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You want what?

Last night was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.

It took us 2 hours to get through 2 items on the agenda so we ended up tabling a 3rd item until next time. In theory, they were pretty simple issues...whether to allow on-street parking overnight on 2 local streets by permit and what to do about speeding on another local street.

Before the meeting, I had access to lots of basic information in a packet that is available to commissioners. In my head, I already had the start of an opinion. But sitting down at the table, staff handed me another small packet of e-mails from residents giving comments. And there were 20 or so residents in the room waiting to speak to us in-person via public testimony. There is time to question staff and get clarification on ordinances, history, data, and any specifics. Then the task is to converse with your other commission members and come up with some sort of...action.

But keep in mind that action has to be a recommendation to elected officials for their approval.

It's immediately clear that all these issues--everything--doesn't happen in a vacuum and even though the issue at hand is microscope-level "what do we want to do," it's tempting...maybe even required...to view things with a telescope to try to see the bigger picture. There's what you want to do. What the rest of the commissioners want. Weighed against the recommendation from municipal staff. Weighed against what you think is possible, probable, likely, unlikely. How many people will you piss off in either direction?

The longer I sat there last night, the more I was trying to develop a hierarchy in my head. I'll need it for the future when ranking safety versus convenience, right answers that will never happen versus okay answers that are achievable. Thank goodness it was, in one sense, an easy night. The commission was all in agreement, we largely agreed with the residents, and what we came up with was reasonably defensible in the bigger picture.

I wouldn't say I was unprepared. I had fun (is that applicable here?) and wasn't caught off guard by anything. But there was definitely some additional "weight" I wasn't expecting to have to lift. Good metaphor? As a representative of the town, you become the town. It reminds me of those old coaches and teachers who always remind all the students to be on best behavior because the public will associate what they see with the larger body. Some citizens last night actually thought we were the Board of Trustees!

The flip side is that I suddenly realized why things look the way they do to outsiders. You, citizen, have no real clue who I am yet you find yourself pleading your case to us over a decision that affects your daily life. All the uncollected leaves, potholes, high taxes, lines for parking stickers, and frustration over being on hold over the phone are right there underneath the surface as subtext.

We're having a conversation about, oh I dunno, chocolate. But really the conversation is also about fruit flies, orange juice, and how ugly you think your furniture is. Which I happen to be really good at! It's still disturbing though.

It's like one of those horrible "how many items can you hold in your memory at one time" tests. It's a lot to stuff in your brain and synthesize into something. Let alone something intelligible.

I'm looking forward to bees tonight. Bees are easier than people.

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