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Village Square in the news across America

  • The Daily Beast
  • Kathleen Parker
  • The Tallahassee Democrat

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John Avlon mentions Village Square | The Daily Beast

Professional partisans present a vision of American politics where everything is divided between the far left and the far right. Lately, they seem to be dominating the nation’s political debate. But there’s a powerful backlash brewing—a movement of voices from the vital center who are declaring….Continue Reading

…their independence from play-to-the-base politics. In fact, the center does not only have the numbers, it has the intellectual coherence and strong advocates. There are academics like the Hoover Institution’s Morris Fiorina, author of Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America and McGill’s Gil Troy, author of Leading From the Center. There are centrist think tanks, like Will Marshall’s Progressive Policy Institute and The Third Way associated with the Democratic side of the aisle and the Main Street Partnership for the GOP. There are centrist radio-show hosts like Michael Smerconish, Ronn Owens, and Alan Nathan. There are centrist Web sites like TheModerateVoice.com, Donklephant.com and BookerRising.net—as well as aggregators like Fark.com that skewer absurdities on both sides. Most important are the grassroots groups that are growing up on their own, like the Village Square movement based out of Florida, the Transpartisan Alliance, or the newly formed Pragmatic Center, which announced its presence in the wake of Kathleen Parker’s column.

The purpose of this list is to show that there is a coherent and strong centrist movement growing in America right now. It is principled and civil. It is independent of the two parties’ influential, entrenched special interests. And it is on the rise. Read the whole article…

Originally published March 31, 2010 in The Daily Beast www.thedailybeast.com

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8 ways to help define a political center | Christian Science Monitor

In her book, “Fighting for Common Ground,” Olympia Snowe, the former senator from Maine, writes that the “fastest way” for citizens to push for compromise in Congress is to “support the efforts of existing national groups” that advocate bipartisanship….Continue Reading

She recommends the following eight organizations, urging people to “browse their websites, visit them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter.” Several of them invite direct citizen participation

Bipartisan Policy Center is a think tank started by four former Republican and Democratic Senate majority leaders to research and advocate bipartisan solutions to national problems.

No Labels is a citizens’ movement of Republicans, Democrats, and independents that promotes “the politics of problem solving.” It has organized a bipartisan group of members of Congress to meet regularly.

Republican Main Street Partnership is a group of “main stream” fiscally conservative elected leaders and others promoting “pragmatic” and “common sense” solutions in government.

Third Way is a progressive think tank that focuses on the “vital center,” compromise, and moderate policy recommendations.

Campaign to Fix the Debt is a nonpartisan movement to put America on a better fiscal and economic path. It offers a “tool kit” for citizen action.

National Institute for Civil Discourse at the University of Arizona was established shortly after the 2011 shooting in Tucson. It is a research and advocacy center focused on promoting civil discourse in politics and the media.

The Village Square is a local, nonpartisan public education forum – not an advocacy group – that promotes fact-based discussion of local, state, and national issues and is based in Tallahassee, Fla.

Olympia’s List is a committee founded by Ms. Snowe to support candidates who believe in “building consensus.”

Originally published January 28, 2010 in The Tallahassee Democrat www.tallahassee.com

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Bipartisanship on the Hustings | Kathleen Parker

Americans say they’re sick of partisan politics, and some of them really mean it. In Norman, Okla., and Tallahassee, Fla. – two university towns where football usually matters more than governance – local leaders weary of blood sport have begun taking matters into their own hands…….Continue Reading

…Next week in Norman as the media hordes forget they ever heard of Iowa and descend on New Hampshire for the nation’s first primary, a dozen or so renegades from the major parties are convening a forum to develop Plan C. A third way. A bipartisan solution to business as usual. Their immodest goal: To end divisive partisan polarization, create bipartisanship and bring the country together after the 2008 election.

Leading the charge are David Boren, Oklahoma University president and a former U.S. senator, along with former Democratic Sens. Sam Nunn of Georgia, Charles Robb of Virginia and Gary Hart of Colorado, also a former presidential candidate.

Republican sponsors include former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, former Sens. Bill Brock of Tennessee and John Danforth of Missouri, and Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

And yes, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be there, but he’s not running for president.

