What Motivates People to Take Action?

So, I read in the “Peachland Matters” Facebook page that some people are upset that council may be planning to change things in town in a way that they don't like. Where have we heard this before?

I've only been here for four years, but I'm definitely seeing a pattern. On the one side, there are people who can't stand any change at all, and at the other end of the spectrum there are people who support all changes no matter what they are. There doesn't seem to be a reasoned middle ground.

What appears to be happening is that the group, who don't want change, immediately start voicing their displeasure on the Facebook groups and among their friends and relatives. Then, the people who support the changes turn around and take pot shots (in a literary sense) at those who are freaking out at the possibility for change. Do you see the problem here?

The latter group is often supported by the local paper, that appears to suffer the illusion that the use of rhetoric is a bad thing. Any speech that doesn't fit their progressive agenda, and which appears to be effectively reaching readers – is deemed to be “Rhetoric”. The term ‘rhetoric' is used as a vilification of the none-progressive argument. [If you want to truly understand the nature and value of rhetoric, I suggest studying Plato and Aristotle – whose writings were skilled examples of the proper use of rhetoric]

I think that council needs to go back and read Nicolo Machiavelli's book “The Prince” – circa 1513 – and then adjust their strategy accordingly. Not all change is bad, but any change that is put forward without the proper framework will be doomed from the beginning. It is not that the councilors are less than competent. They are not. I'm certain that they do want what best for Peachland generally, but they lack the training for framing a project.

I've seen this issue since the very first day I moved to Peachland. And it is, by no means, unique to Peachland. Many other towns and municipalities suffer the same administrative dysfunction.

If we don't change our approach here in Peachland, we will keep on fighting every single issue one battle at a time. This is hard on both the council and the citizens of the town. If forces citizens to focus only upon the negative aspects of running the town, and it forces council to be less than fully favorable about transparency in order to get any project off the ground at all! The formula as it stands now is set up to create “winners” and “losers”. This is wrong minded, and we need to change it.

The Mayor needs to establish a “Citizens Review Board” (CRB) with the responsibility to review all administrative data aspects of any given proposal. There needs to be full transparency. The CRB must be supported by both council and key Peachland Staff. The CRB would have no legal empowerment and could not exercise authority over anyone or anything. The only role for the CRB is to gather data, analyze that data and then develop a comprehensive framework and recommendations for the mayor. The CRB would report only to the mayor. No councilors would be on the CRB at all.

Some persons might say that this is already the role of Peachland staff. But the fatal flaw in that analysis is that Peachland staff don't represent the people of Peachland. They have no “skin in the game.” They are employees, and some of them see the council and mayor as a transient body that is subject to frequent change.

A Committee such as the CRB would serve multiple functions. It would tend to buffer public knee-jerk reaction, and at the same time provide a more comprehensive understanding of intricacies of any given project. It would reduce the chance that any given developer could seek to exercise undue influence over council.

The CRB would serve at the pleasure of the Mayor, and needs strong leadership that understands the nature of dynamic change, as well as the nature of social and community based interest groups. Part of the role of the CRB might include educating all persons about the nature and role of running democratic institutions. We won't all get what we want, but we will arrive at the best possible decision in respect to the citizenry at large.

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About the Author: N. Walsh

Nick is a retired research analyst with over 35 years dealing with community advocacy, labor arbitration, consultancy, administration, managerial effectiveness, and corporate activism.