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Tallahassee Democrat: Village Square nonprofit expands to St. Pete

From today’s Tallahassee Democrat:

After six years in operation, The Village Square — a Tallahassee-based nonprofit that pushes for community engagement — is expanding Tuesday with the help of former Gov. Bob Graham.

The plan, which has developed over the past year, will make the St. Petersburg College in Pinellas County the location for the first offshoot of The Village Square. The organization draws from community members and aims to open dialogue about local, state and national matters that affect communities.

Liz Joyner, executive director of The Village Square Tallahassee, said she is excited about seeing the original idea expand to another city and practice the ability to talk about national issues.

“It’s really about neighbors connecting with neighbors, regardless of their ideology,” Joyner said. She added the local town hall meeting is what built America and that is what The Village Square aims to continue.

Bryan Desloge, The Village Square co-chair and Leon County Commisioner, said the organization is “trying to create a venue and a way for people to solve community issues without all the rancor and visceral debate and the spiteful back fighting you see in politics today. It doesn’t mean it’s not full contact, it doesn’t mean you don’t have spirited debates, it just means you talk about the facts.”

David Klement, executive director of the Institute of Strategic Policy Solutions at SPC, said the movement in St. Pete was initiated by himself and St. Petersburg College President Bill Law. Law was a co-founder of the Tallahassee Chapter of the Village Square and the former president of Tallahassee Community College.

Klement attended events in Tallahassee in 2009 and 2010 and said that he wanted to bring that kind of public discussion to his region.

“I would hope that we could emulate the Tallahassee chapter,” said Klement. “We’re learning from them, and we’ll learn hopefully from their mistakes and can get up to their speed quickly.”

Graham is expected to speak about renewing interest in civic duty in education. He was the choice as the keynote speaker because he “is respected across the state, on both sides of the aisle. He was never into the bipartisanship that exists now in many areas,” Klement said.

Sen. Dennis L. Jones (R-Seminole), who oversees the Economic Development and Innovative Projects at SPC, said the goal of the forum is to bring public, not political, issues to the forefront of discussion.

Topics that the group will discuss include a seminar in September on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11 on what Americans have learned since the event, said both Jones and Klement.



Village Square Expands to St. Petersburg, Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 21, 2012

THE VILLAGE SQUARE EXPANDS TO SECOND FLORIDA CITY
St. Petersburg College launches bipartisan non-profit founded by Tallahassee leaders

(TALLAHASSEE, FL) – May 21, 2012 – Tomorrow night, The Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College becomes the first spinoff of Tallahassee-based nonprofit The Village Square as it hosts former U.S. Senator and Florida Governor Bob Graham.

The Village Square, founded by a group of Tallahassee leaders who enjoyed friendships despite their divergent political views, is dedicated to growing constructive, civil dialogue on matters of local, state and national importance. In its 6 years, the organization has hosted thousands of residents at over 50 programs on topics that range from Florida constitutional amendments to energy to the challenging intersection of faith and politics. The Village Square was the recipient of the highly nationally competitive Knight Community Information Challenge grant in 2009 awarded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to grow informed and engaged communities.

“We’re delighted to be partnering with St. Petersburg College as we grow beyond Tallahassee,” said The Village Square Board Co-chair, County Commissioner Bryan Desloge. “The College’s unique reach into their community is a great match for the neighborly spirit that has contributed to our success in Tallahassee.”

David Klement is the Executive Director of the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions. He reflects on the launch, in planning for over a year: “I am honored to have the Institute chosen to be the first ‘clone’ of The Village Square Tallahassee. It is a powerful concept for raising the level of public discourse, and we are excited at the prospect of sharing it with the Pinellas County community. The success of The Village Square Tallahassee is proof that people really do want to have meaningful conversations about the pressing issues of the day in a non-partisan, non-hostile atmosphere.”

Governor Graham was chosen to kick off The Village Square in St. Petersburg because he epitomizes its spirit. He is regarded as one of the nation’s senior statesmen, respected on both sides of the political aisle for his collaborative leadership style and for his 38-year career of public service. He will speak Tuesday night on the topic of “Restoring Civics Education and Renewing Our Democracy.”

For more information about the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions, go online to www.spcollege.edu/solutions or call (727) 394-6933. For more information on The Village Square, go to www.tothevillagesquare.org, or call (850) 264-8785.

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Maira Kalman: So Moved



This unique New York Times blog by Maira Kalman makes me tear up a bit every time I re-read it. America is such a Big Idea. And our country’s greatness really is fundamentally located in our communities, with our humble town hall or wherever it is we manage to make civic connections to our neighbors.



