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Context Florida: Our special guest Clay Jenkinson on “Restoring the American republic, beginning in Tallahassee”

Jenkinson-outside The Village Square in Tallahassee hosted humanities scholar Clay Jenkinson on October 15th for a live audience taping of the nationally syndicated show The Thomas Jefferson Hour. To learn more about our program and listen to an audio of the program CLICK HERE. To look at pictures of the program CLICK HERE. The below piece by Mr. Jenkinson ran in ” Context Florida and the print edition of the Tallahassee Democrat.

As the 21st century finds its rhythm, and the 2016 presidential contest begins to take up most of our public space, it seems clear to me that we have two political parties in the United States, but they are both thoroughly Hamiltonian.We have what might be called the “greater Hamiltonian Party” and the “lesser Hamiltonian party.” The obscene dominance of money, political action committees, lobbyists, fundraisers, and unrestrained attack ads has essentially disenfranchised the vast majority of American citizens.

In a world where there is no longer any real accountability, our political discourse has spiraled down into the gutter. A citizen from Jupiter, or any rational American, forced to watch nothing but Fox and MSNBC 24 hours per day, would soon despair of the American experiment.

What is to be done?

My view is that we need a Jeffersonian party or (better yet) a Jeffersonian movement in America. Jefferson believed that a republic could not survive without a high level of civility. In his first inaugural address, after a hotly contested election, Jefferson wrote two passages that every American should stop to consider.

First he said, “Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.” Read all »



Leadership Florida: Leadership Florida honors The Village Square with the Florida Impact Award

LF logo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Wendy Walker
Leadership Florida
850-521-1220 ext 103
wwalker@leadershipflorida.org

Leadership Florida® honors The Village Square
with the Florida Impact Award

Tallahassee, Fla. — On June 14, at its annual meeting in St. Petersburg, Leadership Florida presented the The Village Square Tallahassee with its 2015 Florida Impact Award, recognizing the organization’s efforts to bring together those with opposing viewpoints by using civil, respectful, fact-based discourse.

Leadership Florida established the Florida Impact Award to recognize a business or non-profit organization that has created a body of work whose impact is currently transforming the future of its region and has the potential to impact Florida as a whole. It was created to promote a heightened sense of appreciation for the possibilities available when Floridians work together as a single statewide community.

The Village Square was founded by Tallahassee leaders with differing political affiliations, but united in the belief that education and civil discourse on topics of public policy among our diverse citizenry is vitally important, particularly in a society that has become increasingly polarized. In a non-partisan fashion, The Village Square convenes discussions on matters of local, state and national importance, which create a myriad of opportunities for constructive conversations that build understanding and trust among those with disparate views.

The Village Square idea of differing perspectives leading to united goals is growing throughout the state and beyond. Already, it has “franchised” its model by establishing a Village Square in the Florida cities of St. Petersburg, Fort Lauderdale, as well as the out of state cities of Sacramento, Kansas City and Salt Lake City.

Leadership Florida is proud to honor The Village Square as its 2015 Florida Impact Award winner.

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About Leadership Florida
For thirty-four years, Leadership Florida has developed a reputation as a builder of a stronger, diverse statewide sense of community. A respected non-partisan convener of committed individuals, Leadership Florida enhances the knowledge and leadership abilities of Florida’s leaders through educational programs and by encouraging collaborative work for the betterment of our state. Leadership Florida provides Floridians essential information and a meaningful forum for their opinions, and creates opportunities for shared experiences that are inviting, inspiring and of lasting value. Leadership Florida is a federally registered trademark.

Find Leadership Florida online at leadershipflorida.org

Village Square receives Leadership Florida award



Florence Snyder: Journalistic credibility requires the attention from the top

Media bashers, media ethicists and the Greek chorus at Comedy Central will be gorging for a long time on the disgraced remains of Brian Williams.

But the credibility crisis now engulfing NBC News is not Williams’ fault. It is never the reporter’s fault.

An “anchor and managing editor” is neither God nor a kid with a YouTube channel. He does not edit his own stories and he does not put himself on the air.

