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I Owe Someone a Steak Dinner Regarding Mountain Accord

Last week I received a tip from a reader regarding the story on What is Consensus Decision Making. I said I would buy someone a steak dinner if they knew what consensus decision making meant with the Mountain Accord. In true Park Rag function, someone provided the Mountain Accord Charter almost immediately.

That said, I don’t think they necessarily disagreed with the point of the article which was “when they say consensus, it probably doesn’t mean what you think it means.” This is important because what Mountain Accord asks us to do is put our faith in consensus. Our leaders tell us that there are “Exit Ramps” but the problem is that as long as Mountain Accord exists in its current form, we are subject to the decisions of a few people.

So, according to the Mountain Accord Charter, here is the decision making process:

  • The Executive Board approves administrative decisions by a simple majority.
  • There are then milestone approvals. The document says, “Each milestone builds on the approval of the previous milestone, culminating in a final decision on a preferred scenario at the end of Phase I. Executive Board members agree not to re-visit milestone decisions…”
  • “The Executive Board will make substantive (non-administrative) decisions, including approvals at milestones, through a consensus-based process.”

Then let’s dive a little deeper into the defined consensus based decision process. I’ll cut and paste the highlights from the charter:

“A consensus-based process builds trust, encourages sharing of information, and provides an environment for collaborative problem solving. Consensus does not mean that everyone will be equally satisfied with the decision; rather, it means that the best decision was made given the agreed-upon process, stakeholders, and timeframe.”

On each issue, Executive Board members may indicate the “following levels of support”:

  • Concurrence
  • Concurrence with minor point of contention
  • Consent to move forward with but disagree with outcome
  • Waiver
  • Dissent
  • Indecision until more information is provided

The charter continues, “Consensus is not reached if any Board members indicate indecision or dissent.” If there is any dissent or indecision, a consensus is not reached. So, what happens then? The program manager (Laynee Jones) can perform some procedural actions (like have them write down why they dissented). Then the program manager can have the executive board perform an administrative vote, which requires a simple majority.

So, who is on that Executive board (as of the charter formation):

Person Organization
Mayor Ben McAdams, Chair Salt Lake County
Council Mmbr Chris Robinson, Vice-Chair Summit County
Mayor Ralph Becker Salt Lake City
Council Member Andy Beerman Park City
Council Member Steve Capson Wasatch County
Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore Cottonwood Heights
Mayor Tom Dolan Sandy City
Mayor Tom Pollard Town of Alta
Michael Allegra UTA
Andrew Gruber Wasatch Front Regional Council
Mike Wilson Metropolitan Water District
Nathan Lee UDOT
Gov. Gary Herbert/ Alan Matheson State of Utah
Representative Johnny Anderson Utah Legislature
Representative Brad Dee Utah Legislature
President Wayne Niederhauser Utah Legislature
Linda Gehrke Federal Transit Administration
Ivan Marrero Federal Highway Administration
Dave Whittekiend/ Cathy Kahlow US Forest Service
Lane Beattie/ Justin Jones Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce
Carl Fisher Save our Canyons
Peter Metcalf Outdoor Industry Association
Nathan Rafferty Ski Industry (Ski Utah)

So for any option, you really need half of the board to vote yes. If you get 66% of the board to vote for something then you have what George Orwell Mountain Accord calls “Newspeak” “A Near Consensus Decision.”

There you have it. Thanks to an anonymous tipster I now understand the decision process. That said, I wouldn’t say I feel better. Do you think getting half of the above people to make a decision unliked by Summit County residents would be hard?

I’ll save my opinion for the next post.

h/t to the anonymous person who provided this info.


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