Risky Business

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Ever wonder how your elected officials determine: spending on a new school bus vs. a new crossing guard? Creating a one-way street vs. one-side parking only? Or where you can get help with a special need?

Local politics, in villages, towns, and cities, can be riddled with frustration and anger over decisions made for everyone by the few. That’s politics. But disagreements can have root causes, like poor communication and a lack of factual information and transparency.

Misunderstandings are theoretically avoidable, all it takes is recognition of the facts, good listening skills, and an ability to look at and express the issues in a coherent way. Simple. Of course, in reality, avoiding misunderstandings is not so easy. And selecting one set of facts over another based on the loudest voice in the room can produce misguided results. That is one reason we have structured meetings, things like rules of order and voting procedures, and why communities should adopt risk management.

On a personal level risk is how we see what can threatens us, our safety, our well-being. On a community level, risk and risk management looks at loss compared with gains when assessing a proposal. And who better to address community risk management issues than those elected or appointed to oversight positions.

Effective management should bring representatives from all departments together for regular meetings in order to review significant issues. This helps to assure all departments have the opportunity to express any concerns regardless of their defined areas of responsibility. And this process should extend beyond the walls of the trustee board room to include local citizens because citizens have complaints and suggestions that can and should be responded to with the same diligence due any government responsibility.
Assessment method

1. Clearly describe the issue being considered: create a narrative.
2. List the factors, the parts that make up the issue. These may be concerns that immediately come to mind, or just basic characteristics that can be modified as a review proceeds.
3. Indicate each factor’s potential for benefit or gain and the potential to cause harm or loss – the risk factors.
4. Compare gains and losses and select the outcome that produces the greatest gain and the least loss.

Generally speaking, the assessment of risk is comprised of two things: the degree of harm or loss that may occur, and the likelihood of that harm occurring. Risk factors are the specific things that the risk is made of: if crossing the street is the risk being assessed, where you cross, and the number and speed of vehicles, are the risk factors.

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