Like print journalism, broadcast news employs an army of producers and business executives whose job it is to demonstrate with every story, every day that “we work for the viewers, and we care about the truth.”

The folks in charge of ethics and basic reporting skills at NBC have been failing Williams for a long, long time.

More than a decade ago, Don Helus, one of the pilots of one of the helicopters that figured in Williams’ escalating tales of derring-do, noticed Williams’ embellishments of his brief stint as a war correspondent in Iraq. Helus showed NBC the respect of writing a letter pointing out Williams’ factual errors.

Such communications are taken seriously at news organizations wishing to be taken seriously by audiences, advertisers and sources.

Helus had every right to expect that NBC would show him the respect of acknowledging his letter and investigating his concerns.

NBC instead ignored Helus and year by year, Williams’ propensity to self-aggrandize grew along with his salary and his bromances with Jimmy Fallon and Joe Scarborough.

It wasn’t until other soldiers who were around for Williams’ journo-tourism adventure came forward on Facebook to call him a liar that we began to learn that there might also be some holes in Williams’ award- winning coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

Helus, now retired and living in Enterprise, Alabama, was unimpressed by the apology Williams offered his audience on last Wednesday’s Nightly News.

“I had to chuckle, and it is not because I wish ill of Brian Williams,” he told Erin Edgemon of theDothan Eagle. “It was just ‘admit you are wrong and take your lumps.’ It really wasn’t an apology. It was more of an excuse than anything.”

Excuses may cut it in business and politics, but not in the Fourth Estate. Williams’ name will live in journalism infamy, but the real villains are the yet-to-be-named people at NBC News who ignored Helus’ letter.

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



Tallahassee Democrat: Village Square meeting addresses morality, corruption

Tallahassee-Democrat-logo-squareBy Karl Etters:

At the Village Square’s final meeting of the year, a crowd of several hundred addressed common community problems, moral character and the rise of public corruption.

Members of The Asteroid Club, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lucy Morgan and Bill Shiell, pastor of First Baptist Church of Tallahassee, welcomed a conversation on the staples of democracy and how they fit into our ever-changing society.

Taking into account political, religious and socio-economic differences is all part of the equation said Village Square Board of Directors member and moderator Steve Seibert.

“Public corruption, public morality, these are things that are almost impossible things to talk about,” Seibert said. “We dance around this subject a lot, and we dance with it in our tribes where people agree with us, but it’s very hard to talk about those things.”

Read the entire article online at Tallahassee.com.



Our Opinion: Engaged

Tallahassee-Democrat-logo-squareFrom 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.”

Read the entire editorial at Tallahassee.com



Florence Snyder: Wheat, Chaff and Shoeleather

3247073217_0861b0afd4_zThe Ledger, Imperial Polk County’s newspaper of record, is run by a young woman from the Old School.

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.

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

(Photo Credit: Lakeland Local)



Tallahassee Democrat: Leaders mix, chat, mingle and learn at speed date event

Tallahassee-Democrat-logo-squareFrom today’s Tallahassee Democrat, by TaMaryn Waters:

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.



Tallahassee Democrat, Our Opinion: Interacting

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.



Tallahassee Democrat Editorial: Input makes ‘Our Town’ forum valuable

Tallahassee-Democrat-logo-square“Decisions made by local elected officials play a huge part in our everyday lives, but think about it: How often do you get to interact with these officials?

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.”

Read the rest of the article online at Tallahassee.com



Press Release: Tallahassee Town Hall 2.13

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.

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Press Release: Join the Gang at FEARS

VILLAGE SQUARE CONTINUES “THE ASTEROIDS CLUB” SEASON
Programs examine six American “asteroids” that threaten our future

(TALLAHASSEE, FL) – January 7, 2014 – Imagine there is a giant asteroid heading to earth, expected to destroy life as we know it. We’d stop the incessant partisan bickering and do everything within our power to deflect the asteroid, right? Like in the movies?

During its 2013-14 Dinner at the Square season, The Village Square examines six American “asteroids” headed directly at us – each a problem that will only grow bigger and harder to “deflect” the longer we ignore it. Stuck inside our feuding partisan tribes, we’ve failed to find common cause against common threats – preferring instead to argue in the public debate about whose asteroid is real; all while the threats continue to build.

