Monday 5 July 2021

The 6 Big Concepts

 5 July 2021:

What a Concept! 

or Do We Really Need Six Big Ones? 

            The latest offering from the OCP Review Project Team is Six Big Concepts.  

What is a concept?  Concepts are defined as abstract ideas or general notions that occur in the mind, in speech, or in thought.” – Wikipedia. 

To assess the use of Concepts in this OCP Review, let's look at the "usual" OCP Review workflow.  Logically, that process could contain the following tasks, utilizing input from residents where appropriate, in order: 

1.      Plan the OCP review process

2.      review the Vision Statement

3.      review the main OCP components

4.      screen for items that are out of date, legally nonconforming, missing or otherwise require updating

5.      define all the OCP topics that need to be addressed

6.      with public input, devise policies and/or solutions for these topics/problems.  These would be fairly detailed and marked by their quantitative and qualitative dimensions

7.      translate those solutions into 1-3 scenarios or Concepts that would provide a text and graphic summary for each solution.  These would be more graphical than detailed but can convey a vision or a concept to the residents.  Through public engagement, one of the concepts would be selected as a vehicle for the particular solution required.

8.      The chosen solutions would be incorporated into the draft OCP document for further review by the residents and Council.

The important point to note is that any one Concept is not in itself a solution, but merely a representation of it primarily in graphical or spatial terms.  It is a translating tool for the residents so that they can better envision the application of any particular solution. 

In our case, the Concepts are presented in Step 7.  However, since the earlier steps are only lightly treated or missing, those Concepts do not rest upon the focused and detailed solutions that would normally arise from Step 6, which would in turn spring from the problem definitions of Step 5. 

The result is very confusing to the residents and Councillors like.  The Six Big Concepts loomed up unexpectedly on May 19, having the appearance of solutions but with little hint of the problems that they purport to solve.  The expected rationale for them, normally generated by Steps 5 and 6 has not been presented so the Concepts float untethered. 

In addition, while the 6BC were presented to the residents through a Zoom meeting and a series of public pop-up sessions, they will not be formally presented to Mayor and Council until 12 July 2021.  Only then, will Council receive an explanation for the 6BC and the rationale for how they were chosen.  Note that although the residents have received a presentation of these Concepts, it has also been without the rationale for their genesis. 

Furthermore, this contorted path does not appear to support the Project’s commitment to the IAP2 Spectrum regarding public participation, which was made in the formative Staff Reports. 

So, as the residents' attempt to process the sudden, and unexplained, appearance of the 6 BC, they grow increasingly more anxious and frustrated with the details as they perceive them.   Then the Mayor and Council become the recipients of a wide range of negative comments for which they are ill-prepared to respond, having had no formal briefing about the Six Big Concepts or how they were generated. 

To try bringing all this complexity into focus, let us summarize: 

§  The Six Big Concepts have the appearance of solutions

§  but they lack the underlying problem definition and necessary solution detail

§  they are presented to the residents without any underlying rationale for their creation

§  they are not presented to Council at all until July 12

§  but in the meantime, the residents are holding Council accountable for all the problems and inconsistencies that are generated by the 6BC

§  the result is a wholly unnecessary spike in the emotional temperature in the District and a great array of misunderstandings that Council has been unexpectedly forced to cope with on an ad hoc basis

What options does Council face on 12 July?  That will be highly dependent upon the contents of the Staff Report available on 5 July.  Presumably, it will retroactively pour a foundation under the highly disliked 6BC in an attempt to make them appear to be real solutions to previously undefined problems.  Judging by the public feedback to date, that exercise will have little chance of success - it is difficult to imagine any array of reasons that will be seen as plausible by the residents. 

Given the low likelihood that life support for the 6BC will be continued, or even offered, Council will need to consider pausing the exercise and choosing a new path.  In so doing, it would be prudent to assess the existing deliverables and retain as many of them as possible.  Unfortunately, the 6BC, untethered as they are to any documented problems or detailed solutions, offer little substance going forward.  On top of which, public sentiment against them has grown to significant proportions, not without reason.  The social licence for this experiment likely will have all but expired before it has even been formally assessed. 

In my view, Council has only one choice but it is a very difficult one to make.  We and they must remember that this Review Plan was one that they approved when offered by Staff.

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