Monday, June 10, 2013

I am really starting to HATE "community" meetings

At first I was going to title this post, "Can you please just shut the hell up?"

But I thought that might be a little much. ;)

I'm not going to go into a whole bunch of detail about why I feel this post is necessary. Anyone who has attended a Ward 8 community meeting (or any neighborhood meeting for that matter) can probably relate in part to my frustration. In theory, I really love community meetings. I like the idea of members of the immediate and extended community coming together to share ideas and work on solutions and to just come together in fellowship. I've attended some really great community meetings in the past.  Hell, I've hosted some really great community meetings so I see their benefits when done well.

That being said most of these meetings are PAINFUL! 

If we want things to change we have to change. That means sometimes closing your mouth and opening your ears! And for the love of God if you only want to hear the sound of your voice (without offering any real solutions) will you please stay home! Being obstructive for the sake of being an impediment to progress does not make you look smart! It makes you look ignorant in every sense of the word!  Stop wasting everyone's time and sit down! Community meetings are not the forum to show everyone what a hard ass you can be. It doesn't make you look smart, or witty, or even strong. It makes you look like a self-involved asshole that no one wants to work with.

I feel like when I go to Ward 8 community meetings as of late this is who shows up:
  1. The Concerned Resident (may God bless your soul!)
  2. The Angry Resident
  3. The Angry ANC Commissioner
  4. The Angry Contractor-who-didn't-get-selected-and-must-use-this-meeting-to-gripe-about-it
  5. The Angry Politician
  6. The Campaigning Politician
  7. The Angry Community Advocate
  8. The Angry Small Business Owner
  9. The Angry Heckler
  10. The Confused/Timid/ Presenter
  11. The Apologetic Agency Representative
  12. The Person who takes everyone off topic
  13. The Complainer
  14. The Person who's response to everything is "I've lived here longer than you!"
Because I don't want to be "The Complainer" I am going to include a TEDx speech on how to create a better community dialogue. Check the video out below.

I would love to hear from readers about their thoughts on community meetings they have attended. If you can please include information on the community meeting or organization so that other's may learn (or at least get some really good feedback!).


P.S. I'm going to start skipping these meetings all together and just emailing the parties involved directly. I may have a better chance of having a productive dialogue about the issues. At the very least I wouldn't go home so defeated, frustrated, and mentally exhausted.

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DaReslnt1 said...

One of the biggest issues is that these meeting are during the week, so the same people attend all of them. So the meetings end up turning out the same. They needs to have the meetings on the weekends this way the crowd is more diverse in various ways.

Anonymous said...

I wish that the community would realize that these project will make congress heights better. As a young professional home owner in congress heights these project give me hope that one day people will flock to ward 8. This place has sooooooo much potential. I don't understand those who would not want change and who are happy with the current status and stigma of ward 8. Change is hard but most time change is good. And those horrible building around the metro need to go they are broke down buildings

Anonymous said...


The overall tone of most of these meetings are negative!

And can someone explain to me why most ANC Commissioners are so mad when they tend to have the worst meetings? My ANC is always yelling and accusing other people of this or that yet their monthly meetings are always the worst. No one ever knows what they are doing, the almost never do any "community outreach" themselves (I can't remember the last time I saw an agenda in advance) and they repeat themselves non stop!

I too wish I could just get the information directly from the source or online. All of the "noise" is just that.

Carlene said...

After attending a couple Ward 8 meetings or watching the play by play on line, some of the push back that is experience at these meetings forced me to kind of look at why these meetings contain these personalities. While I may be able to say that I am the young professional excited about change, I look at the group dynamic and can understand why some come out to these meetings with anger, skepticism, and an overall air of negativity. For many of our community members they understand that the current living situation has allowed them to keep their basic needs of a home; closeness to family and friends; money, etc. And looking from that perspective change may be scary for them. Especially when the community has a history of being taken advantage of.

I am very pro-change in ward 8, and as frustrating as it may seem, I can understand in a sense (because I definitely find some individual's conduct at these meetings annoying) why we encounter some of the behaviors that we witness at these meetings.

On another note, a possible solution could be providing then agenda to community members before hand maybe to encourage others to sty on topic. Or changing question and answer periods to questions submitted on paper, and read by one person to the presenter during the q&a period.

Old Crow said...

I would agree with Carlene. First, I rarely hear about these meetings until after they are held. I actually think my ANC has no commissioner, and hasn't had one for a while.

On the issue of change, it's not a for or against question. Change is going to happen. The question is what kind of change, and how will it affect the community? I find it offensive to suggest that long-time community residents like crime and poor services; no one does. But I was pushed out of a NW neighborhood as it gentrified, and now that it has lower crime and good services, guess what? Most of the long-term residents are gone. I don't call that community development; I call it ethnic cleansing by cash, and I oppose it.

There are a lot of hard-working, talented people in our Ward who have seen the area through the hard years and deserve to enjoy any improvements that come along. They are correct to be afraid that they will be evicted as those improvements arrive. They have legitimate concerns that deserve to be addressed, and not dismissed as simply "opposing change." A little mutual respect would go a long way.

As would weekend meetings. Saturday mornings would probably work for a lot more people, and using the Great Ward Eight page to announce them and agendas would help folks see what's up. A ride share program to help people get to meetings would be a plus. There is much to love about our Ward -- that we speak when we pass each other on the street, that we're all up in each other's business on the bus and in the supermarket, that we look out for each other as neighbors in ways that don't happen in NW. We don't have to lose that in the name of Starbucks; let's listen and think together of how to get the best of both worlds.