Ed Morrison: Civility grows the economy

Read the whole article HERE. Here’s a snip:

“Incivility destroys a community’s capacity to generate wealth.

Here’s why.

In a networked, knowledge-driven economy, collaboration drives wealth creation. And collaboration can only thrive in a stable environment of trust. The corrosion of our civil society –– the alarming growth of incivility and pervasive lying –– undercuts our economy’s productivity and our capacity to innovate.

Incivility — fraudulent concealment (“hiding the ball”), lying, manipulation, and associated behaviors — can work well to redistribute wealth. We see almost endless examples from MF Global to the subprime mess. Yet, these behaviors do not generate wealth. Indeed, they erode capitalism’s capacity to generate wealth. That’s why corruption slows economic growth and why trust is associated with higher rates of economic growth.”
____________

Thanks to Tony for the heads up on this great article.



Best blog comment policy ever…

This by way of Poynter (and Florence):

The Big Picture, a finance blog, offers these guidelines for user comments: “Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Also, be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor even implied. Any irrelevancies you can mention will also be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.”



Katz discusses diplomatic life in Portugal

Allan Katz was welcomed back to Tallahassee with open arms and lots of “your Excellency” jokes Monday night as he spoke about his work as United States Ambassador to Portugal, a job he took on in early 2010. The hour-and-a-half presentation was a fundraiser for The Village Square, an organization focused on building constructive dialogue and founded by Katz and Bill Law. “One of the things that makes the job so good is there are very few typical days,” said Katz, responding to a question by Read all »



Big Sort Dinner at the Square slideshow



“Recount” makes Knight Foundation news

Knight Foundation KIt was ten years ago last week that America woke up without a president-elect, in what was to become the 37 bizarre days of legal wrangling and political brinkmanship we know as the Florida Recount. To mark the anniversary, Knight Community Information Challenge project The Village Square brought together seven of the central players in the drama that riveted America in the most challenging transition of power in American’s history. The event received national press coverage. Read all »



Associated Press: Hanging chads make a comeback

Associated Press: Memories of hanging, dimpled and pregnant chads were revived Tuesday, 10 years after the start of Florida’s 2000 election recount that made George W. Bush president. Chads, those little fragments voters punched out of paper cards — or left hanging, dimpled or pregnant — are the enduring symbols of the recount. The punch card ballots, now banned in Florida, were just one part, though, of the historic event recalled by judges, lawyers and other participants at a reunion sponsored Read all »



Mary Ann Lindley: “Americana at its most beguiling”

Tallahassee Democrat: “A story so bizarre it’s got to be true,” is the billing given for this Tuesday’s Florida Recount Reunion that The Village Square is hosting downtown. It’s been — how could it be? — a full decade since that historically indecisive presidential election brought the world to our feet here in the Florida capital. Quite literally, for 37 days, the foot of the Capitol and Supreme Court building on Duval Street took on the appearance of a camp site with breezy white tents shielding camera equipment and TV Read all »



Florida Trend: Civility in Public Life

Florida Trend Publisher Andy Corty writes about “the hug” with President Obama that has symbolized the nosedive Governor Crist has taken in the polls:

Think back to late January. President Barack Obama was scheduled to appear in Tampa to announce federal funding for a high-speed rail line connecting Tampa and Orlando and eventually Miami. That was the real news, but the question getting wide publicity was this: Would Gov. Charlie Crist greet the president as he did in Fort Myers last February or would he avoid Obama as he did last October in Jacksonville?

Partisan politics unfortunately played a major role in these decisions. After the “man hug” of February
09, Crist was pummeled from the right wing of the Republican Party for consorting with the Democratic president. The pressure grew so intense that Crist, running for the U.S. Senate, pointedly stayed away in October, saying he wasn’t even aware the president was traveling to Florida.

Such a political game runs counter to the Crist I know. He is a man who is uncommonly polite. He has friends of many stripes. He has always accepted criticism without knocking the critic. And he has typically governed toward the center. While we may personally differ on some significant policy issues, I’ve never felt anything other than warm collegiality from him. Perhaps I’m a starry-eyed political neophyte, but there’s something really “American” about fair-minded discourse between people who don’t see eye-to-eye on policy topics.

By chance I was at the Governor’s Mansion for a reception the night before Obama was to appear in Tampa, so I asked Crist about his intentions. “Of course I’m going to be with the president,” Crist replied. “It
s about jobs for Floridians. With unemployment over 11% here, there’s nothing more important than jobs.”

