It was a gray December day in Sacramento when Valley Vision CEO Bill Mueller and Managing Partner Kristine Mazzei received a phone call requesting a meeting with Liz Joyner, Executive Director of The Village Square. Curious as to why someone from a nonprofit in Tallahassee, Florida would want to meet with a regionally-serving organization in Sacramento, California, Bill and Kristine accepted the meeting. Little did they know they were about to meet their organizational soul mate.
Liz had been traveling throughout California meeting with various organizations and looking for a home from which to grow Village Square in California. Following years of success in Tallahassee that’s garnered national media attention, and armed with a commitment from an investor in Silicon Valley to develop Village Square somewhere in California, Liz had been speaking with people throughout the state for days. While Valley Vision wasn’t initially on her radar, after hearing the name from multiple sources she decided to fit it in before her flight home. Liz, Bill, and Kristine spent two hours together discovering that The Village Square and Valley Vision were made for each other.
The Village Square was formed seven years ago after a divisive local referendum in Tallahassee, Florida concerning a proposed coal plant turned into an expensive PR campaign that obscured the facts more than it educated the citizens. It became all about liberals vs. conservatives and all the national issue baggage that comes along with it, instead of being about the coal plant and what the community needed to understand to make a decision. Liz noticed back then that Allan Katz (Democrat) and his good friend Dr. Bill Law (Republican) seemed to be among the only people having a real conversation about the coal plant – complete with actual facts and higher level reasoning now and again. (Bill was for the coal plant, Allan against.)
So Allan, Bill, and Liz and a few other folks created The Village Square, founded on relationships between people who disagree with each other, but still talk and may even occasionally like each other. And here in Sacramento, we’re doing the same. Following the successful model in Tallahassee, Village Square Sacramento will have a bipartisan leadership group (we’re calling them the Big Pigs—more on that later) that will help create each season’s program themes and guide the project. Membership to Village Square Sacramento is open to everyone from both sides of the aisle, the middle of the aisle, or dancing down the aisle. Members and non-members alike will be invited to dinner events, free events, and in coming years, additional kinds of events. These events will have speakers and panelists who take on important issues with civil, fact-based—and maybe even fun!—dialogue. Following Tallahassee’s lead, we will quietly – or not so quietly since after all we are in California – defy the national trend toward fact-free partisan food fights and reconnect community, which has always been the common sense foundation of American democracy. When pigs fly, you say? You might want to carry an umbrella.