Steering Committee member Natalie Goldberg has responded to Perry Berman’s proposal (quoted in the prior message). Natalie has a number of points, including:
The Steering Committe needs to see what role the Planning Board intends before taking actions.
The individual Steering Committee members’ responsibility is to be a voice for the community represented.
The Steering Committee is not to craft a plan, but to respond to the Planning Board’s plan and to public comments.
That the Steering Committee should not aim for consensus, but should recognize that there are differences and provide a means to express those differences.
My own view is that the Steering Committee is to have more of role than Natalie proposes. Reducing the size of the official commenting group (as was done when the Advisory Group was reduced to the Steering Committee) should not mean that only the groups represented should continue to have voices. I believe that the members of the Steering Committee now have larger roles to play, and represent entire sectors of the community, rather than individual groups, as in the Advisory Group. This may prove problematic for the business members, who may have obligations to employers and clients, but they must work those out and disclose when they are representing a narrower interest.
I also think the Steering Committee should be pro-active where it disagrees with Staff or the Board. On this, I actually think both Perry and Natalie agree, but they disagree on whether there can be a consensus position on behalf of the whole Committee. I, on the other hand, think the Committee can reach consensus, but wonder whether the Steering Committee, as an appointed sub-unit of the Planning Board, can take positions once the Planning Board has voted. That, I think, may be more of a role for outside organizations (which may be what Natalie has in mind).
(Update: Paula Bienenfeld has responded to my comments by saying that the Steering Committee is not a “sub-group” of the Planning Board and should continue to be an independent voice.)