That was the right decision, and I applaud the governor for greeting Obama. But I wish he had also said that as governor – and as the official representative of 18 million Floridians – he would always greet the president of the United States when he visited the great state of Florida. It’s a question of civility.



Community Foundation and Village Square Benefit from a Knight Foundation Challenge Grant

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Joy Watkins, President
Community Foundation of North Florida
(850) 222-2899 ext. 104
jwatkins@cfnf.org
www.cfnf.org

COMMUNITY FOUNDATION AND VILLAGE SQUARE BENEFIT FROM A KNIGHT FOUNDATION CHALLENGE GRANT

Tallahassee, Fla., January 13, 2010 – In a highly competitive national grant contest, the Community Foundation of North Florida is one of 24 community and place-based foundations recently selected to receive a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The grant was awarded as a part of The Knight Community Information Challenge, a five-year, $24 million initiative to help community and place-based foundations find creative ways to use new media and technology to keep residents informed and engaged.

The Community Foundation, in partnership with The Village Square, received a $72,000 challenge grant to revitalize the dialogue among the city’s diverse residents around community issues. The project entitled “We the People” will create a 21st century virtual and face-to-face public square by offering unique town hall forums in addition to constructive online engagement through a community problem-solving Wiki. The project’s aim is to renew Tallahassee’s marketplace of ideas where good solutions rise from an informed citizenship, and where abundant information can be channeled into constructive results. The grant requires a $50,000 match from our community making the total project budget $122,000.

“We thank the Knight Foundation for recognizing that access to information is essential for the quality of life in our community and for providing resources to help increase access for all citizens. Through this challenge grant contest, Knight is challenging communities across the country to respond to the changing media landscape in our communities and ensure that residents have access to information. We are pleased to be able to support Knight’s work in our community, strengthen The Village Square’s work and increase access to information for citizens in our community.” – Joy Watkins, President of the Community Foundation of North Florida.

“The Village Square is thrilled to have this opportunity to partner with the Community Foundation and the Knight Foundation. The Village Square’s mission is to encourage civil dialogue about community issues and to ensure the people of our community receive factual information about those issues. Our work is right in line with what the Knight Foundation is trying to accomplish. This grant will enhance our work by allowing us to get more information to a broader audience.” Liz Joyner, Executive Director of The Village Square.

Allen Katz co-founded The Village Square in 2006, along with Tallahassee Community College President Dr. Bill Law. “Rapid changes in the way we communicate with each other and the hyper-partisan environment nationally have left communities less able to deal with local and state issues constructively,” says Katz, a former Tallahassee City Commissioner who has been nominated by President Obama to become U.S. Ambassador to Portugal. “The best ideas in a democracy come from engaged and informed citizenship,” says Law. “This project will bring more light and less heat to problems ahead of us.”

“The social glue of communities has changed substantially over the last 40 years,” according to Joyner. “Civic clubs and service organizations used to knit us together to form a geographical community whose bond was greater than political difference. But ideology-based groups are on the rise and as a result our unique made-in-America social fabric is fraying,” says Joyner.

“We the People” will expand The Village Square programming on local and state issues through varying formats like “Dinner at the Square,” “Take-out Tuesday,” “Politics, Partisans & A Pint” and “Sunday Night Supper Club,” intentionally reviving community between people with diverse perspectives.

To compliment these face-to-face forums, the project will have an online component: A Wiki-based online problem solving tool, where neighbors can collaborate to assemble relevant facts and resources for addressing local, state and national issues. “We hope to create an online community that defies the trend toward angry likeminded groups; where people will treat each other with the same respect as they do when they see neighbors at the grocery store or at their mailbox,” says Joyner.

“This grant presents a great opportunity for our organization and our community”, says Joyner. “We have a lot of work ahead of us to raise the $50,000 match and to implement the details of the project. Our hope is that the community will rally with us to raise the matching funds and help us improve the vitality of our community by increasing access to civil and factual information in our community.”

To learn more about the project or to get involved with The Village Square, please go to www.tothevillagesquare.org or contact Liz Joyner at liz@tothevillagesquare.org or (850) 264-8785.

About the Community Foundation of North Florida
The Community Foundation of North Florida is a nonprofit public charity serving the 10 county Big Bend area by facilitating and promoting charitable giving and strengthening nonprofit organizations. The Foundation helps people give in perpetuity to their favorite charities and helps nonprofit organizations with grants, education and endowment building expertise. For more information, contact Joy Watkins, President, at jwatkins@cfnf.org or 850-222-2899 ext. 104.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote community engagement and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

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