From the Tallahassee Democrat, Friday March 28, by Karl Etters: (Photo credit: Amanda Rodriguez, Leon County)
In the pub-centric style of town hall gatherings in the 1700s, Tallahassee-area residents, dubbed The Club of Honest Citizens, met Thursday night to discuss issues that affect the capital city.
But there were no powdered wigs or declarations, just a host of ideas on how to better the community based on four topics — economic development, library services, growth and health care with the theme “What is the proper role of government?”
Part of a formal partnership between the Village Square and the Leon County Commission, the first of three meetings is meant to be a place for open social discourse and engagement about the community.
Village Square Executive Director Liz Joyner said the old way of civil engagement surrounding formal meetings needed a revamp and a more positive way to bring people who differ together.
From the Tallahassee Democrat editorial board:
“In the hubbub over the mute button with which the mayor can silence citizens speaking at City Commission meetings, there is a point that may be overlooked: Citizens should feel engaged with their government long before arguing over who has control of a microphone.
“That’s why city and county commissioners, as well as other officials, take part in the town hall forums and “Speed Date Your Local Leaders” events sponsored by The Village Square. It’s why the county offered its Citizen Engagement Series in 2012 and 2013. And it’s why the county and The Village Square now are teaming up for a new series called “The Club of Honest Citizens.”
Morality is the theme for Tuesday, April 8th program “7 Deadly Sins” – political corruption is one of the topics. To learn more or to reserve your seat CLICK HERE.
Editor Lenore Devore thinks reporters should look at the wheat to be found in public records, and not the chaff of press releases peddled by taxpayer-supported ministers of disinformation.
So when the Lakeland Police Department’s “public information officer” stonewalled a young police reporter looking to flesh out details of a local shooting, Devore did what good editors do. She refused to let her newsroom take “no” for an answer.
That was in the fall of 2012, when the community and its newspaper had high hopes for Lakeland’s new police chief, Lisa Womack. But Womack quickly proved to be Lakeland’s worst enemy, and her own, as The Ledger uncovered instances of the Department falsely claiming that records did not exist or could not be found, Womack candidly if stupidly admitted she plays a “cat-and-mouse” game with the press regarding Florida’s hundred-plus-year-old public records law.
The State Attorney asked the grand jury to take a look, and The Ledger took the unusual step of allowing Devore and five of her reporters to testify under oath and behind closed doors. Journalists usually resist being “part of the story,” and for good reason. A newspaper’s credibility rests entirely upon the public’s belief that the newsroom is working for readers, and not for the powers that be.
But The Ledger didn’t report anything to the grand jury that it had not already reported to its readers.
The grand jury issued a scathing report, expressing doubt as to Womack’s fitness to serve as police chief given her hostility toward her legal duty of candor with the press and public. The report remained secret for 10 months, as the city fought tooth-and-taxpayer dollar to keep it secret.
Meanwhile, honest people who knew things and trusted their newspaper to report them began to come out of the woodwork. The more The Ledger dug, the more “new sources provided information from right under the chief’s nose,” said Devore.
The Ledger’s front page was awash in stories of sex scandal cover-ups by higher-ups. A police captain, a city human resources chief, and 28 others were fired or forced to resign. There were reports of frat-boy “bra searches” designed to frighten and humiliate rather than to serve and protect.
One officer was arrested on charges of sexual battery and stalking. Another officer admitted to requiring DUI suspects to sign forms he had not yet filled out. The State Attorney was forced to drop dozens of that officer’s cases, and later concluded that “public safety is at risk in Lakeland.”
A year after The Ledger wrote its first story detailing problems with public records at the police department, the city lost its $220,000 fight to keep the grand jury report secret. A month later, the police chief resigned.
