Sunday, April 28, 2013

Beware of "Charrettes"

What's a "charrette"? Not a cute little wagon, as you might imagine based on high school French, nor a junior charwoman, but a sneaky way of claiming that public plans have been presented to a town meeting without exposing these plans (which are often unpopular) to any actual discussion by the meeting. Karen Bracken elucidates:

"A Charrette is the new tactic the consultants are using in order to totally shut down group questions and opposition. The tactic is the most affective at shutting down true dialogue. With all the push back consultants are getting all across America you will see this tactic used more often than not. Here in TN my 16 County/3 State plan just conducted a series of 4 visioning sessions and (because they know there is huge opposition here to what they are doing) they too used the Charrette tactic. Total Delphi manuever. A Charrette is when they have a large room with stations and tons of shills manning each station so the only dialogue is as you walk around looking at the nonsense they have displayed. It is also impossible to record the proceedings unless you walk around like they did at this session and actually record people as they talk to you. You will find a lot of them won't agree to you recording them."

Suggestion for those who want to preserve democracy in local government: Amend your rules of procedure so that no actual decisions can be made during a "charrette." Require that, before people who've attended a "charrette" sign or vote on anything, they attend a town meeting that leaves room for discussion. "Charrettes" can actually be informative...if they're not used as substitutes for the democratic process.