This year’s season of programming is a joint project of The Village Square and Dr. Jonathan Haidt of NYU’s Stern School of Business and author of “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.” The Village Square’s unique model of civic engagement continues to draw national attention, recently named by Senator Olympia Snowe as one of eight organizations in America seeking to grow political common ground (the only one hometown-based).

The second program of the season will be held on Tuesday, January 14, 5:30 to 7:30 pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church downtown. “FEARS: Where not everyone shares your pain” will take a look at the liberal “asteroid” of climate change and the conservative “asteroid” of entitlement spending – both data-supported problems that one side of the political aisle warns has put future generations at serious risk and the other side simply fails to see.

Panelists include attorney Brian Armstrong of Nabors, Giblin & Nickerson and his good friend Dr. Ed Moore, President of Independent Colleges of Florida. We’ll be posing them the question: “What if manmade climate change is real and the social welfare state is doomed?” Two experts will assist them – Dr. Randy Holcombe, the Devoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University and Susan Glickman, the Florida Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

“The Asteroids Club” season will continue through the school year with other asteroids, including money in politics and moral behavior. Last fall the series examined rising economic inequality and family breakdown.

For more information, visit www.tothevillagesquare.org, call 590-6646 or email info@tothevillagesquare.org. To learn more about the Asteroids Club project go to www.asteroidsclub.org. A limited number of scholarship tickets are available through Friday, January 10th.

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Village Square Dinner at the Square video: Oh Florida! Capital of Weirdness



Florence Snyder: Raising a glass to Arthur England

England_ArthurArthur England was not a pretentious man. Unlike a lot of retired traffic magistrates, he did not want to be called “Judge” after he left the Florida Supreme Court in 1981. It was easy to forget that for all of his professional life, he really was the smartest guy in the room.

England, who died August 1, did much of the heavy legal lifting in the years when Florida was on the cutting edge of everything. Two memorial services, one at his synagogue in Miami and a second this week at the Florida Supreme Court, only begin to scratch the surface of England’s contributions to his state and to the many people who loved him.

Former Gov. Reubin Askew’s eyes sparkled with pride as he paid tribute to his old friend in the well of the courtroom where England had presided. Askew deserves and was happy to take most of the credit for the man who fathered Florida’s Corporate Income Tax Code, the 1973 Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, and the Florida Administrative Procedures Act, as well as six children who share their dad’s commitment to education, to community service, and to the belief that in all endeavors of life, character counts.

At the time of his death, England was 80 going on 50. “Tethered to an oxygen machine,” his widow, Deborah Miller England told the Miami Herald, he fended off pulmonary fibrosis at the family home in Coral Gables and attended to his cases and clients until hours before he succumbed.

England served on the Court alongside his good friend, the late Alan Sundberg. To journalists of a certain age, England and Sundberg were Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, shooting holes in the arguments made by legions of old-school, low-tech lawyers who opposed cameras in the courtroom.

Former Florida State University and American Bar Association President Sandy D’Alemberte, who argued the cameras case on behalf of the Post-Newsweek television stations, credits England with designing a one year pilot project that paved the way to the landmark decision which made it possible for the public to see for themselves what was happening in their courtrooms.

At the Miami memorial service, and again in Tallahassee, D’Alemberte eulogized England as a lawyer and jurist who was always motivated to make the law accessible and understandable to everyone.

Court colleague and lifelong friend Eleanor Mitchell Hunter recalled his tireless efforts to modernize the administrative wheels of justice. “It was Arthur who bought the Court’s first computer,” Hunter said.

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the pulpit at Temple Beth Am, and again at the Supreme Court, England’s children spoke of him in the present tense. They smiled and wrapped their arms around each other and delivered the kind of crisp, clear, final summation that England himself was known and admired for in his post-Court career as one of the nation’s premier appellate lawyers: “He’s brilliant, kind, loving, easygoing, and constantly makes us and others feel special and valued.”

For a moment, it was possible to imagine that this was a toast at a family birthday party, and any second now, England would raise a glass and respond.

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