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The Village Square offers election season citizens’ survival guide


October 18, 2010

CONTACT: Ron Sachs
Zoe Sharron

The Village Square feels your pain: Offers election season citizens’ survival guide

Find the guide online here.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Tired of low‐rent political advertisements that make you hurl objects at the television set? Bored with the finger‐pointing, whining, squabbling, temper tantrums and gotcha games? Got indigestion from one too many robocall from Bill Clinton or John McCain during dinner? Perhaps all this has you looking for the “none of the above” box at the voting booth. Or maybe you’ve just given up hoping for something different.

It’s election season and the assaults to our values, intelligence and patience are out again in full force. If you’re among the majority of Americans who feel the tone of our civic conversation sounds like five‐year‐olds at recess (with no offense to five-year‐olds), nonpartisan Tallahassee nonprofit The Village Square offers you their “2010 Citizen’s Election Season Survival Guide.”

Filled with tips to save your sanity (while you improve your citizenship and get a new spring in your step), this guide will become your indispensible companion as you dream of making it past Tuesday, Nov. 2nd without losing your temper, sanity or
belief in democracy.

WHAT: The Village Square’s “2010 Citizens’ Election Season Survival Guide”

WHERE: Florida Press Center, 336 E. College Ave., Ste. 100
Tallahassee, FL 32301

WHEN: Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010
10 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

WHO: The Village Square, including board co‐chairs:
Republican County Commissioner Bryan Desloge and
Democratic City Commissioner Gil Ziffer

Kathleen Parker: Oy

Must read Kathleen Parker column:

Political parties, meanwhile, have distilled themselves so completely to their essences that they have caricatured themselves into cartoonish self-parody. Witness the recent town hall wherein President Obama’s audience was culled from a casting call and the Republican ad campaign in West Virginia that sought “hicky” people.

Oy, as we say down South. Republicans and Democrats are so busy pointing fingers, they fail to see what is plainly obvious. They are mirror images of each other and each is equally cynical and corrupt.

Read the whole column HERE.

Tonight at 7 PM on WFSU 88.9 FM: The Village Square forum on Amendments 5, 6 & 8

Check out upcoming events HERE… (next Tuesday night the 19th live at St. John’s we do “State of the State”, then Friday the 22nd it airs at 7PM on WFSU; Tuesday the 26th we do Hometown Democracy live at St. John’s downtown – and we’ll throw in a short little blip on the local county votes you’ll have to cast – then Friday the 29th WFSU will air the discussion at 7 PM.) Check out our We the Wiki on the amendments HERE. So, in summary, if you don’t go into the ballot box informed about the amendments, don’t blame us.

2010 Gutter Awards: Don’t vote for the puppy killer, really?

This ad is hard to watch on a multitude of levels. We love our puppies so it’s painful to hear them squeal. But unless this Illinois Republican Senator is a uniquely horrible human being who honestly loves hurting cute fuzzy pets, this is just low, low low. Politifact rates it half-true on the legislation, but the inference is unbelievably unfair. For this, we give his opponent Democratic Governor Pat Quinn (because candidates need to be ultimately responsible for their ads) a Rap on the Knuckles (and our first Gutter Award). Here you go Governor Quinn:

Constitutional Amendments 101 TONIGHT, 5:30 to 7 PM

Grab your favorite take-out and a drink (or just yourself) and join us at St. John’s Episcopal Church, downtown Tallahassee, for a discussion on Amendments 5, 6 and 8. DETAILS HERE. You’re going to have to vote on these things, may as well understand them, eh? (And wouldn’t it be so cool to be able to step into the voting booth and not have to spend all afternoon reading?)

Living the narrowcast, baby

Fascinating article in today’s Washington Post that hits on the problem The Village Square is trying to solve:

The increasing polarization of cable news is transforming, and in some ways shrinking, the electoral landscape. What has emerged is a form of narrowcasting, allowing candidates a welcoming platform that helps them avoid hostile press questioning and, in some cases, minimize the slog and the slip-ups of retail campaigning.

“There’s no question it’s contributing to the splintering of the political system and the means by which people get information about that system,” said Robert Thompson, who runs the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. “If there’s no standard base line of fact and reporting, where can the conversation go?”

Love to hear what people think, both sides of the aisle. Read the whole article HERE.

Boy do we ever need a “SENATOR and a HALF” right about now who will not approve this message.

Director Ron Howard opines on whether we can do better on campaign ads:

Instead of candidates hiring people like yours truly, to create campaign media that works on both conscious and subconscious levels to sway the voting public, what if all TV ads were, by law, only allowed to feature the candidate, with, say, the American flag as the backdrop, alone, speaking directly to the camera? Perhaps the words also subtitled on the bottom of the frame. No music, no graphs, no cut-away shots of disturbing or sentimental images. Only the candidate, talking to us, the voters. (more…)

Now that you’ll be voting on the class size amendment…

…you might want to be sure you’ve got the lowdown. Today’s news is that Amendment 8 stays on the ballot. Good thing next Tuesday night we’re serving up a discussion on Amendment 8 (and 5 & 6) all while you munch on your favorite take-out dinner. The panel on Amendment 8 includes David Worrell (President, Leon Classroom Teachers Association) and Damien Filer (Spokesman, Vote No on 8 campaign) speaking against the amendment and Dr. Wayne Blanton (Executive Directory, Florida School Boards Association) and Robert Weissert (Florida TaxWatch) speaking for the Amendment. Check out the rest of the program – including our panel on Fair Districts – HERE. Check out our We the Wiki on Amendment 8 (you can edit it) HERE.

