2017 Dialogue #1: Setting the Agenda

Facilitator Sukhsimranjit Singh opened the city’s first tenant-landlord facilitated dialogue on Monday with three requests: be respectful, speak up, and listen. It acknowledged the divisions among tenants and landlords that have emerged once the city revised the rent stabilization ordinance in January of 2017. While the goal is enhanced communication the objective for this session was to set the agenda.

“Today I want to hear you and for you to hear each other,” Professor Sukhsimranjit Singh said. “I want you to work together on what is bothering you the most.” This dialogue came at the suggestion of the former Mayor John Mirisch and with the full support of current Mayor Lili Bosse who attended. “We want to hear from everybody,” she’s said.

If you have experience with facilitated community dialogues, you could have expected a round of introductions and a structured process to help participants move from generalities to specifics, where the hard work of forging consensus must be done.

This was not that kind of exercise. The session included no introductions and proceeded with no discernible structure. After an extended memory-building exercise (purpose unexplained), facilitator Singh got down to business.

enumerating our concerns at the table

Once Professor Singh had us move on to the presentations the discussion picked up steam. But it took on a cast that would be familiar to anyone who watched City Council wrestle with public comment this spring: a litany of concerns fills the air. One speaker gave an extended disquisition on business competition (but this time he spared us detailed arithmetic). Some tables had five or ten concerns; one table had nearly twenty.

Professor Singh helpfully (if summarily) grouped all of our “bothersome” concerns into five issue areas:

  • The allowable rent increase
  • Notice of termination
  • Relocation fees
  • Communication
  • The rental unit registry

When a speaker observed that a tenant does not enjoy the same power as does the landlord, his concern was added as issue #6: the power imbalance.

This Monday session was the easiest of baby steps in the dialogues: enumerating our concerns. We urge you to bring your concerns to dialogue #2 on Wednesday, July 12th at 7 p.m. at Roxbury Park. Sit close to the refreshments and (word to the wise) bring your own coffee cream: the city only provides the powered stuff!