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Constitutional Amendments: Help for Floridians at Collins Center & The Village Square



If just the words "constitutional amendments" make you squirm, this post is for you.

This year Florida voters will face a host of important choices on their ballot in November, and that doesn't even include the candidates. There may be as many as nine amendments on the ballot (several have been removed and are on appeal).

The bad news: We haven’t always informed ourselves adequately before voting for or against amendments. There have been consequences from our failure to do so.

The good news: There are more tools available to you, as a voter, than in the past if you want to inform yourself. For starters: Collins Center is doing great work that is a must-see. And The Village Square’s We the Wiki will be at your service if you want to roll up your sleeves and participate. Find the page we’ve started on Florida’s amendments HERE. All pages are fully editable by YOU once you sign up and log in.

Finally, whatever you do, don’t miss our October Constitutional Amendments 101 Take-out Tuesday series from 5:30 to 7 PM every Tuesday in October. Bring your favorite take-out dinner (or just yourself) for a squirm-free study session. Can’t be there? Watch the programs livestream at home in your slippers.

Who knew citizenship could be so interesting or easy?



So if you do Village Square, you’re civil and brilliant



“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. ”

—F. Scott Fitzgerald
(1896-1940); author


(Thanks to Queen of the Internet, Lea)



Chris Timmons: A Campaign Season of Ambition




The Village Square does not take positions on either candidates or referendums on the ballot. However, featured blog posts (like this one) may be submitted with your opinions, which we will post if there is real substance to it and it is executed with civility. You may also write your own op-ed on We the Wiki under whatever topic you please. Click on the Wiki square (just to the right) when you see it to go to related content on our Wiki. Coming soon to the Wiki: A candidates on the ballot section…

I deserve a pat on the back. If you see me somewhere around town, feel free to do so.

Only with this caveat should you congratulate me: I’m no darn do-good-er, no net-worker —just a normal citizen with a few ideas and a point of view.

I just submitted my application to be a community catalyst for the Knight Creative Communities Initiative. If you know me, this is a big deal. I’ve tried my hand at volunteering before with little success.

It takes a lot of stamina and a high tolerance for non-sense to volunteer in groups and on boards.

It also takes a belief in the good intentions of others and your ability to change things for the better. None of which I’ve had in a high degree. Like Garrison Keiler, who in many things I’m so unlike, I run away from committees of the well-meaning.

I don’t gainsay humanity or human will and possibility but have a measured respect for the bull-headedness of fate. So, this is a small concession to a rare tender-heartedness, an open mind. And my ego.

Since I’ve taken a stab at written things for a reading public, I’ve gained a real confidence in my opinions —though I really only have few, and my ability to express them. Some readers —okay, most will regret that I’d put such faith in that ability. But forgive me the vanity trip.

This is about improving this community for which all of us are obligated to pursue in our own way —by being wonderful neighbors a scout leader or cub manager, picking up trash, dining or buying locally, heading to B-Sharp, taking a trip to the Tallahassee Little Theatre or enjoying Lake Ella on a warm day with the sun set over orange clouds in the evening.

What got my me thinking along these lines is the noise of this campaign season. All these candidates grasping for the power of these complexity-filled public offices.

It’s getting nasty and mean —which sometimes, I’ll admit is fun and delightful —but between candidates for a certain city commission seat enough is enough.

Scandalous is an understatement for the rough attacks being administered by one candidate. Often enough such attacks can be an education to voters, highlight a policy difference, or shake a campaign from its complacency. But that’s not the case here.

He has been relentless in his prying and critiques of his opponent and the current City Commission but inexpressive about his own ideas.

From his campaign, we’d learned more about his opponent’s personal failings than we’d learn in a less competitive race because of his doggedness and inability to concede to decency. This harping on issues, some over 30 years ago in his opponent’s life, is wearying and beside the point. Obviously, there’s no substance behind this campaign.

A few of these candidates are in it mostly for ego and ambition —which is fine in proportion —but when its overweening it can damage public perceptions about politics which are already too low. Which brings me to another candidate.

There’s the sharp-looking, nicely built, and self-possessed young man but his commitment to this community is not exactly self-evident. It’s not good, if true, that this candidate hasn’t voted in any major election. Even for Barack Obama. I understand political disenchantment but this is an astonishing lack of interest in politics that can’t be explained away.

To which, I’d like to address one more race. This race is an example of power being sought for the right reasons —I can quibble about the ideology and results, and will, but this candidate has an authentic purpose. This candidate is tough, resilient, knowledgeable and has an obvious love of public policy (I once saw her in a public meeting with a novel on the environment) but the party apparatchiks are against her.

She’s compromised with Republicans on energy and environmental issues in order to squeeze her priorities in.

As far as I can tell, she’s as Democratic as they come, but her overwhelming preference for accomplishing things over the inactivity of floor speeches and amendment posturing is a signal to her party that she’s unreliable. Will Democrats learn?

