I had the opportunity to spend a day at the Vacant Properties conference late last month which, if you’re not familiar with the “movement,” you should be. Granted it’s not for everyone. At the opening plenary session, the moderator asked “who is here from a weak market city?” A room full of hands went up with a collective giggle. It felt like an AA meeting for cities. Admitting you have a problem is the first step toward addressing it.
We all saw it on the Internet—the fellow at a public meeting being hauled away from the microphone before getting wrestled to the floor and tasered during a Q&A with John Kerry. Fortunately, silencing argumentative speakers with a taser is not a common occurrence at most public meetings. While I might confess that there have been meetings where, in retrospect, one might have secretly wished one was armed with a stun gun, facilitators generally try to avoid confrontation. Yet there’s no denying that sometimes people show up at public meetings looking for a fight, begging for outrage, and hoping to irritate and inflame.