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Working Toward Consensus in RNA

Last September, the RNA held an informational meeting concerning the request for a liquor license for Jewel Osco (JO) on Capitol Drive. After discussion, the group empowered a committee to draft a position paper and a proposed covenant with JO. During the process of discussion, held on RNA e-mail, in small groups, and at subsequent monthly meetings, members of the group worked to present RNA as a party neutral on the position of whether or not JO received a liquor license, because this was the attitude of the people who attended the meetings on the issue. However, as recorded in the March Currents, the position paper did suggest ways JO could be a “good neighbor” by reducing the proposed square footage of the store, including Riverwest products in their store offerings, and making a real contribution to the welfare of the neighborhood through a grant to an existing AODA program. The JO representatives dealt with the group in good faith, and accepted RNA’s suggestions. The RNA members who worked on this process also did so in good faith. Many who could not be at the meetings weighed in on RNA e-mail and/or at small meetings, and their suggestions were incorporated. Others who saw those suggested changes had no problem with them. And at the meeting where the covenant and position paper were presented, consensus was reached. At the Utilities and License Board hearing on April 5, and again at the RNA meeting on April 16, a number of community residents came to voice their strong opposition to the liquor license. At both meetings, questions were raised about the validity of the RNA covenant, and the process by which it was reached. As a result of the April RNA meeting, there is a motion on the table to rescind the RNA covenant with Jewel Osco. However, since the RNA does not vote on a motion at the same meeting at which it is proposed, there has been a special meeting of the RNA called for May 7 (7 PM, Gordon Park Pavilion). The motion has been mailed to everyone on the RNA mailing list, and a discussion on e-mail and in small groups is in progress. It is important to remember that the RNA operates by consensus, not majority rule. So the goal of the May 7 meeting will be for the group to reach consensus on this issue. I believe it is important that the process of the RNA that created the covenant be respected. However, this does not imply that the voices of those who disagree should go unheard. Indeed, further action can be taken to reflect those voices, but that action needs to be determined by the group as it now exists. The question remains, however, whether the covenant should be rescinded, as is suggested by the motion currently under discussion. If Jewel Osco does not receive their liquor license, the point will be moot. However, if they do receive the license, the covenant will be the only tool the neighborhood has to exercise any control of the issue in the future. In addition, the implications of undoing something that has been done with the best process that the RNA has at its disposal must be examined very carefully. What does rescinding the covenant say about our ability to take a stand and stick to it? What does it say about our credibility? In order for the greatest number of voices to be heard from the RNA platform, it is imperative that we build on what we have said in the past, not deny it with every change of the wind. Let’s continue to build on our contribution to the public discussion. Disagreement is part of the process — let’s use it. –Jan Christensen Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 4 – May 2002