|Re: Consensus Fallbacks- legitimacy||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Lynn Nadeau (welcomeolympus.net)|
|Date: Tue, 5 Jan 1999 15:40:33 -0600|
Sometimes there is an issue -- which presents itself as a blocking objection-- which can be held as legitimate in the sense that the blocker is sincere in their emotions and that they do not see their concerns as frivolous, but which nonetheless does not impress the group as a legitimate reason to interfere with a decision, because it does not seem to be connected to the group's values or the real implications of the decision involved. The example: An opportunity arose for us to take into our community a family which bought property next to ours. Fabulous people, with lots of commitment to community and energy to put into committee and work-party tasks, with an offer of easements on their land for walking trails--- adding to the diversity of our smallish commons--- and ten thousand dollars cash contribution, which would give our common house budget a useful boost, and negate any impact of increased use of the common house and commons. Plus annual assessments like the rest of us. A very clear positive opportunity, it seemed. One person objected, and very passionately. Why? Because the neighbor family did not have young children. Well, most of our families do not have young children. And we have sold our lots to anyone who self-selected, with no such criteria. And this was not even a lot which we could have sold to someone else. We were not narrowing the number of remaining lots to sell, which could conceivably be sold to people with young children. For the objector, the matter was one of intense personal disappointment that her child had not ended up with peers in the cohousing project: she felt she had mislead her child in promising her playmates in the project. Betrayed her child's trust. Very emotional. She was so frustrated that she wanted to in effect hold the group hostage over the matter. The only result would have been the loss of the various assets this family brought to the project. Not any increase in the number of children here. Many sorts of outreach and mediation failed to mitigate her angry blocking stance. The emotional pain was sympathetically listened to and empathized with. And the group fell back -- for the first time in 9 years --- to a process whereby a vote was called for a month later. When the meeting for the vote came, the objector was absent and declined to file a proxy vote, when asked. and so there was in fact consensus among the quorum present, and we had no need to vote. (We were a bit confused about whether we had obligated ourselves to a vote, and recorded one, just in case....) Result -- for the community, a new infusion of energy and money and skills and human relationships. Not only the middle-aged couple, but their charming and sociable elder parents, who enliven every party. Not only walking trails, but a building which has become our interim common house, for meetings and dinners and discussion circles and parties. And one member of the family has worked especially hard to find ways to bring in lower-income young families with children, via Habitat or such programs. The blocker never talks about it. She has often in the past retreated from group participation for a year at a time, relating pleasantly with the other individuals in the group, one to one, and attending purely social events, but avoiding meetings and internal politics. And she went once again into this mode, where she remains. The Recruitment Committee keeps working on ways that would increase the chances of children, but she does not work with the committee. Her child attends school, takes music lessons, and mixes with other children in the surrounding town. So, none of us felt good about leaving her emotional concerns unmet, but at the same time we did not believe that allowing her to block our decision would have really met those needs anyway. It was pretty unambiguous to us that this was not a legitimate reason to halt our decision. On another subject -- the matter of allowing guns is less clear to me. It seems that the reasons one would exclude guns from a community have everything to do with the physical safety and emotional security of the community members. The writer seemed to have reasonable concerns about both her safety and surely about her emotional security. An analogous situation might be dangerous dogs. There is a large dog here which has twice bitten my young teenager-- not drawing blood but piercing clothing. She is terrified of the dog and won't go outdoors if the dog is loose. I would think this a legitimate factor to take into account in making rules about dogs (certain dogs anyway) being allowed to run loose. A personal issue, but like the gun, a sort of matter in which the personal is what it is about. Right? Lynn Nadeau RoseWind Cohousing, Port Townsend WA The tenth anniversary of our first land purchase coming up next month!
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