Lakeland’s credibility is in a mighty big hole, but the city fathers won’t stop digging. And neither will The Ledger, which recently reported that the city secretly hired a public relations firm and paid it $130,000 for fruitless and futile damage control. You don’t have to live and pay taxes in Lakeland to appreciate this kind of dogged, persistent, meat-and-potatoes local reporting. Every community deserves an editor like Devore, but far too few communities have one.
Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Photo Credit: Lakeland Local)
Forget about matchmaking: Thursday’s “Speed Date Your Local Leaders” event gave residents face time with some of Tallahassee’s most powerful leaders over pizza and cold drinks.
A bell dinged every seven minutes, signaling a table change for leaders. The setup — one table, one leader, seven citizens and seven minutes of civil conversation — created a low-key dialogue at St. John’s Episcopal Church downtown.
The free event was sponsored by The Village Square and Leadership Tallahassee. Last year, the unique concept attracted roughly 60 attendees. This year, coordinators were forced to cap registration at 120 people.
Read the entire article online at Tallahassee.com.
From today’s Tallahassee Democrat editorial:
How often have you wished for a few minutes with Tallahassee’s community leaders, to share an opinion, offer a suggestion or even learn more about them? Sure, you see them at community events, fundraisers or in the supermarket, but that’s not real access.
You get your chance tonight in “Speed Date Your Local Leaders” from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 211 N. Monroe St. It’s the second year for the event, which earned Tallahassee national exposure last year for its originality. This free event, sponsored by Leadership Tallahassee and The Village Square, follows the town hall forum earlier this month.
Read the rest of the editorial online at Tallahassee.com.
Usually, it’s not until there’s some crisis like a rezoning issue, a fee-increase proposal or a looming decision affecting canopy roads or recreation.
And in how many of those cases did you help set the agenda?
Well, you get your chance Thursday night by participating in The Village Square’s “Our Town” forum co-sponsored by the Tallahassee Democrat and Leadership Tallahassee. It runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 211 N. Monroe St. There still are seats available, so go to http://tothevillagesquare.org to register and print your free ticket.”
THE VILLAGE SQUARE CONTINUES ‘OUR TOWN’ FORUM SERIES
Leadership Tallahassee and Tallahassee Democrat partner in Tallahassee Town Hall
(TALLAHASSEE, FL) – February 10, 2014 – If you want to participate in civic life in Tallahassee but aren’t interested in preparing a three-minute speech for a commission meeting, what options do you have? Thursday night, February 13, citizens will have a rare opportunity to talk informally with both Tallahassee City Commissioners and Leon County Commissioners.“OUR TOWN: Tallahassee Town Hall” will be moderated by the Tallahassee Democrat’s Politics and Policy Editor Paul Flemming. The program will pair commissioners from both the city and the county for a cross-governmental discussion about where Tallahassee is as a community, where we’re going, and what challenges we face in getting there. Scheduled to join the conversation are City Commissioners Andrew Gillum, Scott Maddox, Nancy Miller and Gil Ziffer; and County Commissioners John Dailey, Bryan Desloge, Kristin Dozier, Mary Ann Lindley and Nick Maddox.
The town hall program is a continuation of an ongoing series of unique local forums sponsored by The Village Square, a nonprofit formed by local leaders – from both sides of the political divide – to improve the civility and factual accuracy of the civic dialogue. The forum, co-sponsored by Leadership Tallahassee and the Tallahassee Democrat, is part of a grant funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Fund at the Community Foundation of North Florida to foster an informed, engaged community. Programming continues on Thursday, February 27 with “Speed Date Your Local Leaders.”
The program is from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church at 211 N. Monroe Street (use rear Calhoun Street entrance). It is free and open to the public, but a reservation is required. Participants are welcome to bring a take-out dinner and a drink.
Those who are unable to attend can watch the program livestream at www.Tallahassee.com or follow an online discussion on Twitter, hashtag #TDvsq.
For more information and to reserve your seat and print your ticket, go online to www.tallahassee.tothevillagesquare.org or call 850-590-6646.