To make a broader point: This is the problem with public service today. No acceptance of adult compromise or an adult way of being principled. No wonder we’re experiencing disillusionment and discontent from the citizenry.

In spite of the sad state of public affairs, anyone can make a difference, though it may be a bit more modest, in the various community organizations around town. Some of the candidates have done that in an exemplary way.

Although there’s not much remuneration in non-profit volunteerism, I’d take it any day over political office. First, because its modest. Second, because you meet an immediate demand and there’s more flexibility. Third, because you get the see the results sooner. In public service, this not always the case.

So, I’m happy to be making my small contribution. And hope others make theirs.

I’m a little sad, though, for our local candidates, whose greatest impact may not be in public office. But they’ll spend hundreds of thousands of dollars this year trying to get there.

Where’s the common sense? Somewhere hidden behind the ego, no doubt.

Chris Timmons shares his insights and conservative sensibilities in a featured blog for The Village Square.



Our new season: The Divided State of America



Just sent our new Dinner at the Square program off to the printer (Find season info HERE). Here’s your sneak peak:



Two weeks from tonight: Purple State of Mind, a special season preview



More info, buy tickets HERE

.



Andrew Wilcox: Imagine there’s no money…it’s easy if you try



While flipping through radio stations the other night, I happened upon the Dave Ramsey show. Perhaps there is a certain cruel intention, “geez, thought I had a bad day, this persons life stinks, now I feel better” type of mentality. Much like what my wife gains from watching Real Housewives of New York.

The stories are tragic and all end the same way. Dave Ramsey talks low and tells the folks the bad news. There is no money and you have to change your ways.

How wonderful it must have been to be a politician when times were good. A new program here, a pet project there. Just like people who overextended themselves on mortgages and credit card debt, there was no reason to believe that the good times would end. Spend away and kick the problem of paying for a program down the road. If the people want cake, let them eat cake…

Rather than real solutions, political parties dig in. Democrats won’t let anyone touch Social Security, Medicare, and social programs. Republicans resist raising taxes.

If we want to get us out of this mess, both sides have to go Purple.

Dave Ramsey doesn’t tell people what they want to hear. He tells them what they need to hear. We all know changes have to be made to entitlements. The solutions are fairly straight forward. It takes leadership to say it though and paint the picture, regardless of reelection. Americans are willing to sacrifice, but we have to have faith in our leaders that increased taxes won’t be used on pet projects, or a never-ending program that is used to garner votes of a niche group or lobby.

If compound interest is a miracle then compound debt is a plague. Currently, interest on debt by the US is 160 million dollars a day! How much could one day of paying off China do for your local school district, or a week’s worth do for alternative energy to retrofit public buildings, or build a high speed rail.

How many people do you know that have large debt and just pay the interest? The average American has over 15k in debt. To get it paid off requires cutting back on everything. You sell off some assets, maybe not go out as much, take on a second job. You got into this mess, now it’s time to hike up the boot straps and make changes. Or you can just expect the government to “do something…”

I had a purple conversation with a Democratic friend about one current issue. Extended unemployment benefits. First we are told that discretionary spending is frozen and PAYGO is the policy. Except when it’s not. My suggestion was simple. Budgets are being crushed at schools, communities, and government programs. Provide extended benefits to folks that agree to give 5 hours per week while collecting unemployment to help in the community.

Sometimes when folks are in a slump the best they can do is shorten up and bunt. 5 hours a week is a great way to make contact again. Enrich our hurting communities. Reinvent themselves. Show their kids what the “greatest generation” did, that they won’t take unemployment sitting down. If 5 hours is unreasonable, then how is it reasonable to have others pay into a system so that you can do nothing?

It’s this type of tough love/ tough choices that people have to make.

How do we expect politicians to change their behavior until citizens change theirs?

—-

Andrew is married and a father of two daughters. Owner of Wilcox and Hackett, LLC a legal recruiting and client development consulting firm. A conservative who likes healthy debate. Enjoys reading, writing, working out, sports, and BBQ cooking.

Photo credit: Richard Cox



TCC to match community contributions to Village Square



TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (July 27, 2010) — Tallahassee Community College has announced that, in honor of former TCC President Dr. Bill Law, it will contribute up to $5,000 to The Village Square, a local nonprofit organization co-founded by Dr. Law. The donation will support “We the People,” a project of The Village Square in cooperation with the Community Foundation of North Florida. The project won a highly competitive national John S. and James L. Knight Foundation grant to build informed and engaged (more…)



Wise words we’d do well to consider



Michael Gerson, former speechwriter to George W. Bush, on Face the Nation yesterday, said that too many of our political controversies today are a result of “too many Americans looking for excuses to justify their rage.” He explained:

It works because we’re a big country. We’ve got over 300 million people – if you’re an internet site or a cable network and if you set out to find an excuse, some incident to emphasize you can find one in America and run it over and over again It could be a picture at a tea party rally of a single sign or a video that had to do with the new black panthers and it makes it look like it’s a crisis of race when in fact, these are incidents in America. It exaggerates…



3 weeks from today: Screen Purple State of Mind with filmmaker John Marks



Get details on the FREE screening and reserve your seat HERE.






