Florence Snyder: Surely it was inevitable that the boomers would create TGIO (thankfully, in Tallahassee)

There’s not much to smile about in this Summer of Tsuris. Governor Rick Scott has fled the jurisdiction as Dream Defenders occupy the Capitol. Deck chairs are being shuffled at the Department of Children & Families. The Agency for Health Care Administration is using the children it warehouses in geriatric nursing homes as an excuse to bash Obamacare. Obscene “compensation” pours into the pockets of shameless officers and directors at Florida Blue.

So it was a welcome and altogether unexpected surprise this weekend to see hundreds of old folks dancing down Broadsway at Florida State University’s Opperman Music Hall.

That’s not a typo. “Broadsway” Productions is the second act of self-described recovering lawyer Elise Judelle and Peggy Brady, who recently retired after a 21-year run as Executive Director of the local Council on Culture and Arts.

Judelle and Brady are in show business full time now, and this weekend was the world premiere of a cabaret they call TGIO (Thank God I’m Old). For two solid hours, Broadsway’s troupe of singer-actors took an unsparing musical look at all manner of unfinished business people contend with in the 4th quarter of their lives. The characters portrayed come from the songbooks of pop, rock, and country, as well as the Great White Way, and the stakes are high, because time on the clock is running low.

The Judelle-Brady spirit of “hey kids, let’s put on a show!” made for a great performance, but even more interesting was the audience.

The 442 seat venue was close to full of local retirees. Some of the faces were recognizable, but most were unsung heroes of generations of state workers, educators and journalists who served Florida in the decades before it was the world’s leading exporter of late night comedy.

The token young person in the room was cast member Kelly Staver Elliott, who sang the role of a beloved granddaughter in a reimagined version of “For Good,” a signature song from Stephen Schwartz’s “Wicked.” More often, Elliott was camping it up as a sweet young thing who catches the eyes of over-the-hill men armed with high hopes and a few hits of Viagra.

Audience emotions were toyed with in ways not generally associated with attorneys like Judelle, who spent much of her career doing the mind-numbing work of a bond lawyer at Bryant Miller Olive, the firm founded by the late Gov. Farris Bryant.

Show-goers toggled between uproarious laughter and barely-muffled sobs. There was a relaxed camaraderie in the audience that one used to see in the halls of power back when public service was an end in itself, and not a pit stop on the path to a lucrative life of influence peddling and no-bid contracts.

At intermission, people who used to be bold-faced names worked the room. They recognized people who, long ago, did real work competently at metal desks far removed from the corner offices of agency heads and managing partners. Unlike today’s “executive leadership teams” who always have their eyes on the name tags, looking for someone more important to talk to, they greeted old subordinates as equals, and asked after their children.

Judelle and Brady’s Glee for Geezers seems destined for future performance on the road and on the Internet. But on opening night, it felt like it was the audience that should be taking the bow.

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



Knight Foundation: Expanding civic engagement in Tallahassee with help from LocalWiki (and an enterprising retiree)

When The Village Square embarked on our hyper-local community engagement project called “Get Local” – funded by Knight Foundation through the Community Foundation of North Florida – we wanted to appeal to people who weren’t the usual ones who show up for local civic events. With deepening national partisanship increasingly playing out in local politics, hometown civic discussions have become angrier and therefore less attractive to the average nonpartisan citizen. And we think Tallahassee can hardly afford to lose what they have to offer. Read the whole article on the Knight Foundation blog.



“It’s Even Worse than it Looks” Solutions: Re-create a Public Square

I finally got the nerve up to read It’s Even Worse than it Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein. It required nerve because it looks so bad that the idea that anything could be even worse than that, well… I’ll do a little reporting on some of the findings, starting with this:

“America also needs a concerted effort to ameliorate the impact of the partisan media. The country no longer has a public square where most Americans shared a common set of facts used to debate policy options with vigor, but with a basic acceptance of the legitimacy of others’ views. Little can be done to change the new business models, driven by technology and global economics, that make Fox News’s apprach a clear winner over the old network news apprach. But a semblance of a new public square, one that might never have the reach or audience of the old one, could be a model for civil discourse and intelligent, lively debate.”

Find our argument for why we think The Village Square fits the bill here (published February 2012 in the Tallahassee Democrat).



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. We’re launching OUR TOWN this Thursday night because we believe it’s time to live up to that legacy of greatness. We hope you’ll join us for our first event on February 16th. We want you there so badly, we’re buying the pizza.



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



This morning… The Death Penalty: Evolving Issues in Florida

The Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights & the American Bar Association present:

The Death Penalty: Evolving Issues in Florida

A two-hour forum that will include participation by FSU President Emeritus, former Dean of the College of Law and former American Bar Association President Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte; former Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero; 2nd Judicial Circuit Judge Janet Ferris (retired); 18th Judicial Circuit Judge O.H. Eaton (retired); Harry Shorstein, former Fourth Judicial Circuit State Attorney; Mike Minerva, CEO, Innocence Project of Florida and former 2nd Judicial Circuit Public Defender; Mark Olive, renowned capital case litigator, and Les Garringer, executive director of the Florida Innocence Commission and former Monroe County Judge.

When: Monday, November 14th from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Where: FSU College of Law Rotunda, 425 W. Jefferson St. (across from the Leon County Civic Center)

*sponsored in cooperation with The Constitution Project and The Village Square



News from the Village Square: November newsletter

Click here to read the newsletter.



The Crier: News from the Village Square

Click here to read our Souvenir Technology Glitch edition of our newsletter and learn all about next Tuesday night’s Dinner at the Square program!



Florence Snyder: Happy Father’s Day to all the honorary recipients of the Joseph Snyder Professorship in Generosity

This is my sixth Father’s Day without my father. I can’t say that I miss the heart-to-heart talks because we didn’t have very many.  Like most men of what Tom Brokaw christened “the greatest generation,” Daddy wasn’t an emo guy.

When I was away at school, my mother and grandmother and even my big brother would send me cards and letters filled with neighborhood gossip and newspaper clippings and “I can’t wait ‘til you’re home’
 
Daddy did not write letters. Instead, he’d cook up excuses for unannounced visits and it annoyed me no end to be “checked up on.” Read all »



On Pro Publica

Think Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman on the big screen as Woodward and Bernstein of Watergate fame. Think My Lai massacre, Love Canal.

Think Ford Pinto.

If you haven’t given investigative journalism a whole lot of thought lately, you might want to start. Because in the past it’s been an integral part of America’s civic life, it’s natural to assume its out there alive and well like some kind of invisible democratic force field, but the reality is that along with the rest of journalism, everything about investigative journalism has changed virtually overnight. Turns out it’s going to need a new business model. Read all »