Scenario 4: Implementation of Informally Negotiated Agreements or Settlements - Applying Deliberative Democracy to Practice

author: Daniel Yankelovich
coauthor: Joshua Cohen, Stanford University
coauthor: Susan Sherry
recorded by: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
published: April 24, 2012,   recorded: July 2005,   views: 2223
released under terms of: Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike (CC-BY-NC-SA)
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Description

A neighborhood effort to involve local residents in overseeing a "brownfields redevelopment" program is just wrapping up. Federal and state funds, as well as substantial private investment, will be allocated to help clean up an abandoned contaminated site based on the clean-up agreement reached through a mediated dialogue. The plan answers the question “How clean is clean?" and spells out the proposed design of new housing, commercial and recreational facilities to be developed on the site. A consensus building process -- preceded by a credible conflict assessment -- generated a written consensus among the more than 30 participants in the process. Right before the group presents its final recommendations to the city council, however, a new neighborhood group appears claiming that it has been left out, that it had tried unsuccessfully to convince the advisory group to modify its proposals, and it is seeking a promise from the city council that the advisory group's proposal will not be accepted.

The focus is on the legitimacy of consensus building promises and the conditions under which that legitimacy might be established or rightly contested. If the relevant agency gave tacit approval to the process (and assigned technical staff to attend), on what basis can it or should it ignore the consensus developed over many months through a completely transparent process? Would a non-binding referendum on the proposed plan “solve” this problem?

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