CAMBRIDGE — Two projects of major impact on the City of Cambridge, Sailwinds and Gateway, are in the hands of the five city commissioners who comprise the council. Two of the commissioners, Robert Hanson and Donald Sydnor, and Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley, have experience on the council and they have already confronted controversies surrounding the planning involved. The other three, LaShon Foster, Stephen Rideout, and David Cannon, are newly-elected, and have not been party to the previous council discussions on progress or lack of progress.
To effectively get through the massive task of handling these and other matters, the council must be a strong cohesive unit. To achieve that end and recognizing that the mayor and commissioners represent different styles and priorities, City Manager Sandra Tripp Jones scheduled two mornings of work sessions for team building and afternoon sessions to bring everyone up-to-date on Sailwinds.
On day one, Thursday, David G. Jones, Ph.D. of Sentient Systems, Inc. led the commissioners through interpersonal behavioral styles ... with two major variables, “Expressiveness and Assertiveness.” Plotting your own style of behavior on a graph, you could determine whether you were more competitive or its opposite, more supportive. You could discover if you were an eager risk-taker, or slower to take risks. You analyzed yourself and discovered your style in interpersonal relations. You also could improve your communication skills with dos and don’ts in communicating with people whose styles differed from yours. With one person, you might concentrate on the people aspect; with another, get down to business quickly. You also learned how to anticipate the reaction to stress of different personality types. The constructive exercise will be useful in discussions when commissioners have points to make and try to be persuasive. Everyone seemed to see value in the flexibility guides that helped open up understanding.
Morning two (Friday), brought a different kind of activity, a look at political values. With a set of color-coded cards created by City Manager Sandra Tripp-Jones, the mayor and commissioners were able to categorize their own values and beliefs in style of governing: Efficiency, Individual Rights, Representation, and Equity.
As an example, the issue of employee pay raises was applied to the different belief systems: Do you give the same percentage raise across the board or do you give consideration to the lower paid? It was clear that beliefs and values will influence decisions. A discussion with an understanding of your values differing from someone else’s will make for more respectful and probably more successful negotiation.
The afternoon sessions on both days focused on Sailwinds. The City Manager outlined the history of Sailwinds and where we are now on day one. The next day, the group re-examined the next steps: producing a market study, an RFP, which is a document to go to developers, a criterion for developers’ qualifications, and a priority list of what the people of Cambridge want. First task, set a schedule.
What emerged from the work sessions is that council appears open-minded, took the exercises in the work session seriously and found them enlightening. Good. There’s much work to do.