The Advoc8te said...

All the more reason for a "dialogue" a respectful and effective exchange of ideas.

I understand the psychology behind the fear but the screaming matches that too often come with these community meetings are not only counter productive but it is a self fufling prophecy.

I don't see a huge difference between not seeking "community input" and having "community input" that goes nowhere or where 50% of the people who should attend a meeting won't because they are aggravated by the circus these meetings erupt into.

Shutting down (or shouting down) a meeting is just crazy. It reminds me of when I was growing up my sister would get mad and break her own toys. What sense does that make to shut down the few opportunities you have to have input on a project? Shutting down/shouting down meetings sends the wrong message and at the end of the day it just reinforces the wrong idea that Ward 8 can not be engaged in a meaningful way in its development.

Lets not get it twisted. Progress and change is going to happen one way or the other. Personally I rather be in the room and at the table when it happens so I encourage people to talk to me, to send me invites to these meetings, and to find what I say of value.

Otherwise you will find yourself (and your screaming) outside looking in wondering, "When did this happen?"

THAT is why I hate going to these meetings that descend into chaos. Its a bunch of noise and it robs everyone else in the room of getting much needed information and engaging in a dialogue.

We need to replace "confrontation" with "collaboration." We can get far more done sitting at the table than excluding ourselves from it.

The Advoc8te said...

And another thing. I am all for encouraging people to attend meetings but people have to want to attend a meeting. If the welfare of your community is not enough to get you off the couch we can do all the promoting and outreach all day but you can't force people to participate. I have hired people to go door to door distributing flyers about events and community meetings and have had 1 or 2 people show up. You can invite people to things all day but they have to want to show up (literally and emotionally).

It might be convenient but we can't blame apathy on "outsiders" we all have a responsibility.

If you are not part of the solution you might just be part of the problem.

Concerned Resident said...

Ms. Peele,

While I enjoy reading your site and following all your selected news items I must say that you are out of line here. Everyone has the right to say what they have to say even if you don't agree with them or think they fall into one of your defined characters.

You do a lot for the community but it seems you want everything your way. You must understand where you are and history of our community. Telling people to shut up is not right unless you can handle being told yourself to shut up by those who might not agree with anything you want to say.

I will continue to read your blog and trust you as source of good in our community. However, this is not a way to encourage positivist thinking. This is negative no matter how you look at it.

You should consider whether your neighbors will want you at these meetings since you harbor such ill feeling towards them.

Thank you for being an important voice. I hope to see things chance as much as you do.

Cconcerned resident of 1500 block of Alabama Avenue SE. In it for the lang haul.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Concerned Resident. It is nice to talk about change, but understand history. Prior to the riots, Ward 8 had a substantial non-Afican American population. Post 1968/riots came "white flight". The city still had "overlords" (downtown politiicans who did not look like the current population of the Ward) who could care less about the Ward. The only reason why U and H streets have become hot is the fact that the city did not invest in those communities and investors/speculators bought up land only to sell for astronomical prices. There is absolutely no way that any house, row house, townhome off of H street is worth 800K. That is greed and speculation. It will also drive out residnets who stayed in the neighborhoods when others left. Those persons provided a small economic stream for the city and for survival of the neighborhoods.Change is only good when the purpose is to enhance and in this case bring others along. To spruce up the neighgborhoods only to displace long time residents is not good change. It is greed. And in the final anlaysis, when these gentrifiers, white and black, are finished with "city living", they will flee to the suburbs where the prices will be low and the land plentiful. Do not be fooled by the notion of "change"

Anonymous said...

I attended the meeting last night but left before the screaming began. First off I'd like to say that I was impressed with Muriel Bowser, that was the first time I heard her speak. I live in Congress Heights and welcome new development. They've been talking about development in Congress Heights for over 10 years and its finally happening. I can't wait to be able to eat shop and live in my own neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Barry Farm is slated for redevelopment into a mixed-use, mixed income development. Barry Farm residents have recently been very vocal in their opposition to any redevelopment for fear of gentrification/displacement. While some may have a real emotional investment in the status quo (family, friends, etc.) many of the residents inside and outside of Barry Farm who have voiced opposition have done so on the basis of their economic interests. Is there was some way for the long time residents of the community to gain a real interest in the economic revitalization of the neighborhood? Crowdfunding doesn't seem to be exactly what I'm thinking of, but appears to be an inexact template for getting those who are reasonably apprehensive about gentrification to buy into (and benefit materially) from economic development. There must a vehicle that more closely approximates what I am proposing. Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Regarding Barry Farms and all the other development coming near the Anacostia Metro, from St Es to eventually, I imagine Good Hope and Alabama. Why not make part of the directives with developers include things like, if you have retail or office space in your development, then a certain percentage has to be guaranteed for local businesses and professionals. And with Barry Farm and other redeveloped areas, they have to offer 100% of existing residents the opportunity to move in at comparable rates. But more importantly, the DC council and DC government needs to step up to the plate and enforce these types of agreements. Currently, I live in NoVA, but I am in anacostia all the time at Operation Hope, the DC Hive. Ward 8 has so much potential, but it needs to be done right and with all citizens allowed to be involved.