The Village Square Hosts Constitutional Amendments 101; Previews “We the Wiki” Online Democracy


October 7, 2010

Media Contact:
Liz Joyner
Executive Director
The Village Square
Phone: 850.264.8785


Collins Center for Public Policy, Florida TaxWatch and League of Women Voters of Tallahassee co-host 3 evening series on amendments and “State of the State”

(TALLAHASSEE, FL) – October 7, 2010 — On three consecutive Tuesday nights beginning October 12, The Village Square leads a diverse group of community organizations offering a painless way to learn about constitutional amendments on November’s ballot.

“Constitutional Amendments 101” invites attendees to bring their favorite take-out dinner and a drink while they listen to pros and cons on each amendment from experts, both sides of each debate. All events are free and open to the public.

Citizens can also learn about the amendments, as well as contribute their own information and opinion on diverse civic issues using The Village Square’s new online tool “We the Wiki.” The wiki, fully editable by users, was created as a part of the project that won a highly nationally competitive John S. and James L. Knight Foundation grant to create informed and engaged communities. Find “We the Wiki” online at http://www.wiki.tothevillagesquare.org.

The “Take-out Tuesday” series on the amendments is co-sponsored by Collins Center for Public Policy, Florida TaxWatch and League of Women Voters of Tallahassee. Each event is from 5:30 to 7 PM at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 211 North Monroe, located in downtown Tallahassee.

The October 12 discussion addresses Fair Districts Florida amendments (5 & 6) and Relaxation of Class Size amendment (8). Speakers include Representative Curtis Richardson; President & CEO Barney Bishop of Associated Industries of Florida; Ben Wilcox, Executive Director of Common Cause; President of Leon Classroom Teachers Association David Worrell; Executive Director of Florida School Boards Association Dr. Wayne Blanton and Robert Weissert of Florida Tax Watch.

October 19 the focus will shift to the “State of the State” with panelists President Ted Granger of United Way of Florida, The Reverend Dr. Allison DeFoor, and Director of The Collins Institute Dr. Carol Weissert. The panel will also touch on Amendments 1 (Repeal of Public Financing Requirement) 2 (Military Tax Break) and the non-binding resolution to balance the federal budget. Tony Carvajal, the Director of State Policy Coordination for the Collins Center, will moderate the discussion.

The final evening of October 26 will address the controversial Hometown Democracy amendment (Amendment 4). Panelists include Hometown Democracy’s John Hedrick and Joyce Tarnow, Adam Babbington of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and President of 1000 Friends of Florida Charles Pattison. Leon County Commissioner-elect Kristin Dozier will moderate the discussion.

Additional biographical information about the speakers and event and parking details available online at http://www.tothevillagesquare.org. For more information call 264-8785.


ONE WEEK from tonight: Constitutional Amendments 101 begins

Constitutional Amendments 101 is FREE, EASY and you can EAT while you listen. So unless you’re a whiz kid at understanding the ballot language (below) or you’re planning to go to law school between now and then, grab your favorite take-out and join us. Find everything you ever needed to know about it HERE.

OK here’s what you’ll have to decipher (if it makes total sense to you, take the night off):

AMENDMENT 1: “REPEAL OF PUBLIC CAMPAIGN FINANCING REQUIREMENT.–Proposing the repeal of the provision in the State Constitution that requires public financing of campaigns of candidates for elective statewide office who agree to campaign spending limits.”

AMENDMENT 2: “Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to require the Legislature to provide an additional homestead property tax exemption by law for members of the United States military or military reserves, the United States Coast Guard or its reserves, or the Florida National Guard who receive a homestead exemption and were deployed in the previous year on active duty outside the continental United States, Alaska, or Hawaii in support of military operations designated by the Legislature. The exempt amount will be based upon the number of days in the previous calendar year that the person was deployed on active duty outside the continental United States, Alaska, or Hawaii in support of military operations designated by the Legislature. The amendment is scheduled to take effect January 1, 2011.”

AMENDMENT 4: “Establishes that before a local government may adopt a new comprehensive land use plan, or amend a comprehensive land use plan, the proposed plan or amendment shall be subject to vote of the electors of the local government by referendum, following preparation by the local planning agency, consideration by the governing body and notice. Provides definitions.”

