I am writing in response to the article “La Jolla Town Council considers it’s purpose, identity” in the June 19
La Jolla Light
First, I’d like to acknowledge the members of this group for their efforts toward making our community a better place. I also acknowledge the courage they have to take a step back and review the content, structure and attendance of their meetings.
I do agree that having more community members present and creating an environment where issues can truly be debated in a respectful way can be engaging for the community (in any community group setting) while at the same time, help bring out the best potential in our town.
In my work as a business psychologist, one of the biggest challenges I see with senior teams of companies is a discomfort to engage in the important debates that will help shape the company’s future. Often times, leaders do not speak up because they fear they will disrupt the group’s harmony, while at the same time noting that, too frequently, there are “elephants in the room.” On the polar extreme, leaders will debate so aggressively that it is hard to have any harmony. The ideal situation is to build an environment that encourages healthy debate while maintaining respect for one another, knowing that everyone wants the best for the organization.
Following are ideas that have been on my mind for a long time that may help better engage our community and encourage healthy dialogue:
Use technology to create more diversity and participation
An example of this is to have a live stream of the Town Council /LJCPA/LJVMA meetings online with opportunities for viewers to weigh in, comment and vote on issues. I’m certain that one’s absence at these meetings does not equate to a lack of interest in our community. I’m sure there are working parents, college students and professionals who would want to be involved.
In my case, my travel schedule prevents me from participating (although I stay up to date by reading my
La Jolla Light
from cover to cover). It would be great to be able to participate without physically being present. Furthermore, too often only those who are opposed to a proposal take the time to show up while those in support do not. We are fortunate to live in a time where we have such great low-cost technology available to connect us. Let’s use it.
Create an environment for respectful, open discussion and debate
Let’s find a way to discuss the issues of our town openly. It is hard to debate an issue when one has just two minutes to speak. True dialogue requires input and exploration; open workshops on important community issues will engage the community in ways a “hearing” cannot. A methodology that can help with this is to create a forum and bring in a neutral facilitator when needed, to encourage an open discussion and examination of all the facets of the issue at hand.
It is an exciting time in our history that feels to me like a renaissance period with the improvements to our coastal parks, a new symphony hall, movie theater and plaza coming our way. It can be a great time to get creative on new ways to support our business community, our residents and our visitors.