Announcing our next season: The Divided States of America



For more info or to buy tickets click HERE.



FloridaThinks: Do Communication Tools Drive Behavior?



Today’s FloridaThinks.com features a very smart article on the impact of texting and other communication tools on our lives and on our children. I don’t know if the author Barry Chudakov (founder of Metalife Consulting) coined the term “cyber tattoo” but I, for one, intend to start using it today and often with my teenage children. Every communication ever sent out, every photo ever posted to Facebook can become a cyber tattoo, following you around forever in life and possibly fundamentally changing it. At least when you walk into the tattoo parlor and take the plunge, you get to decide what will forever brand you. With cyber tattoos, someone else gets to pick. Here’s a snip:

Overnight, it seems, the intersection of our lives and our communications tools has gotten complicated. We’re seeing the complexity more often because these tools are reaching deeper into our lives, and they are now fundamental to how we touch and value each other. This entails more than simply acting on impulse. When we use communication tools, if we are not careful, we think and act at their speed and in their logic, instead of fully considering what we’re doing. In this scenario, the logic of the tool becomes the logic of our behavior. We need greater awareness of this process and how it changes us.

At The Village Square, we think a lot about how these same communication tools have changed the nature of our civic and political lives (sometimes we do so while we cuss about the need to express ourselves in 140 characters or less).

Read the whole article HERE.



Florence Snyder: Not pluckin’ around



“Gannett picks Pluck for moderation” reads a headline on a recent press release from “social media application developer” Pluck.com.

Gannett owns four Florida newspapers, so it’s not too soon to start praying that their publishers will resist headquarters’ decision to outsource” the task of “moderating on-line comments.”

The outsourcing has already begun at the Gannett papers in Green Bay Wisconsin and Hattiesburg Mississippi. There, as here, readers will continue to enjoy 24/7 access to the papers’ cyber-newshole to expound, editorialize and randomly pontificate on news stories, a 21st century innovation known as “posting.” Posters may make unlimited contributions to the cyber-marketplace of ideas irrespective of their personal knowledge of the events reported, willingness to identify themselves, or blood alcohol level.

Many posts appear to have been phoned in by Mel Gibson. Readers of delicate sensibilities have no recourse but to “report abuse.”

Most readers don’t bother because, as one Gannetteer put it: “Our online staff can’t be everywhere at all times, and it can be difficult to offer a prompt response to every claim of abuse.”

But Gannett’s not pluckin’ around anymore. Under its deal with Pluck.com, abuse reports will be reviewed within 30 minutes for “compliance with Gannett guidelines.”

The Pluckers will work from remote and undisclosed locations. They could be in Montana. Or on Mars. They could be holograms for all we know. Has the industry learned nothing from McClatchy’s ill-fated attempt to outsource the Miami Herald’s copy editing to India?

Not so long ago, when newspapers had 30% profit margins and a better public image, every word published under the paper’s banner passed through multiple layers of scrutiny by people known as editors who jealously guarded this prerogative.

Epic legal battles were fought all the way to the Supreme Court by journalists who would sooner have a root canal than yield a column inch to unfiltered commentary by anybody whose bread was buttered by someone other than the newspaper’s owner. If Thomas Jefferson came back from the dead with an op-ed piece in hand, he would be subjected to the same gauntlet of red pencils that everyone else had to run.

Chief Justice Warren Burger—a Nixon appointee and not a particular fan of the press—wrote, “For better or worse, editing is what editors are for.”

The 20th century publishers who opened their checkbooks to keep government out of their newsrooms would be stunned at how much of their branded corners of cyberspace have been handed off to cranks, crackpots and cowards, and downright stupefied at the watered down journalism gene pool we have to thank for Pluck.com.

—-
Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at lawyerflo@gmail.com.



“Backfire” explains a lot.



Joe Keohane writes a powerful piece on how our entrenched political opinion resists fact that contradicts it. Here’s a snip of an article that’s just so good that it’s going straight into the Village Square library, but we’d strongly recommend you head straight to Boston.com and read the whole piece.

Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.

This bodes ill for a democracy, because most voters – the people making decisions about how the country runs – aren’t blank slates. They already have beliefs, and a set of facts lodged in their minds. The problem is that sometimes the things they think they know are objectively, provably false. And in the presence of the correct information, such people react very, very differently than the merely uninformed. Instead of changing their minds to reflect the correct information, they can entrench themselves even deeper.

The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong, says political scientist Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher on the Michigan study. The phenomenon – known as “backfire” – is “a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance.”

Read the rest of the article HERE.