I've come up with a classification for the origin of civic disagreements, at least for the good faith disagreements. Other disagreements have an origin in deception and manipulation and I don't include those here.
I've seen disagreements because of the following:
1. Different Facts. Citizens who disagree may do so because they have different knowledge of the situation. This is the easiest to resolve if all parties are working in good faith.
2. Analytical Differences. Citizens can disagree because they come to different conclusions about how different processes or alternatives will turn out. This is the most interesting root of disagreements. These require respectful inquiry and testing of ideas to be conducted in order for all those involved to be satisfied that the analysis is sound and complete. It also requires all citizens to be open to the evaluation of all the relevant outcomes.
Some citizens see the evaluation of certain outcomes as counter to their personal values, but doing the analysis is not the same as making the final decision. It is my opinion that we should not incorporate value judgments directly into the analytics and the selection of what to study is part of the analytical process. This is where we get to the third origin.
3. Different Values. Judgments based on values are going to differ in a diverse, independent-minded, and thoughtful community. We see this all the time in Encinitas. At the project level, it is clear to me that engaging in disagreements based in value judgments are only useful for developing understanding. I've not seen people engage in successful persuasion (at the project level) that changed what others' valued. It is just the opposite. People end up getting very emotional and polarized when exposed to people who have different value judgments on a project AND the groups try to change each other's value systems.
Most of the time residents of Encinitas can be very tolerant and respectful of others. We can find unfortunate exceptions here on this blog.
I found a similar classification system and some things to do to clear up the disagreements at makingitclear.com . Here is the alternate classification:
Why Do We Disagree?
What one person wants to accomplish is different than what the other person wants.
They may agree on the objective, but they have differing opinions on the best way to achieve the objective.
They may agree on both the objective and the method, but they don’t realize it. They keep arguing, and because of miscommunication they each get the impression that the other person disagrees.
They may agree on the objective and the method, and they may even understand that they agree on these things. But they choose to disagree anyway (or at least one of them does). There are a lot of possible emotional reasons: everything from distrust, dislike and hate, to embarrassment, fear, peer pressure, face-saving or just a steadfast commitment to a prior position.
Relation to the Streetscape Project
I met with planning staff a couple weeks ago to review the project and ask some questions. I still have some questions that have not been answered. Mostly, I was interested in the process.
As was conveyed to me, the workshops have not been designed to develop a set of alternatives and a catalog of their characteristics, so that the public and the council can pit each alternative up against each other. They could then weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each alternative. Instead, the process is working toward the selection of a single "consensus" plan. It was not clear what defines and who decides whether a particular plan has a consensus behind it.
It was also made clear that not having a single consensus plan could jeopardize the progression of the streetscape project. I think this might be why some community members and blog commenters or so upset by anyone who is against (or questions) the leading alternative.
I support a streetscape as do most Leucadians and I hope that we don't let the process devolve into a "my way or the highway" scenario.