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Florence Snyder: Palm Beach Post’s O’Meilia leaves his mark in scrapbooks – and hearts – across America



O'MeiliaMuckraking matters, but the true test of a newspaper’s mettle is its day to day commitment to telling ordinary stories in extraordinary ways.

Florida lost one of its most gifted—and beloved—storytellers Saturday when Tim O’Meilia, 65, succumbed to cancer.

O’Meilia leaves behind wife Debbie, sons Rolly and Casey, and generations of Florida journalists who took instruction and inspiration from the body of work he produced for The Palm Beach Post from 1972- 2008.

A look at the guest book for people wishing to leave condolences on The Post’s website could double as a textbook for what makes a great reporter.

“I had the express joy of knowing him for a decade,” wrote Elizabeth Dashiell of Jupiter. “He covered the Science Museum, and came out for all of our major (and minor!) events. He was a gentleman, brilliant writer and warm caring person. I loved reading his articles and loved even more spending time with him, talking about local places and strange things. He shared my love of the unusual and knew the best way to describe Florida’s uniqueness.”

O’Meilia was a low-maintainence general assignment guy who could always be counted upon to produce a high-impact story.

“Because of his ability to turn a non-story into a great read for the front page, Tim was always picked to handle the quirky piece. He was the “go-to guy” in the newsroom. He never complained — not once — and always turned the story into something worth taking the time to read. He was a real pro, a great guy and I don’t know anyone who didn’t enjoy working with him,” wrote Pete Ebel, one of the many editors who loved to handle O’Meilia’s consistently close-to-perfect copy.

Kathryn Quigley of Deptford, New Jersey “…had the pleasure of sitting next to Tim in The Post newsroom from 2000-2002. I loved seeing his sly smile and hearing his confident, quiet way with sources on the phone. ”

Investigative reporter-turned filmmaker Gary Kane weighed in from New York: “…..Yes, you CAN believe everything he wrote, whether it was a story about a Lake Worth zoning squabble or the mating rituals of turkey vultures. No factual errors. No misquotes. He wrote with a clear, concise style. His storytelling was honest, thoughtful, clever. I imagine that countless stories carrying the Tim O’Meilia byline have been clipped and pasted in scrapbooks or tucked in boxes of mementos. Tim wasn’t a newsroom prima donna. He….wasn’t obsessed with becoming a brand. He was simply a journalist. A damn fine one….”

An especially poignant tribute comes from The Post’s veteran courts reporter, Susan Spencer-Wendel, who reported her own story of living with purpose and joy following a diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease. “Tim made writing look easy,” wrote Wendel, who tapped her best-selling memoir, “Before I Say Goodbye” out on an iPhone, one character at a time. “I loved his stories about a comet buzzing by or the new jaguar born at the zoo. There was such delight in them. He was a true gentleman and a fine and fair reporter.”

Post Director of Administration Lynn Kalber speaks for many others who think “Tim was part of that small, unique percentage of newspaper writers: Everything he wrote was gold. He made it look easy. He made us care about all of it. He taught us all kinds of things without letting us know we were learning. And to cap all of it off, he was one of the nicest guys around….”

O’Meilia, a Notre Dame graduate, could have spent most of his career at bigger papers with bigger audiences for bigger money. But as the condolences continue to pour in from all over the country, it’s hard to imagine any way he could have left a bigger mark.

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



Civil Politics is talking about Tuesday night’s dinner in Tallahassee



From Civil Politics:

One of the most general and robust findings in social psychology is the power of situations to shape behavior. For example, if you are in a situation where you are competing with others, you will tend to dislike them, whereas when you are cooperating with them, you will tend to like them. This is relatively intuitive, yet we often fail to appreciate this in practice, and then we end up amazed when arbitrary groups put in competition end up in deep conflict. If artificially created competitions can inflame divisions (e.g. sports fandom usually pits very similar people against each other), perhaps we can also manufacture cooperation to reduce division.

Read the whole post here.