Other formers expected to participate include Bill Cohen, former secretary of defense, and former U.S. Sens. Alan Dixon of Illinois and Bob Graham of Florida. Also, Jim Leach, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Iowa, and Edward Perkins, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Yes, this is primarily a forum of formers. In fact, only Hagel and Bloomberg are politically current, from which one may draw one’s own conclusions. Then again, former politicians may be the best kind. With hindsight comes wisdom and, having been there, done that, people formerly known as politicians have little to gain from speaking out except the rare reward of doing something for the greater good.

While these reform-minded formers are tackling national problems, their bipartisan counterparts in Tallahassee are acting locally through a relatively new Web-based creation called “To The Village Square.” The square is the brainchild of attorney and City Commissioner Allan Katz, a Barack Obama Democrat who used leftover money from his recent re-election campaign to create the project.

He tapped as his partner Liz Joyner, a social worker and stay-at-home mom, (who also ran his last campaign), and recruited a bipartisan board whose members agree with two simple premises: facts matter; solutions should be bipartisan.

“If you say you’re nonpartisan, nobody believes you,” says Katz.

With that reality in mind, The Village Square aims to remind citizens of “The Big Idea” for which our ancestors spilled their blood – that Americans should be self-governing. The Web site, tothevillagesquare.org, explains that history in the context of today’s political dialogue, which “wouldn’t be tolerated between 5-year-olds at recess.”

“We’ve turned ‘talking’ over to professional polarizers on television who make seven-digit careers surfing this wave of hostility,” reads the Web site. “They warp what were once perfectly useful ideas, when understood in moderation, into black-and-white caricatures of ideas, so oversimplified they become effectively useless in solving real problems.

“These entrepreneurial yellers build for us such a fundamental misunderstanding of (and contempt for) people who think differently than we do, we’ve stopped bothering to listen to each other. … We’re spoon-fed slick (and expensive) commercials that sell us snake oil rather than provide the facts so basic to building the informed citizenry envisioned by our Founding Fathers.”

To that end, Katz and friends sponsor topical dinners ($25/person) to air local issues. Next week, while Boren and Co. are figuring out how to advance civil discourse at the national level, participants in Tallahassee’s Village Square will be dining with experts to discuss: “Energy Alternatives À la carte: Fossils and Sunshine and Garbage, oh my!”

OK, so you’re rewinding your videos that night, but somebody has to take this stuff seriously.

It’s not quite a movement, but both Boren’s initiative and the Katz/Joyner project suggest the stirrings of a necessary political backlash. Just as an unhappily married couple nevertheless manages to produce a lovely and beloved child, the ugly divorce of politics from the people may yet birth a very American revolution.

If Washington won’t lead the way, then Americans will simply lead themselves.

Born-again Americans. Now there’s a concept. Syndicated by The Washington Post Writers Group

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Kansas City Star: Village Square chapter in KC will hold its first dinner and public conversation Thursday

Think of the Village Square as a Southern front porch or a small town’s diner counter — a place where folks can come together and talk civilly about community and world issues. That’s what Allan Katz, a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, intends to bring back across the country with the launch of Village Square events. Katz is a co-founder of Village Square, a national organization started seven years ago in Tallahassee, Fla., as a way to restore civil discourse to national politics. The organization’s headquarters are at UMKC. On Thursday, Katz, a UMKC alum and a former U.S. ambassador to Portugal, and Kansas City’s newly formed chapter of Village Square will have its first local event — Dinner at the Square at 6 p.m. at Kansas City’s Central Library, 14 W. 10th St. Read the entire article in the Kansas City Star.

 



Mark Schlakman: Get past extreme partisan politics

From Sunday’s Tallahassee Democrat, Mark Schlakman of FSU’s Center for the Advancement of Human Rights writes about extreme partisanship and mentions The Village Square:Closer to home, The Village Square, a project conceived by former Tallahass…

 



Tallahassee Democrat: The Village Square expands to new cities

From yesterday’s Tallahassee Democrat:What grew out of a contentious 2006 coal-plant debate, is now being embraced elsewhere as a model for fostering civil discourse.The Village Square, a Tallahassee-based civic and social-engagement organization…

 



The Christian Science Monitor: Civil discourse that doesn’t taste like broccoli

Village Square co-founder Liz Joyner in The Christian Science Monitor:From TALLAHASSEE, FLA. — In the early 1800s, things weren’t looking particularly good for the American experiment in self-governance. Coming to Washington with differences of opi…

