Whatever Happened to Consensus?

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An Editorial by Dave Freneaux

    Looking back over the months and years since Central became a city, I see either complete agreement or distinct division.  On most of the really important issues the people of Central seem united.  We want the best education for our children.  We want good jobs for all of our citizens.  We want to feel safe on our streets and in our homes.  We are not real excited about taxes, but then again who is?

    On other issues that impact our community, but are less global in nature, there seems to be a recurring practice of “taking sides”.  While that practice likely starts from the grass roots and works its way up, it certainly manifests itself most obviously in our most visible public forums of City Council and School Board meetings.  Let me stipulate that most issues that come before these groups seem to be passed by unanimous vote.  But, in many cases over the past few years it seemed you almost knew before discussion of the item began that the vote would be 3-2 or 5-2, one way or another.  I’m not saying that is wrong, only that it has become predictable.

    Public comment during these meetings seems divided along similar lines.  After attending a few meetings it is again fairly predictable that certain individuals and groups will take one side or another of the issue, usually supporting the stance of the same Council or Board Members.  I refer to them as groups, because those likely to side together on an issue also seem to sit together at these meetings.  Again, I’m not saying that this is wrong, only predictable.

    So my question is this:  Whatever happened to consensus?  I know that consensus is not always possible, or even desirable, but recently it seems like consensus is often not even a consideration.  It is likely in a 3-2 vote that 40% of the people will be 100% dissatisfied.  In compromising to find consensus it is entirely possible that 100% of the people will be 80% satisfied.  I will choose 100 somewhat satisfied people over 40 completely irate people every time.  I do not advocate compromise to find consensus in every situation, but I do encourage both citizens and elected officials to at least be mindful of the possibility of finding consensus.


  1. Miek mannino

    July 7, 2011 at 7:54 am

    Very similar to whats happening across this country. As a keen observer of Politics across the board, I have seen it in all elections but those where you have extreme radials running against more mainstream candidates. However, one trend that has not been evident until very recently, is the hard, fast position that both sides are taking. The debt ceiling discussion is a good example. The republicans have dug their heels in saying no tax increase associated with an agreement to cut spending, where the democrats insist that any cuts also have tax increases associated with them. Thats fairly clear but then the retoric kicks in. Dems claim the repubs are going to throw grandma out in the street which is ridiculous. the repubs rightly claim we cant keep spending money we dont have. So you see, we are following the same pattern. I will say that there are some areas out here that compromise can be found, and others that there is no middle ground. Till we can learn to work together, better to focus on the less controversial issues.

  2. Kim Fralick

    July 7, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Has consensus ever really existed?

  3. Mike Mannino

    July 7, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Well Kim I guess it depends on teh definition. Generally at work on many projects I have been involved in, it doesnt necessarily mean everybody agrees, but when we walk out the meeting, we all are aligned on a path forward. As far as ever getting 100% agreement on everything, not going to happen. The best we can hope for is that we have leaders that can find solutions for problems that we may not all agree with, but we can live with it. Right now, we have 2 camps that are polar opposites on most things all because of different phlosophys.

  4. Mia

    July 8, 2011 at 7:36 am

    I believe consensus existed when everyone but a few conscientious objectors were pulling together to create this city and school. There was a spirit of excitement, positiveness, and hope, plus the energy of creation. It is hard to maintain that enthusiasm when people entrench themselves. They no longer seek unity of vision, but to further personal agendas. We need to return to that same “let’s pull together and get it done” mentality that accomplished so much. I will add that (in my opinion) the constant negativity and fault finding is only destructive and accomplishes nothing. If I want to change a system, I must be willing to participate in it and work for that change. If I have an issue with someone’s politics, I must be willing to go to that person and express my views respectfully. It takes energy and work to create, laziness and apathy to destroy.

  5. Mike Mannino

    July 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Mia I agree with you to a point. The lets pull together and get it done part only works for those goals that we agree on, which there are some. We should work on those first so we can learn to work as a team. Instead, we seem to be working the most contentous items first and we are getting nowhere. Name one thing besides the City Services contract that has moved in a positive direction since the election. And most had to be drug kicking and screaming to make that improvement. We need to set and agenda through a five year plan so people can clearly see what the administrations plans are. Instead we see very volatile issues popping up from nowhere. And finally, we have a clear difference of phlosophy out here. to develop or to not develop ? That is the question. The answer will determine who stays and who goes in the next 10 years as a clearly there is a segment in Central that does not want to grow..

  6. Kyle

    July 8, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    I have stayed off of this site for a while because it seemed pointless. The same 2 or 3 people arguing and bickering over anything and everything, whether its economic development, central high coaches, drug testing at the schools, BREC, CAYL, or you name it. Seems anytime the city or school system tries to move forward with something positive, some 2 or 3 people try to portray it as bad and create an uproar. How many of the complainers on here have gone to City Hall or the School Board office and volunteered for something? How many of the complainers have gone to City Hall or called their councilman asking to start a new volunteer program or activity in the city? How many of you have volunteered in the schools? How many of you have offered to help clean up litter on the sides of the roads with some of the other volunteers to keep Central beautiful? How many of you helped with Cooking in Central? If you have done this, please state your name and what you have done. Otherwise, quit griping! A lot of people are tired of hearing it! I can understand complaining about one or two issues, but some people seem to complain about EVERYTHING. Mia, you made some good points.

  7. Mike Mannino

    July 8, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    Kyle a simple statistical analysis will tell you why people complain about everything. BECAUSE THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH DANG NEAR EVERTHING GOING ON OUT HERE !!!

    Kyle buddy if you cant see we are starting to look like the definition of incompentence out here, you are not paying even a small amount of attention. Is it better to go along with everything to have peace and in the process, let the city go down the drain, or is it better to call these clowns out everytime they make a bad decision until we can get some compentent people in ? I know what im going to do because some of this cant be undone !

  8. Mia

    July 9, 2011 at 6:37 am

    I know this much. The shining star in Central’s crown is it’s school system. The biggest reason we are a city was to be able to have our own school system. The huge majority of our city showed the rest of the world that education was our top priority when they voted to pass an historic tax for the sake of supporting our school system. Now it is reality, and growing by hundreds of students each year because anyone who wants good public school education for their children knows they can find it in Central. All well and good, but there are buildings to maintain, programs to continually be implemented, and teacher raises that MUST be given so that we can continue to have the best faculties, and a retirement fund to support. All of this requires money. Central does not have the Georgia Pacific Zachary does, nor the Dow Chemical Plaquemine does, nor the much larger tax base EBRP does. Where is this money going to come from? The small businesses that exist in Central are giving all they can, to their everlasting credit. The middle class citizens ditto. We must bring business into Central or we will not be able to sustain the very thing we have put years of effort into creating. What is YOUR solution to this, if not economic development?

  9. Alton R Ashford

    July 9, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Well stated Mia! Please post your thoughts more often.

  10. Mike Mannino

    July 9, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Mia posted elsewhere on my solution but most of you dont want to hear it. You recognize the problem so you must reasonably see that we cant keep adding to it. Some business’s to keep the tax base here and supply things we drive to town for, I dont have much of a problem with. Continung to add housing that makes the problem larger, absolutely not because we are already playing catch up. I think its a fairly simple solution. Problem right now is this administration is setting the next one up for failure because its going to get dumped on a new group.

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