil down to — alas, the Town was powerless given the size of the structure. TC provided a considered opinion but what if that were not the end of the task? What if SB also asked her how to get to yes so that we can preserve our historic structures?
For example, SB expressed a desire for an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) bylaw. The Chair of the Planning Board rendered an opinion that it was unnecessary. What if that were not the end of the task? What if SB asked PB Chair how to get to yes so that we have more affordable housing?
There are times when boards/commissions are permit-granters, that is, decision makers, but mostly we are all — citizens included — advisors. Sometimes advisors are too anxious, too quick to state opinions. It limits the information available, cuts off discussion, and sets up a competitive rather than collaborative process. Wouldn't it be nice to establish the smoothest and most effective decision-making process? The most open and informative process — with information about how to get to no, and how to get to yes?
BBG Barn Raising. Photo courtesy Felix Carroll, Berkshire Botanical Garden