 



Independent Voter Network: The Village Square

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A profile of the Village Square by Glenn Davis published by Independent Voter Network:“All politics is local.” – former House Speaker Tip O’NeillThe Village Square is about as local and as grassroots as an organization can get, taking a very …

 



Tallahassee Democrat: Pub gathering energizes Village Square’s town hall meetings

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In the pub-centric style of town hall gatherings in the 1700s, Tallahassee-area residents, dubbed The Club of Honest Citizens, met Thursday night to discuss issues that affect the capital city. But there were no powdered wigs or declarations, just a host of ideas on how to better the community based on four topics — economic development, library services, growth and health care with the theme “What is the proper role of government?” Part of a formal partnership between the Village Square and the Leon County Commission, the first of three meetings is meant to be a place for open social discourse and engagement about the community. Read the entire article online at Tallahassee.com.

 



Jonathan Haidt in the Tallahassee Democrat: It helps if you can see the other side’s asteroids

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The asteroids are coming! The asteroids are coming! OK, I don’t mean literal asteroids made of rock and metal. I mean big problems that polarize us and therefore paralyze us. If you’re on the left, you probably have extremely acute vision for threats such as global warming and rising inequality. You’ve tried to draw attention to the rising levels of carbon dioxide, the rising average global surface temperature and the rising seas. You’ve also grown increasingly disturbed by the percentage of the national income taken home by the richest 1 percent. Read the whole piece online at Tallahassee.com

 



Senator Olympia Snowe names Village Square as one of eight groups working for political common ground

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In her book, “Fighting for Common Ground,” Olympia Snowe, the former senator from Maine, writes that the “fastest way” for citizens to push for compromise in Congress is to “support the efforts of existing national groups” that advocate bipartisanship. She recommends the following eight organizations, urging people to “browse their websites, visit them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter… The Village Square is a local, nonpartisan public education forum – not an advocacy group – that promotes fact-based discussion of local, state, and national issues and is based in Tallahassee, Fla. Read the entire article…

 



USA Today: Residents Make a Date with City Leaders

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The event, co-sponsored by The Village Square and Leadership Tallahassee, was designed to create conversation as participants nibbled on pizza and sipped lemonade and sweet tea. Tallahassee-based Village Square calls itself a unique model for civic engagement in America, attempting to bridge partisan divides to solve local problems. Last year, it expanded to St. Petersburg, Fla., and hopes its ideas will catch on. “A lot of times, they wanted to know about projects in the community,” Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge said about the constituents he met… Read the whole article at USA Today.

 



Jonathan Haidt writes about The Village Square in the New York Times

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We are particularly interested in organizations that try to create a sense of community and camaraderie as a precondition for political discussions. For example, a group called To the Village Square holds bipartisan events for citizens and community leaders in Tallahassee, Fla. They usually eat together before talking about politics — an effort to push a primitive cooperation button by breaking bread together. They talk a lot about their common identity as Tallahasseans. These are all efforts to manipulate participants — to change the warp of the epistemological table… Read the entire article in The New York Times.

 



Tallahassee Democrat: Author addresses deepening partisan divide

Know anyone who reacts violently to political agendas of the “other side”? They probably have a long list of reasons for their feelings: the other side is rude, selfish, has tunnel vision and is steering the nation to ruin. Social psychologist and author Jonathan Haidt, Ph.D., thinks those very attitudes are destructive to America. He’ll be speaking Tuesday night on the morality that “binds and blinds” our nation’s biggest political parties. Haidt will follow the ticketed, seated dinner and speech, “Polarization, Demonization and Paralysis in American Politics,” with a free, broader talk, “The Righteous Mind,” at Florida State [Read the article]

 



Tallahassee Democrat: Village Square nonprofit expands to St. Pete

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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. [Read the entire article]

 



Liz Joyner: Reviving the town hall meeting

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There’s nothing more quintessentially American than a town hall meeting. It’s how the business of American community has gotten done from just about the moment the first disaffected European foot hit ground in the New World. Even if you’ve never attended one, the town meeting is buried so deep in our country’s psyche that you can probably immediately call up its intimate details – rows of folding chairs, town council up front with only a school lunch table to define their status, a charmless but functional meeting room. Someone probably saw to it that there would be coffee and cookies. Overachievers might organize [Read the article]