Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Where to Start?

OK, I admit it. I started this blog to talk about county government...and now I don't know where to start!

I could tell you all about the different elected officials (do you know we have 12 elected officials who serve at the county level and another 1 who serves at the district level?).

Or I could describe each of the 20 county departments, one at a time, explaining the why's of what they do and how they are funded.

But those are big topics, and they can be covered by existing documents to some degree.

What I had really hoped to do with this mode of communication was to start asking about our own role within county government, our role as citizens.

Sometimes it seems to me that we have adopted the act of saying "NO!" as our primary function within government (at any level). And certainly there are times when it is not only appropriate, but responsible action.

But if all we ever do is break into camps that shout "NO!" at each other's ideas, what is Island County going to look like for our children and grandchildren in 30 years? 50 years?

So OK. I'll start describing county departments -- as a way to begin more genuine conversations...to begin discovering what we actively want to create here in Island County. We'll see where that takes us. We can always try something different on down the line.

For those who wish to continue just saying "NO!" there are plenty of other blogs out there that you might find more satisfying. Here, we're going to practice finding what we can say "YES!" to.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Listening as an Act of Citizenship

We are a country founded on the idea of citizen engagement, devoted to the idea of diversity of thought, and enamored with the rights of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Yet we find it difficult to listen to each other. And if we can't listen, we will tend to clump with only those we agree with, we won't work toward creative solutions to our shared and complex challenges --and we'll end up without room for ALL of us to achieve those American ideals.

But listening to those with strong opinions, different from our own, can be difficult. And if you're like me, you're out of practice.

We so readily jump in with our knee jerk reactions, usually without enough information, that listening, taking time to ask clarifying questions, and then listening some more is not in our skill set. So...

Today is Wednesday, the day several of our newspapers come out. As a way of practicing my listening skills in the privacy of my own home - before I test them in a real-time, human conversation -- I'm going to try an activity and hope you join me. Here's the task.

Find at least one article about county government and hold your opinions as best you can. Instead, consider what kind of information you'd like to have to make your understanding of the topic more complete.

Think about the people who might be involved in the topic who weren't quoted (meaning, what perspectives might be missing from the article?). Consider what you'd like to ask of them as well as of the people who were quoted. Do your best to not reach any conclusions, simply work to find some respectful, relevant questions.

For now, don't worry about getting all of the answers, just think about how this exercise impacted (or not) your sense of listening, rather than reacting.

Judy Feldman