Fostering Thoughtful Discourse

Guest Correspondence

I’ve heard many people describe today’s national political climate as a three-ring circus. With insults flying back and forth, demeaning news columns based upon dreamed-up facts, and new material occurring daily that fosters fodder for the blogs, I for one am looking forward to our thoughtful candidate forums and discussions here at home to decide on our local races. 

The Argus Foundation is hosting two events to bring thoughtful discourse to light this month, one of which sold out faster than ever before. These events are a great opportunity for meaningful conversations to take the place of the political theater taking center stage on a national level.

First up is our sold-out Florida Senate panel and debate next week featuring all six confirmed political candidates. We will have 150 members and guests hear from all of the current candidates for this race, including: Frank Cirillo, former State Representative Doug Holder, Rick Levine, former County Commissioner Nora Patterson, current state Representative Ray Pilon and current state Representative Greg Steube.

The candidates will answer questions previously submitted to each on a variety of issues from education, taxes, Enterprise Florida and incentives. There will also be a short audience question-and-answer period. This was a format first used by The Argus Foundation at the Sarasota City Commission candidate panel last year. We found that by submitting questions to the candidates in advance, our audience was able to glean more thoughtful responses to important issues. Our members found great insight in hearing responses that were researched, resulting in more detailed responses.

At our last panel, the audience and the candidates enjoyed it and everyone thought the process was fair. We tackled tough issues and it is a great opportunity to get a glimpse of how a candidate will research an issue, prepare an argument and govern in a thoughtful way. After all, this is how we would hope they would govern if elected.

The second event is much more casual: our popular all-you-can-eat Low Country Boil. This community favorite allows Argus Foundation members and guests to mingle and speak with elected officials and candidates in a laid back atmosphere with great food. The Low Country Boil has always been one that I look forward to and it continues to grow each year. With two weeks left until the event, we have already surpassed ticket sales from last year, possibly because this year we are fortunate to have Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston on our cooking team. The casual event, set on the Bayfront has no formal program. Instead, it showcases great food and good conversations, giving people the ability to connect in a meaningful and casual way. After last year’s event, Sarasota Mayor Willie Shaw commented at a commission meeting that he “found it to be very, very rewarding in building relationships with people throughout the county."

So while Sarasota will always be known as a circus town, it’s good to see the strong interest in meaningful local conversations, leaving the theatrics on the national stage.

Christine Robinson the executive director of The Argus Foundation.

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