Friday, June 26, 2009

How To: Consult the public.

Better late than never, but here is the as-promised post on the other open house event on Wednesday, David Asper's consultation for the new stadium plans.

Walking out of the Active Transportation open house at RRC and walking into this one in University Centre was like night and day.

Asper used a large public area, at University Centre in the multi purpose room on the second floor. He had a panel composing of four people including himself. There were two large, clearly visible screens in which slides were projected, depicting well-defined plans, easy to see and understand. Presentations were ver clear and, everybody could hear every word via the sound system that was set up. There was even complimentary cookies and drinks. When you walked in, you felt welcome and you felt like your attendance mattered.

Although it was mostly NIMBY-types who attended, this is what set Asper's open house in a different league than the Active Transportation open house. Asper WANTED THE DISSENTERS TO COME. He WANTED to hear the MOST CRITICAL people of the community. His intention was not to slap something together and advertise for this in a cowardly manner, hoping that only supporters would show up.

There was a microphone set up so that if you had concerns, you could step up and voice them. Everybody would hear you. And in most cases, David Asper himself answered the questions or addressed that person's concerns directly. For more technical questions or something to do directly with the plans, the panel helped out. They did not approach people's questions with a defensive attitude, no, they really did want to hear what residents had to say.

Although most of the concerns were about parking, noise, and rock concerts, some of them were legitimate concerns and I can say with 100% confidence that Asper will adjust his plans or add new policies based on these.

I will now outline a few awesome points about this new stadium because, as far as I could tell, there was no journalist there to formally report this and I haven't read anything in the papers about it either. Unless I missed something. I think some of these points haven't really been brought to people's attention yet.

The new stadium will boast improved security...if you're drunk and are weilding a big shit-disturbing stick, you will not be tolerated. Neither will fights. The days of rowdy shananigans in the upper deck of the East Side will be no more. The whole stadium design is part of a larger "active living environment," where all kinds of healthy choices will be promoted. Concessions, for example, will also include healthy food on the menus.

All of this according to Asper, "Sends the message....don't come here and be an idiot."

The active living plan will be continued through how they approach transportation. Apparently they will count how many steps it takes from each parking lot on campus to the stadium gates, and encourage people to walk to and from their cars. Although if you don't want to walk, apparently they are still on the Disney World style of tram-like "people mover." In addition to this, a new transit terminal will be built at the stadium site. Transit Park and Ride locations will have a game day shuttle that goes from a Park and Ride lot, to the stadium.

The entire concourse will be closed. As in, not open to the outside environment as the current stadium has. This will help contain noise inside the bowl instead of having it escape out. From any point inside the concourse, you will be able to see the field. All the lights, and speakers and TV screens and whatnot inside the bowl will be directed downwards towards the field, keeping as much noise/light inside as possible. (Read: this stadium is going to be LOUD).

This was consultation. Plans were presented in a clear and easy to understand fashion.

Although just an hour earlier, I was attempting to wrap my brain around very detailed and complex plans on little boards placed on easels, and talking to consultants who were largely unprepared for questioning.

The Asper method: to present information to people and explain what will be going on, and to directly engage those who are not happy about the plans. Well prepared, knowledgeable and articulate consultants answering questions.

The Active Transportation method: put pictures up for you to guess at while consultants tell you how great the plans are, and pretending it was an "open house" when in reality they did what they could to keep dissenters at bay. Unprepared and detail-lacking consultants more interested in defending their plans than putting them through public scrutiny.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the new stadium is a fantastic, great addition to Winnipeg and I honestly cannot find a single bad thing to say about it. I can't even say a single bad thing about how Asper went about consulting residents. Everything about this plan is great, everything about this plan is right, and everything in this plan is done in the best interests of Winnipeggers.

I wish I could say the same about Active Transportation.


The Great Canadian Talk Show said...

Thanks for the report Graham, I will incorporate this into tomorrow's show and also raise it next week on CJOB.

Anonymous said...

The only bad thintg about it is its a suburb

Graham said...

So....St James isn't a suburb?

Anonymous said...

Why , whats in St. James, oh, you mean Polo Park...silly doesn't have to go there either, just somewhere less sprawlish than Fort Richmond donchyathunk.

Anonymous said...
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Graham said...

I would probably agree with you if his plans were not so integrated with Bison athletics.

unclebob said...

thanks for the great post on the difference between consultation styles.

Having been to the Norwood and the Red river Active transportation meetings I would probably say that the difference, as bad as you have called it, was actually even worse.

I could pick it apart for details but the fundamental issue for me is that this kind if consulting is becoming rampant and not enough people spot it and complain. It makes us poorer as a democratic society and diminishes our worth as citizens when we allow people to get away with this.

It also makes lousy policy.

The Rise and Sprawl said...

When the Point Douglas stadium was pitched, David Asper quickly set up a public meeting with people from South and North Point Douglas, outlining the plans, taking questions. That was before his actual plans were released to the media.

Gary Doer on the other hand, showed up a couple of months later and had a private breakfast with SPD resident Wanda Koop and a handful of other artists who don't even live in the neighborhood. But I guess when you are the uncontested Lord and Savior of a feeble populace of serfs, you can afford such arrogance.