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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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Katz discusses diplomatic life in Portugal

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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 Mark Schlakman, senior program director for the Florida State University Center for the Advancement [Read the article]

 



Tallahassee Democrat: Liz Joyner, “On Jefferson and Adams”

“You and I ought not to die until we have explained ourselves to each other.” So began the late-life correspondence between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the founding fathers described in the epic HBO mini-series “John Adams” as “the north and south poles of our revolution.” Once friends, differences in opinion and political competition had taken a toll. They, like others in the founders’ generation, had deep philosophical disagreements. But as they went about the business of building a country, an endeavor that if unsuccessful would surely lead to their hanging, they hardly had the luxury to stop talking [Read the article]

 



Tallahassee Democrat: Crossing the divide

In the capital city a few years ago, a group of local citizens who happened to know and respect each other in spite of being of different parties, were apparently looking farther down the road than the next election. They predicted the folly of remaining perpetually in two camps and sensed the gridlock that comes of resisting movement toward common ground on what are fundamentally concerns common to all: jobs, health, education, natural resources, public safety and so forth. The Village Square declared itself a presence here, one intent on not just exploring the partisan divide, but crossing it through a series of community [Read the article]

 



“Recount” makes Knight Foundation news

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From The Knight Foundation: It 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. Panelists included Florida Supreme Court Justices Jorge Labarga and retired Justice Harry Lee Anstead [Read the article]

 



Associated Press: Hanging chads make a comeback

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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 by The Village Square, a Tallahassee-based group trying to revive civil discourse. After more than five weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court [Read the article]

 



Mary Ann Lindley: “Americana at its most beguiling”

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“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 production gear in what was still a pre-digital era. From all over the globe came the media, the law and the amazed who could [Read the article]

 



Tallahassee Democrat: Peaceful Village

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Remember the fracas surrounding the town hall meetings on health care? The founders of The Village Square do. Their efforts to bring together diametrically opposed ideological groups has earned a $72,000 slice of $24 million offered through the Knight Foundation’s Community Information Challenge. The money will be used to support programs that help concerned individuals follow Albert Einstein’s charge: “To the village square we must carry the facts … from there must come America’s voice.” The Village Square is the type of resource citizens of this country, and more distinctly, area residents will need [Read the article]

 



Today’s FSView: ‘We the People’ project wins major grant

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The Community Foundation of North Florida, partnering with the local Village Square, recently received a $72,000 challenge grant to go toward renewing the dialogue regarding community issues. “The whole idea is to bring people together that don’t agree politically and bridge the partisan divide,” said Liz Joyner, executive director of the Village Square. The Knight Community Information Challenge is a highly-competitive national competition that chooses only 24 winners every year. The premise of the competition is to inspire community foundations across the country to think of new and creative ways to discuss [Read the article]

 



Village Square wins highly competitive national Knight Community Information Challenge Grant

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The Community Foundation of North Florida in partnership with The Village Square, recently 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 goal is to renew Tallahassee’s marketplace of ideas where good solutions rise from an informed citizenship, and where abundant information can be channeled into [Read the article]

 



Mary Ann Lindley: Progress calls for ‘healing language’

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One night last week, I was inspired, however, by a small group of people who are trying to restore civility in public conversation – and therefore help us make better progress in solving our problems. Our big three, the economy, health care, war, are all stymied now by vast differences of opinion and approach – and high levels of mistrust – of each other’s ideas on how to move forward.The Village Square, an informal civic group that’s now two years old here in Tallahassee, had invited to town former Iowa Republican Congressman Jim Leach, who is now chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. [Read the entire article]

 



Breaking news: The Village Square’s “We the People” awarded Knight Foundation grant through the Community Foundation of North Florida as one of 24 innovative ideas nationwide

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In an effort to revitalize the dialogue among the city’s diverse residents, this grant will help launch “The Village Square: We the People,” a 21st century virtual and real world public square. The project will offer unique town hall forums in addition to constructive online engagement and a community problem-solving Wiki. Organizers aim 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. [Read the entire release]