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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Think directly about the charter

Two ways to evaluate decisions

We use two processes to form opinions and make decisions: “below conscious” thinking and direct thinking. (Thinking Fast and Slow) They are each best for different types of decisions.

Our brains are very effective at acquiring information about our immediate environment – often called situational awareness – and processing it subconsciously. We “sense” or “feel” that a decision to change lanes to avoid a collision is the best choice and apply it instantly, saving our life. The “feelingsmethod of forming an opinion works great in this situation. 

Fast answers but may be distorted

If we use below consciousness thinking proximity may color our opinions. For example, if something bad happened when a friend took a medicine, we (emotionally) overrate its dangers. Decisions about medical care are better made with deliberate, direct thinking.

Another example, used by Alex Lickerman  M.D. in a July 18 post, is seeing the story about an airplane crash and “sensing” the risk of riding in the plane we’re boarding as much higher than it really is.

Our emotions, coming from subconscious processing, aren't too useful for evaluating the safety of a cardiac catheterization procedure or a plane ride. They aren't helpful for choosing a city, a house, or even an insurance policy. Those decisions call for deliberate, or direct thinking.

Their situation isn't what we're facing

Similarly, we can think about Newport Beach growing its infrastructure while remaining solvent as they operate under their charter. Or we can remember the hysterical warning by organized labor – “Bell had a Charter and its City Council was corrupt.” Such thinking may make us feel enthusiastic or fearful.  Neither situation is relevant to Costa Mesa, though. Our charter requires direct, logical thinking -- about Costa Mesa's needs.

Make it good, make it bad . . .

The City’s charter will be as good or bad as the Charter Committee chooses. If it follows its charge from the City Council, it will be the best charter thirteen Costa Mesa citizens can write. If the committee expends its time thwarting rational debate, it will be a debacle.

Dishonest and sneaky -- them and us

Bell had dishonest and sneaky Council members and an uninvolved population. Does that make it likely that involved Costa Mesans, under our transparency laws, will allow Council members to give our money to their friends? If CM4OE sends us a postcard showing some Mafioso-looking actors sitting around a table holding unlighted cigars, will that make the folks we elected to Council dishonest and sneaky?  Of course not.

But sneaky and dishonest CM4OE can prevent the Citizens from having a good charter to choose or reject. They just have to encourage “feeling” instead of thinkingexactly the wrong way to use our brains in this decision.

Sneaky and dishonorable should not trump the rights of Costa Mesa citizens to the best charter the committee can write. Regardless of how many feelings and concerns the committee identifies, discusses and processes, they’re charged to write the best charter they can

But start making it real

They need to start doing that.

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