Sunday, November 15, 2015

Serious People Grappling with a Serious Issue

On Saturday morning I attended a planning retreat sponsored by the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC).  The goals of the retreat were to review service and funding challenges. 
First, some background. PRTC provides commuter bus service.  PRTC is a multi-jurisdictional agency representing Prince William, Stafford and Spotsylvania Counties and the Cities of Manassas, Manassas Park and Fredericksburg. 
I will not bore you with details of the objectives, but rather discuss the process and the participants.  
Approximately 45 people attended the retreat.  Attendees included local elected officials, state elected officials, PRTC board members and alternates, PRTC staff, and several other people from various stakeholder organizations.  In addition, five speakers from the pubic and private sectors were invited to offer local and regional observations.  
One key component is the PRTC staff retained a team of professional facilitators.  As one of the five speakers, I appreciated that the facilitators drafted my PowerPoint and requested a pre-discussion to gain my perspective.  Based on our discussion, the PowerPoint in another section was revised.  In fact, I believe I saw the 4th draft of the PowerPoint used during the retreat.  The background materials sent out a week before were very helpful. The agenda was clear, complete with time allocations per session.  The list of attendees was broken down so you could tell who was who and with which organization. You could tell considerable time and resources were expended for this retreat.  
It is what happen after the five speakers presented that truly impressed me.  The elected officials were engaged. Other participants offered suggestions and questions.  The facilitator and the PRTC chair kept the group on track and equally important, on time.  My sense was these people were serious about the problems and serious about the potential solutions.  
Often times I hear constant and uniformed complaints from people who do not vote or rarely participate in the government process. They complain about the service, the cost, the delivery, the resource allocation, etc.  You probably experienced it too.  
On this day, 45 people gave up their Saturday morning to learn, exchange ideas, discuss, and hopefully resolve several complex challenges.  As a group, they listened, they took notes, they asked, they commented, they offered ideas.  And at the end, agreed to do this again. 

This is how government improves.  Good people (elected officials, private sector and stakeholders) seeking viable solutions.  Consider it the "blocking and tackling" of good government. It is often unseen and seldom noted. But it makes a difference on so many levels. 

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