AMENDMENT 5: “STANDARDS FOR LEGISLATURE TO FOLLOW IN LEGISLATIVE REDISTRICTING BALLOT SUMMARY: Legislative districts or districting plans may not be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party. Districts shall not be drawn to deny racial or language minorities the equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice. Districts must be contiguous. Unless otherwise required, districts must be compact, as equal in population as feasible, and where feasible must make use of existing city, county and geographical boundaries.”

AMENDMENT 6: “STANDARDS FOR LEGISLATURE TO FOLLOW IN CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING BALLOT SUMMARY: Congressional districts or districting plans may not be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party. Districts shall not be drawn to deny racial or language minorities the equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice. Districts must be contiguous. Unless otherwise required, districts must be compact, as equal in population as feasible, and where feasible must make use of existing city, county and geographical boundaries.”

AMENDMENT 8: “The Florida Constitution currently limits the maximum number of students assigned to each teacher in public school classrooms in the following grade groupings: for prekindergarten through grade 3, 18 students; for grades 4 through 8, 22 students; and for grades 9 through 12, 25 students. Under this amendment, the current limits on the maximum number of students assigned to each teacher in public school classrooms would become limits on the average number of students assigned per class to each teacher, by specified grade grouping, in each public school. This amendment also adopts new limits on the maximum number of students assigned to each teacher in an individual classroom as follows: for prekindergarten through grade 3, 21 students; for grades 4 through 8, 27 students; and for grades 9 through 12, 30 students. This amendment specifies that class size limits do not apply to virtual classes, requires the Legislature to provide sufficient funds to maintain the average number of students required by this amendment, and schedules these revisions to take effect upon approval by the electors of this state and to operate retroactively to the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year”

NONBINDING RESOLUTION: “In order to stop the uncontrolled growth of our national debt and prevent excessive borrowing by the federal government, which threatens our economy and national security, should the United States Constitution be amended to require a balanced federal budget without raising taxes?”

Why not join The Village Square at Knight Foundation boot camp?

We’re in Chicago participating in the Knight Foundation Community Information Challenge boot camp. Our Knight project with the Community Foundation of North Florida called We the People is in the middle of our “freshman” year and we just had the opportunity to share with first semester freshmen what we’d learned. We’re also here to learn more. You can catch the goings on on a live blog here or follow on Twitter here.

Kathleen Parker riffs on why NYC helps her understand the partisan divide

Since syndicated columnist and co-host of CNN’s new prime time Parker Spitzer mentions us from time to time, it seems only right for us to return the favor (although must admit we have a few less readers). Here Parker makes some insightful points about how we find ourselves on opposite sides of the partisan divide, more akin to city mouse vs. country mouse than anything to do with party politics:

This is fundamentally where Democrats and Republicans face off. At what point is the common good bad for people?

Many so-called Everyday Americans who live in the oft-maligned red states essentially are people who live in more-open spaces and, therefore, see little need or benefit for government management of their lives. The frontier may be nearly gone, but the person who prefers wider horizons will have little use for bureaucrats bearing the latest government how-to (or how-not-to) document.

Those who have opted to live in densely populated blue areas need third-party authorities to maintain order and figure they’ll trade a little freedom for the convenience and cultural riches of city life.

These are completely different orientations toward life in general and the role of government specifically, and I’m not sure the two can be reconciled. City dwellers will never understand the folks who prefer the company of trees, and country folk will always resent the imperious presumptions of urbanites who think they know best.

Read the whole article HERE.

New York Times: Florida Voters Enter Battle on Growth

Today’s New York Times features an article on Hometown Democracy decision that will be on the ballot in November:

Even now, with about 300,000 residential units sitting empty around the state, the push to build continues. Since 2007, local governments have approved zoning and other land use changes that would add 550,000 residential units and 1.4 billion square feet of commercial space, state figures show.

So for Ms. Blackner, a Palm Beach lawyer with a Mercedes full of paperwork, the real estate crisis is not just the fault of Wall Street, Washington or misguided borrowers; it is also the back-scratching bond between elected officials and builders — a common source of frustration in weak real estate markets around the country wherever developers are still fighting to add more housing…

the referendum is bringing into sharp relief the conflict surrounding real estate nationwide: while new homes, growth and the American dream are forever intertwined, many people are questioning why development often overwhelms other public priorities, even after it led to an economic crisis.

“Most planning advocates would love to have the structure we have in Florida, but most Floridians know that the structure doesn’t work,” said Michael Allan Wolf, a University of Florida law professor. “Amendment 4 suggests that, on the ground, this system is really broken.”

This is not an even fight. Ms. Blackner’s group has raised $2.4 million (with $800,000 from her own pocket), but most of it was spent on getting on the ballot.

The No on 4 campaign has raised nearly $12 million through a series of political action committees — enough for a glossy Web site, consultants and plenty of airtime. The Florida Association of Realtors is its largest single contributor, giving more than $2.3 million.

Be sure to join us for Constitutional Amendments 101 (Hometown Democracy debate is on October 26th). Or help us edit our We the Wiki page on Hometown Democracy to ensure we’ve got an excellent guide for understanding the options.

(Photo credit.)