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Ground zero community center: Mark Halperin on why we need to strive for a better conversation

We’ve started a “We the Wiki” page on the facts on the Ground Zero Community Center & Mosque. We’ll throw some info in, but it’s yours to build. Find resources that offer good, nonpartisan information to help clarify. You’ll have to register to edit the page.

“Get in your car and drive around and listen to some talk radio. The language is bad. From the minute this started my worry from the beginning was that this would be treated like we treat every other political debate in this country: Polarized, where the winners are the ones who engage in the most extreme rhetoric. This is an issue that has international implications and a national security implication where we would hope that wouldn’t happen. There are no boundaries in our political discourse anymore even when there should be. That’s why I wrote in Time magazine this week and I still believe that the former presidents need to speak out in a bipartisan way. They are the only ones with the standing to treat this with the gravity that is required…” –Mark Halperin on Morning Joe

Mary Ann Lindley: Will Purple trump the “mouthy gatekeepers”? Tuesday’s election results may tell…

In case you were otherwise engaged Sunday, as I was, today’s a good day to take a look at Mary Ann Lindley’s Sunday column:

The big unknown on Tuesday — and again in November — will be whether wild-animal politics, tooth-and-claw wars of words do work.

Will we be invigorated, gullible or ticked off enough to support the blunt candidates who play politics as a blood sport? Will they win — and then be expected to put aside latent bitterness and rivalries and work for all people, including those who supported their opponents?

My hunch is that the shouters and exaggerators will win in a few cases because it’s appealing to have someone tell us with great clarity what to think in a few choice, simplistic words.

Not simple, nor spare and nuanced explanations, but simplistic ones that feel therapeutic, save us time and are really an extension of the on-line world of fear and loathing.

In today’s culture of over-stimulation and given the infinity of information that bombards us, these mouthy gatekeepers show us an easy path.

They tell us how to neatly frame complex issues. They don’t ask much of me (“No, no.” I promise. “No taxes!”). They tell me who my enemies are. And they let me get back to my life.

It can all be quite seductive. And political experts insist it’s the only way to win.

And then there’s the Purple:

Last week, The Village Square, our local organization devoted to, as our mothers said, “keeping a civil tongue in your mouth,” was visited by author and former U.S. News & World Report journalist John Marks.

Marks wrote “Purple State of Mind: Finding Middle Ground in a Divided Culture,” and his theme is that relentlessly demonizing the opponent doesn’t really enchant most Americans and that, rather than being rigidly red states or blue states, we ought to consider purple.

It’s still a passionate color; loyalty to principles need not be neutralized.

This other John Marks (not our mayor) isn’t calling for a beige state of mind, but a blending the best of both Democratic and Republican thought: compassion and self-sufficiency.

(But there are plenty of people trying to get to the front of the parade…)

“I want just one leader to stand up. One leader who has something to lose.” –Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe (He was talking both sides of the aisle… mosque, entitlements, the whole enchilada.)

The Village Square hosts Purple State of Mind’s John Marks


August 15, 2010

Media Contact: Liz Joyner
Executive Director
To The Village Square, Inc.


WHO: The Village Square nonprofit, featuring community leaders Representative Alan Williams, Florida League of Cities Mike Sittig, Leadership Florida’s Wendy Abberger and Tallahassee Democrat’s Mary Ann Lindley in conversation with journalist John Marks.

WHAT: Dinner at the Square: “Purple State of Mind: Finding Middle Ground in a Divided Culture,” a preview of the season “The Divided States of America: How we got there and how we get back.”

WHEN: Tomorrow night, Monday August 16, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: St. John’s Episcopal Church, 211 North Monroe, Downtown Tallahassee, Alfriend Hall just inside Calhoun Street entrance

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – August 15, 2010 – The Village Square will host a community conversation on America’s political divide and how it is affecting our city and state tomorrow night, featuring community leaders in conversation with Purple State of Mind’s John Marks, former 60 Minutes producer and U.S. News and World Report’s Berlin Bureau Chief.

Community leaders participating in the conversation are Representative Alan Williams, Mike Sittig the Executive Director of the Florida League of Cities, Wendy Abberger President of Leadership Florida and Mary Ann Lindley the Editorial Editor of The Tallahassee Democrat.

The event is $5 and includes a pizza dinner, but participants may also call 264-8785 to request a scholarship ticket. More information is available online here: http://www.tothevillagesquare.org/divided/purple.

Good Village Square-ish discussion on economic policy and the Great Depression

Sadly, this is still relevant today. If you’re like me, the competing partisan versions of what caused (and what pulled us out of) the depression are mind boggling. Like everything else, it’s as if we’ve been living in entirely different versions of reality. Here Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter and Council of Foreign Relations’ Amity Shlaes have a real conversation. Shlaes was just on Glenn Beck Friday where they didn’t have a real conversation.

This is a particularly interesting video because it took place just before our current economic nosedive.

Dehumanizing comments like these are canaries in the coal mine of our civic life.

Two New Hampshire Democrats – one elected, one running for election – are in deep kimchi over their posted comments while discussing the death of former Alaska Republican Senator Ted Stevens in a place crash:

“Well a dead Palin wd be even more dangerous than a live one…she is all about her myth & if she was dead she cldn’t commit any more gaffes,” Horrigan wrote.

Horrigan was commenting on another post by a Democrat running for the state house, party activist Keith David Halloran, who found himself in hot water Wednesday after writing about the crash: “Just wish Sarah and Levy [sic] were on board.”

Any Democrats who think all the incivility flows right to left should reconsider. When you can no longer see people through the lens of humanity, you’re a bridge too far.

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…)