Last Saturday’s blog, “Brea Envisions Needs Midcourse Correction” highlighting city staff’s clever usurping of control of the project triggered immediate damage control from Brea’s Community Development Director. First thing Monday morning the following email was sent to all Brea Envisions Steering Committee members and various staff involved in the project. That afternoon it was forwarded to Council.
Subject: Brea Envisions and blog criticism this weekend.
Good Morning Envision Committee Members-
As you may be aware, this weekend a local blogger has taken issue with the Brea Envisions project, process, City staff, and the consultant team and published comments in his blog. We wanted to let you know we take these comments and expressed concerns very seriously because the integrity of this process and our relationship with you and the community are of paramount importance to our work.
We want you to know how much we value your participation and leadership in the Brea Envisions project. As staff, we have been following what we believe to be the Committee’s established protocol for staff/Committee interaction and collaboration. To date, we believe we have worked to implement your vision and ideas between each Committee meeting, moving forward with the production of materials and coordination of project details. Our comments at Committee meetings, either reflect our understanding of the Committee’s past direction or offer our professional insights to demonstrate our support for your decisions or inform you of any challenges or limitations (e.g. achieving goals in alternate ways, meeting expressed schedule goals, keeping within established budgets, etc.). This process has and can continue to include refining the website and tech tools as may be desired as your efforts continue to unfold. We also feel very confident that you are capable and have demonstrated your resolve to communicate when you disagree with anything or feel a different approach is necessary. And while we believe the comments contained in the blog are without the benefit of this context and do not resonate with our experience with you, we feel it is important at this time that we check in with you to make sure we are not missing something.
As your staff and resource team we want to confirm your direction. We want to support and provide tools you need for this effort. We have understood it is the preference of the Committee that staff provide guidance as to best practices and to have for you information which is based on your direction to respond to at your meetings, rather than expecting the Committee to develop content and process from scratch. Given the assertions made it is good practice to step back and confirm the Committee is comfortable with this process or, if not, you have the ability to express modifications the group can discuss and consider. We are eager and interested in discussing this issue with you to ensure the Brea Envisions effort continues to reflect the community’s perspective and we’ll tee that up as quickly as the Committee desires.
In closing, my apologies for disrupting your weekend. We felt strongly you needed to be made aware of the public comments posted and to know we continue to be committed to make certain an accurate understanding of Brea Envisions and the Committee’s great work is put forward, correcting what we view as an unfortunate, misleading, and potentially damaging representation. Staff looks forward to seeing you soon and checking in with you on the Committee process. Please feel free to contact me if you should have any questions or comments.
Okay, who talks like that?
Seriously, how many times did you stop, reread a sentence or two and continue… still not sure you fully grasped what you just read? It’s called, among other things, city speak. This jargon laden language is the hallmark of government publications, documents and correspondence.
City speak, first and foremost, has evolved to make listeners/readers feel immediately inferior. Second, it relies on cumbersome compound sentences designed to even further confuse and intimidate the listener/reader.
Classic damage control.
Anyone witnessing the committee meeting, I’m confident, would come away with virtually the same impressions I did. The observations and criticisms I made in the last blog struck too close to home and demanded that an immediate response be made.
Sadly, it has backfired. The retreat into city speak and attempts to justify the status quo do more to validate my position than deny it.
The most egregious comment in the email is when he wraps up by describing Brea Matters as “an unfortunate, misleading, and potentially damaging representation.”
Unfortunate, perhaps, but for whom? If it stifles staff’s attempt to hijack Brea Envisions and puts the project back on the course Council intended, how is that unfortunate?
Misleading? I’m confident you would have come to the same conclusions.
Damaging? Only if Council turns a blind eye to this and the status quo is allowed to continue unchecked.
The hidden message.
Buried in this measured response is the suggestion that staff would like to know if any committee members share similar feelings about Brea Envisions as those expressed in Brea Matters.
Go ahead, read the email again. Did you find it? Hint: it’s in the third paragraph.
Feeling as I do, that committee members sincerely desire to make a positive contribution to Brea Envisions, I’m confident they all read through the email several times and discovered the request to share their feelings – pro or con.
Besides chatting amongst themselves, what options do they have? Do you think, for a moment, they or anyone on staff would post a comment on the blog?
Best case scenario for Brea Envisions?
Having read the blog and the damage control email, Council could put Brea Envisions on their agenda for an open discussion. They could ask the City Manager to interview committee members for their side of the story. Council has the final say, they have many options if they would just choose to exercise them.
Whatever Council decides to do, I hope they remember there is a big difference between molding public opinion and gathering public opinion. Brea Envisions? Whose Brea?