Re: Consensus Fallbacks
From: Dahako (
Date: Thu, 7 Jan 1999 10:40:46 -0600
All -

Several people asked Sherri Zann-Rosenthal about the outcome of the blocked
consensus on gun policy at Eno Commons.  I was there and thought I'd offer my

The process of re-examining the policy was started by some prospective members
who owned guns and wanted to see whether we would change our policy to allow
them to join.  Because the group had changed quite a bit since the covenants
were put in place and we obviously had some strong differences of opinion, we
decided to consider the matter. In a first take, we did come to a quick
consensus on a changed policy, but almost immediately members with misgivings
asked for the issue to be reopened and it was.  I think this was the sort of
superficial consensus Sherri referred to.  We then took committee and group
time over the next few months to consider the issue from several angles.  Many
different viewpoints were expressed and high feelings rose in several
meetings.  Because of another issue also raised at the time - which ultimately
also resulted in a blocked consensus from members other than Sherri - we had a
professional facilitator/conflict mediator in for a session with the group.

Sherri has for some time (by her own decision) been largely withdrawn as a
member (she concentrates on her role as developer) and was not in attendance
at about half of the early meetings working through examining our goals and
doing conflict mediation on the gun policy. We do publish our minutes via
email, and we have a member responsible for developer liaison.  I believe she
went to at least one of the committee meetings, but I don't have those
minutes.  By the time Sherri joined the group discussions, we were well on our
way to a consensus that would have released the ban on guns in favor of a
policy requiring substantial safety measures.  Sherri's views *were* listened
to and considered.  I've checked the minutes and her last recorded position
(pre-block) was that guns would be OK on site if ammunition for them was kept
off site.

Many of concerns people have raised in this forum about legacy policies,
patronizing by longer term group members, and other tension-producing things
like that came up during our discussions and raised ugly feelings that are not
resolved yet.  Also, in my opinion, gun policy raises core value issues with
people in different ways.  Most of the Northeasterners in the group were knee-
jerk anti-gun primarily because they felt that any gun in the community would
undermine their security.  The Southerners and Westerners framed the issue a
different way - they didn't want anyone (except the law)  telling them what
they could do inside their own homes.  Midwesterners varied. The different
framing around closely held values was very difficult to work around, even
using a mediation method based on interests instead of positions.  Tempers
flared everywhere.  Facilitators came and went, burned out by the dual issues
facing the group and sometimes unable or unwilling to facilitate and stay out
of substance of the discussions.

The issue was temporarily dropped because the prospective members who raised
it decided not to participate (they didn't feel welcomed) and Sherri had
expressed her intent to block consensus.  Recently, the group added it as a
low priority item on the "parking lot" list we keep of things we need to get
to.  So, someday when we have our whole group present on site, I guess we'll
do it again. 

Jessie Handforth Kome
Eno Commons
Durham, NC
Where more than half of us are moved in and we are enjoying eating together
even without a Commons House.

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