Decatur Next

Decatur Diary | July 21, 2015

City Commission Green Lights Better Together Community Conversation: Details soon

In a unanimous vote at their July 20 meeting, Decatur city commissioners officially endorsed the recommendations of the Better Together Leadership Circle, clearing the way for a broad community process to cultivate a more just, welcoming, inclusive, equitable and compassionate experience for all who visit, live or work in the City of Decatur.

The culmination of the process will be the creation of a tangible Community Action Plan, spelling out specific recommendations for how the city or other resource organizations can, as directed in Principle B of the 2010 Strategic Plan, “encourage a diverse and engaged community.”

A community-wide conversation

For the past eight months, the all-volunteer Leadership Circle has been engaged in a sort of experiment — a conversation across differences — in order to, as consultant Mattice Haynes mentioned during the evening’s work session, “accomplish on a small scale what we’re hoping to bring together on a larger scale.”

Their conclusion, and what they presented to the city commission, is that the Decatur community has no shortage of diversity-related experiences and opinions, and no shortage of conversations around them with family, friends and other trusted contacts. For some, these conversations have been going on forever. For others, perhaps they’re just getting started. But what hasn’t happened is an opportunity for these conversations to transcend their small circles. Regardless of where anyone might stand, what we need now is a collective conversation that brings them all together.

This formed the basis for the Leadership Circle’s recommendations — a premise welcomed by Mayor Pro Tem Cunningham. “Part of what I’m looking forward to,” she said, “is the notion of intentional conversations where there’s people’s experience of truth. [..] My experience of the city can be very different from somebody else’s experience of the city.”

Realistic expectations, actionable results required

While committing city support in the form of staff time and capital resources, Commissioner Drake was quick to clarify that government’s ability to effect change around issues such as diversity has boundaries and that Better Together will most fully succeed as a community-owned and driven process. “We can get things started,” he said, “but carrying it forward is going to take a big part of the community — in and outside Decatur.”

“One thing that I’m learning,” added Mayor Pro Tem Cunningham, “is that this stuff doesn’t just happen by itself. There has to be leadership and thoughtfulness and a commitment. [..] I’m very glad that we’re doing this consciously and with intent and looking for a plan. One thing we do with our plans in the City of Decatur is that we act on them.”

The critical need for an actionable plan deliverable was an issue front and center. Commissioner Garrett stressed the need for specific action steps to ensure we “don’t just continue to talk about this but have some things that can be implemented over time — by a number of different groups, both the city and others.”

Mayor Baskett drove this point home. “How do we find the actual actions that we as an organization and all these participants and other assets we have in our community can take going forward that can actually make a difference long-term? If we can’t find a way to do that, we’ll be wasting out time.”

Some scenes from the evening:

Commissioner Cunningham and Mayor Baskett prior to the presentation.

Mayor Pro Tem Cunningham and Mayor Baskett prior to the presentation.

Attendees arrive.

Attendees arrive.

A full house.

A full house.

Presentation outlining the Leadership Circle's recommendations for engaging the Decatur community in a meaningful exploration of diversity in all its forms.

Presentation outlining the Leadership Circle’s recommendations for engaging the Decatur community in a meaningful exploration of diversity in all its forms.

Consultant Mattice Haynes opening the work session presentation.

Consultant Mattice Haynes opening the work session presentation.

Members of the Leadership Circle share their thoughts on how, as a diverse group themselves, they had to work across differences in developing their Better Together recommendations for the Commission.

Members of the Leadership Circle share their thoughts on how, as a diverse group themselves, they had to work across differences in developing their Better Together recommendations for the Commission.

Commissioner Drake asks about available resources to assist in the process.

Commissioner Drake asks about available resources to assist in the process.

Members of the Leadership Circle, immediately following their work session presentation to the city commission.

Members of the Leadership Circle, immediately following their work session presentation to the city commission.

Next Steps

With approval to move forward, the Leadership Circle will now fine-tune the schedule, as well as the details around how the community will be able to participate. Those details will be available shortly, so stay tuned.

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Ground Rules: We encourage respectful community conversation around planning and development issues in the City of Decatur. Participants are asked to login via Facebook, Twitter or Google, or create a user account through Disqus. To keep the conversation on track, contributions may be moderated — not on the basis of their ideas but in terms of relevance and decorum. Generally speaking, the Golden Rule applies.
  • Cathryn Cooper

    Wish I still llived in Decatur! I always loved the diversity there and I think this is a fabulous model to work from to make it a community involved platform. I would like to think that this is something happening in many areas of the US.

  • Chris Billingsley

    It appears my comments are being censored. I wonder why?

  • Chris Billingsley

    To Commissioners Drake, Boykin, Baskett.

    It appears my views are being censored from the Decatur Next site. Twice I have tried to post the following comment only to see that it was not allowed. I understand when censorship takes place as a result of crude or rude language but in my opinion, my comments express disapproval of the process and the language used by the paid consultants of the city. Censorship on Decatur Metro and Decaturish is to be expected occasionally as both are private blogs and not government sponsored sites. The views of residents who use their full name should be allowed at Decatur Next.
    I’m asking Commissioner Drake, Baskett and Boykin to direct those responsible for comments at Decatur Next to post the following comment.

    Thanks Decatur Next. No surprises here. Months ago, at a secret meeting attended by commissioners, staff members and leaders of a special interest group, the end results of an anti-police/private property/religious freedom community action plan were agreed upon. A group of progressive activists, many of whom were city employees or consultants, met privately over the last several months to discuss ways to fundamentally change Decatur. Their recommendations will be carried out by by a consulting team that is every bit as radical as the leadership circle. The first step is to train facilitators in “anti- oppression theory” so that they will carefully control the conversation at a public meeting in August. This meeting will be open to anyone, Decatur residents of course but also non-residents who might have grievances against the police and others with similar political agendas. In fact, the organizers will “recruit participants… with added focus on populations typically underrepresented in community planning activities”. Residents opposed to to this effort will have their concerns ignored through the use of the “world cafe conversation method” which emphasizes group feelings over individual rights. People like myself who have strong views will be forced to practice “cultural humility”, which means, “Sorry Mister Long-Time Decatur Resident and Property Owner. Your views are equal to Mr. Panhandler who hangs outside the Marta station harassing those who refuse to give him money”. This meeting will not be a fair community conversation about social issues but a way to promote a radical view of “equity, the genuine embrace of groups generally marginalized by the dominate culture (also known as) The Other- any group that is likely to experience patterns of historic, systematic oppression and marginalization in your community, especially given your community’s dominate race, culture, language, generation,socioeconomic class, education level, birth country, sexual orientation, and physical ability whose story does not yet shape the… worship of the community”. For those of you who think this effort is only about punishing the police or establishing section eight housing in the Great Lakes and Glendale neighborhoods, think again. Traditional churches in Decatur will be attacked. (FYI- All but one quote taken from the Community Action Plan https://decatur.civicweb.net/Documents/DocumentList.aspx?ID=1235)
    Since the process is rigged in favor of those who believe that our police officers are the oppressors, it will take a monumental effort by citizens of Decatur to change the outcome. I ask that Decatur residents who are proud of our police force make every effort to attend the August meeting and fight power with truth.

  • Chris Billingsley

    My comment has been censored for a third time. Usually it’s three strikes and you’re out but since this is baseball season, I have appealed to my commissioners to intercede and force a replay. Maybe then my comment will appear. We shall see.

    • Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Chris. Apparently the inclusion of a link in your comments caused them to be automatically held back. They’re now posted and the link-moderation setting has been removed for future postings. Thanks for your participation.