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Citizens Advisory Committee: Worth Another Shot?

Is the formation of a new Citizens Advisory Committee to address the HSD secondary space issue worth considering?

This blog is my attempt to initiate a Patch dialogue on how best to involve the community in addressing the secondary school space issue that the Hudson School District faces.  The time is ripe for such a discussion as we are in the midst of an election cycle for two open seats on the School Board while the existing Board has five building options under consideration for resolving this rather vexing problem.  This decision will mark the Board’s third major attempt in ten years to solve an issue that has arguably divided the community for a variety of reasons.

Following the Hudson City Council’s vote to deny the rezoning of St. Croix Meadows I made an attempt to involve the community in the decision making process through the formation of the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC).  The purpose of the CAC would have been to solicit broad input from the community on the various steps needed to address the secondary school space issue.  The CAC effort, which would have served as an arm of the School Board, never got off the ground for two primary reasons. First, there were over twice the number of qualified candidates willing to serve on the CAC than we had anticipated, making it difficult to decide who to accept and who to reject.  Second, the Board had already whittled the number of new school options down to three (at that time), which called into question for me the role that the CAC would play apart from rubber stamping any motions that came our way.

This begs the question of whether or not the formation of a separate citizen’s advisory group is still warranted.   In this case, it would serve as an autonomous body that would be free to address the broad range of issues that have precluded us from solving the space issue over the years.  In this seemingly divisive climate it might be helpful to rethink the CAC concept in favor of an independent body that is free to speak openly and respectfully in the hopes of reaching some form of community consensus on this issue.  I am not suggesting that we will be linking arms and singing Kumbaya in any of this, but we might go a long way towards a better understanding of what can realistically be achieved.

I am also not advocating for the formation of a Vote No group or another Vote Yes one, more like a Vote Maybe group; one that attracts individuals from all sides of the argument.  Such a group would be free to consider all available options, including the new building options, reasoned demographic projections, hybrid learning approaches, working within existing facility footprints, and land use planning that takes into account mixed use options.  The group would be free to define its own discussion parameters.  Such a separate, complementary group that is wholly voluntary in nature would allow the community to assume greater ownership of the resulting decision, and its deliberations might go a long way towards achieving an actionable solution that has thus far eluded us all.    

It is clear based simply upon the response to our call for CAC applicants and the number of Patch comments tethered in space out here that there is a keen interest in solving the school space issue.   The numbers and resolve may not be there for the formation of the type of group I am suggesting, but the timing seems about right for at least giving it some consideration.  I thought I would throw this out for the good users of Hudson Patch to chew on. 

Thanks for your time and attention.

Respectfully,

Paul Bourget

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Scott Erlenborn February 17, 2013 at 01:04 PM
So you are writting articles for The Patch under a pseudonym? I'm sorry but that's not right.
Paul Bourget February 17, 2013 at 01:43 PM
I stand accused, Scott.
JMK February 17, 2013 at 02:14 PM
Paul – You have put forth tremendous effort to get this off the ground and it is a shame it was dismantled so swiftly. If elected I would promote community input such as this and think there is a dire need to involve a wide variety of opinions and backgrounds. Thank you for continuing to explore the possibility.
Jim Schrock February 17, 2013 at 03:20 PM
Very well said Paul; this is a very sound approach to getting Participation and Involvement (those two from my PACT: Participation; Accountability; Collaboration; Transparency) from diverse sources. "Many hands make the job go quicker"--in this aspect, many minds would make the results better. Thanks for your past, current, and future efforts Paul!
Paul Bourget February 17, 2013 at 05:21 PM
Thanks, Jeannette and Jim. For the record, I played a role in the demise of the CAC. In addition to the reasons mentioned in my little speech, the CAC would have been subject to the Board's open meeting rules, which are very restrictive and limit public participation. Also, each meeting would have had the active presence of both the Board and Administration, which I felt would have unduly influenced the proceedings. I still feel that a means to solicit public input is warranted. Short of that, we run the risk of witnessing another failed attempt to solve the secondary space issue. Hats off to you both for wanting to serve on the Board.
Jeff Zais February 18, 2013 at 01:51 PM
Paul - I think you should go out and schedule weekly meetings one night a week over the next seven or eight weeks, invite the public, to gather and organize some real citizen input for the School Board. The final two or three meetings could be presentations to the group, where supporters of each concept get 15 or 20 minutes to show the benefits, drawbacks, and the costs associated with their favored projects. A summary of the work could then be presented to the newly reformulated School Board, shortly after the April election. Cheers, Jeff PS - How refreshing! A conversation where people are using their real identities rather than hiding behind fake names.
Paul Bourget February 18, 2013 at 02:03 PM
Hi Jeff! That's a great idea, but I'm not going to do it solely on my own. The vision for the original CAC was a group of 12 who represent a variety of views. If we can reach those kinds of numbers again we might be able to do what you are suggesting. By the way, you can't post your own blog out here without using your real name and posting a picture of yourself. Patch rules. Thanks for your thoughts!

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