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



Screen shot 2014-01-10 at 9.29.35 AMThe 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. In fact, I’ll bet you spotted those two asteroids back in the 1990s, when it would have been so much easier to deflect them, and you’re angry that conservatives are still deep in denial. What’s wrong with those conservatives?

On the other hand, if you’re on the right, you’ve probably been tracking our nation’s entitlement spending and the rise of nonmarital births for a long time now. You’ve been ringing alarms about those two asteroids since the 1970s, but liberals have treated you like Chicken Little, completely unconcerned. Caring is spending, they seem to believe. All forms of family are equally good for kids, they assert in spite of the evidence. What’s wrong with those liberals? Read the whole piece online at Tallahassee.com.



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





Here’s to a few more friendly shoulders in our future



Cheers to Lea Marshall, who sent this video along with this note: tis the season. may we all give others a chance to rest their heads (or even their thoughts that maybe aren’t the same as our thoughts) on us peacefully and gracefully…



CivilPolitics.org: Newt Gingrich praising Nelson Mandela



Screen shot 2013-12-09 at 8.52.04 PMWe’re delighted to be partnering with CivilPolitics.org in our California expansion project. They’ll be producing evaluative measures for us as we experiment with different structures and programs in new (and old) locations. We think they produce the most cogent academic view of our increasingly divisive civic environment – they also care about actually solving the problem. Today, they’ve written about how science says you transcend political division, using Newt Gingrich as an example. Who knew.



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



The Village Square » Florida 2013-12-04 09:36:56



FCRC logos 2Join the FSU FCRC Consensus Center on Thursday December 5th from 3 to 4:30 pm (Sittig Hall, Kleman Plaza, 301 S. Bronough Street) for a free forum that is open to the public on collaboration, civility and leadership. The program will be led by Richard Walker, Senior Vice President/Regional Outreach, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and and Todd Greene, Community and Economic Development, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Chairman Bernanke recently observed, “Industry mix, demographic makeup, and geographic location make less difference to success than the presence of a community leader and collaboration around a vision for the future.” Walker and Greene will share their insights on collaborative leadership from the Bank’s research and the “Working Cities Challenge” initiative in Massachusetts with an audience of scholars, students and professionals in Tallahassee. The event is part of the FSU FCRC Consensus Center’s initiative “Collaborative Leadership and Florida’s Civic Future” being developed with the FSU Askew School of Public Administration and Policy, Florida League of Cities, Florida Association of Counties, Leadership Florida, AARP Florida and the Village Square. For more info CLICK HERE (and page down for an RSVP link or CLICK HERE.)



Fruitful fields and healthful skies: Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day proclamation.



lincoln memorialBy the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State



St. Pete Village Square on December 5th!



Screen shot 2013-11-25 at 4.25.53 PMIf by chance you’ll be in the Tampa/St. Pete area December 5th, the Village Square St. Pete is hosting a program you shouldn’t miss, “Oh Florida, Capital of Weirdness… “From Elian Gonzalex and Ballot-Chasing Lawyers to Ponzi Schemers, Face-Eating Cannibals and Child-Eating Pythons.” It features Dr. Gary Mormino, Professor Emeritus of Florida History at USFSP. Yep that’s our state. While you’re at it, why not visit the St. Pete Village Square website at online here.

Click this link to register.












Matthew Dowd | Nuclear option, tribalism and Founding Fathers



Thomas Jefferson doorstopMatthew Dowd today on This Week with George Stephanopoulos:

“We also must keep in mind that the Founding Fathers warned against day in and day out, including President Washington, about the power of political parties. And the power of parties to tear apart the government and create this dysfunction. We are at a point now where the political parties and people line up in these tribes and it’s very difficult. As I say, you can’t have the same rules in chess oh we’re going to be fine and all that, as you have in mixed martial arts which is where the situation is today in Washington.

“Where we are today George, where we are today is the president in 2008 and 2007 ran on the idea that he was going to bring the country together, bring Washington together. We’re going to get past the partisan gridlock. We’re going to get past the vitriol. And now we’re at a point where the rules have to change in the Senate because it’s become so polarized, so vitriolic that we can’t get it done.”