CRC review betrayed by 'group think' | Guest Column
September 27, 2012 · 12:48 PM
By Janice Peterson
The title of Larry Hendel’s letter has nearly written my response for me, “Solid solutions; proof in the process.”
The Charter Review Commission’s amendments were not solid, not proof, and certainly not solutions in my view. They were, in actuality, what we used to call “groupthink.” Group members try to minimize conflict and reach decisions without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints or ideas.
The fact that the CRC majority made huge decisions independent of any review whatsoever the second time they met is poor decision-making. It is also somewhat arrogant. If 21 of the world’s most influential leaders had been elected to the CRC, a group-think style of decision-making would have been just as bad.
Making judgments in advance of facts and based on mutually admired opinions, then backfilling them with cherry-picked “evidence” exposes a flawed process. This has created significant problems for the CRC majority because they are unable to produce substantive proof for assertions, let alone identify structural problems in the charter.
The charter’s goose was cooked early on, in fact the CRC chairman, even before he was elected, said he would entertain a ballot option to rescind the charter. He has been publicly against this charter since he was a freeholder. He called it “a silly idea.” Most leaders in his position would, I believe, strive to protect the process from bias, not set out to gut the charter without meaningful review by the group.
Larry states that the CRC re-evaluated the proposed amendments a number of times. They did not.
To illustrate, a motion to stop looking solely at going back to three commissioners, which is the lynchpin of this entire effort, was summarily quashed with almost no discussion on any of the 19 arguments advanced in support.
The majority of the “review” began and ended on Jan. 14, the second week the CRC met. Some of the CRC members hadn’t even attended a meeting at that point, due to pre-existing obligations or illness.
Forgive the cliché, but a CRC colleague and I were stuck in a "Whack-a-Mole" game from the start. Every time we advanced motions to examine alternative ideas, we were pounded down.
We would at least enjoy the courtesy of an accurate tally on the final vote on the amendments. Two of us voted "No". Another had been unable to come to all the meetings so he abstained. A fourth member was unable to attend and asked a colleague to register his "No" vote. We were assured it would be counted.
All four of us have endorsed the opposition.The point of this letter is that the CRC did not serve our county’s interests. This was not a meaningful review of the charter and the voters, as a result, do not have options they might have had if the CRC had done its job.
— Editor's note: Janice Peterson, wife of County Councilman Rich Peterson, District 2, North San Juan, is one of four Charter Review Commission members that did not vote in favor of the CRC's propositions No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3.