civil discourse

State Rep Warren Kampf takes on TTDEMS Chair Dariel Jamieson for lying about him … again!

Below is an excerpt from an op-ed written by State Rep Warren Kampf (R-157).  In the article, Kampf is calling for an end to uncivil discourse.  He uses a couple of examples in his editorial of uncivil speech, including Dariel Jamieson’s recent letters to the editors.  It is not Jamieson’s right to voice her opinion concerning Kampf’s vote on the transportation bill that is the issue but rather her lying about a political pledge she states that Kampf took.  As I said in my last post, Jamieson compounded the difficult situation by writing a second letter to the editor and not taking responsibility for her incorrect accusations contained in her first letter. Civil discourse means to engage in conversation intended to enhance understanding – personal attacks and lies are wrong and diminish the value of the argument.

In his latest op-ed, Kampf does not say Jamieson’s actions were politically motivated.  However, when you write an editorial attacking a Republican elected official and sign the letter as chair of the local Democratic Committee (as Jamieson did), it is not a stretch to come to that conclusion.  For those keeping score – Dariel Jamieson has now written two editorials attacking Warren Kampf in the last couple of weeks and Kampf’s op-ed marks his second response back to her.  Here’s hoping that Jamieson does not feel compelled to write a third letter to the editor on the same topic!

Beyond the uncivil discourse created by Jamieson’s letters, I remain troubled that her actions as the political party chair are putting Murph Wysocki and Mark Freed, the newly elected Democratic Tredyffrin Township supervisors, in an awkward position less than a month before they take office.  Wysocki and Freed will join five Republican supervisors on the Board and this ‘war of words’ from Jamieson going on in the background cannot be helpful to them.  I will not believe that Jamieson sought counsel with either Wysocki or Freed before engaging in this discourse against Kampf – if she had, it is extremely doubtful that they would have approved either of these letters.

When you accept the role of president or chair of an organization, and act publically in that capacity, you need to ensure that your voice is representative of those that you are elected to serve – are Jamieson’s letters to the editor representative of TTDEMS members opinions?  I hope not.

In closing, I echo Kampf’s words,” … every citizen and every elected official – would be better served saying what we must in a way that achieves civil discourse …”   Below is the excerpt from Kampf’s Op-Ed, to read the entire article, click here.

It’s Time to End Uncivil Discourse

As State Representative, I am accustomed to hearing from constituents as they present their views and positions on issues being addressed in Harrisburg and here at home.  Some agree with me.  Some do not.  But, mostly, all make their points in a manner that is respectful and fair.   I work hard to do the same in answering their concerns.  It’s called civil discourse, and it is one of the foundations of our representative democracy.

Unfortunately over the past few months – as we have seen arguments over government shutdowns in Washington, D.C., differences surrounding the recently enacted Transportation Funding package in Harrisburg, and now the passionate feelings over eminent domain issues in Phoenixville – it has become clear that too many have abandoned civil discourse in favor of uncivil speech and actions.

This speech and these actions do us no good.  It forces people, who are otherwise normally reasonable, to abandon the idea of achieving pragmatic progress.  It forces gridlock.  It stops us from addressing truly important issues.

During the debate over the Transportation Funding package, I was accused in a Letter to the Editor of choosing my position based on a political pledge to a Washington, DC special interest group.  The problem?  I had never taken any such pledge (something that was easily verifiable with a simple internet search) and I had made it known publicly that my position came from surveying the people I represent.  My attacker, however, had no problem simply submitting a lie to the newspaper.  That’s uncivil discourse.

I give my attacker respect for her position on the issue and her passion over it.  I believe, however, her point could have been made in a way that was more respectful to both the public and me.  Had she made her point this way, I believe it may also have been more effective for those she wished to persuade. . . .

Let me be clear: I am in no way suggesting that citizens abandon making their voice heard, be it in favor or opposition to an issue.  As the saying goes, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

I am just suggesting that all of us – every citizen and every elected official – would be better served saying what we must in a way that achieves civil discourse again.   In this way, we can find our way to truly addressing issues rather than just fighting about them.  That is a simple goal we should all strive to achieve if we truly care about making our community stronger.”

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Civil Discourse Between Agnes Irwin School Supporters and Easttown Residents . . . Township Supervisors Listen and the Vote Goes in Favor of the Community Voice

Civil Discourse is the formal exchange of reasoned views as to which of several alternative courses of action should be taken to solve a societal problem. It is intended to involve all citizens in the making of the decision, persuade others (through valid information and logic), and clarify what course of action would be most effective in solving the societal problem.

Last night the auditorium of Beaumont Elementary School was standing room only for Easttown Township’s special meeting . . . by my calculations, 250 Easttown residents and Agnes Irwin School (AIS) supporters packed in to the room.  After brief remarks from the township supervisors, there was a 20-minute overview of the revised Agnes Irwin School’s proposed playing field plans for the Hawkins Farm.  Agnes Irwin head of school, Dr. Mary  Seppala  spoke about the school and the students, followed by AIS attorney Ross Weiss who explained the contents of the revised playing field plans.  Mr. Weiss presented AIS’s new proposed plan; attempting to answer many of the previous concerns of the Hawkins Farm neighbors and other Easttown residents. 

A cornerstone of the new proposal was a ‘give-back’ of 58 acres (of the 108 acres) to Easttown.  Other new plan components included the creation of $500K fund for the township, whose yearly interest was intended for maintenance of the 58 acres;  complete public use of playing fields and tennis courts and a walking trail throughout the property with exercise stations.  Mr. Weiss patiently promoted the merits of this new plan and his hope that the supervisors would allow the plan to move to the planning commission.

The supervisors asked Mr. Weiss several general questions and then opened the discussion to the residents for their comments, questions and remarks.  The next two hours of this special meeting were remarkable.  One after another of the residents spoke with passion and conviction on the proposed playing fields,  Although the majority who spoke were in opposition of the proposed playing fields, there was a minority of Easttown residents who spoke in favor of the proposed plans; many of these supporters with daughters at  AIS. The residents frequently clarified their remarks, explaining that the issue was not about AIS.  Rather the issue was about changing zoning ordinances to allow a multi-sports complex construction in a residential district.  Their concerns remained unchanged as from previous meetings – traffic, safety issues, noise, associated expenses to the township and the potential lowering of property values.

Following the resident’s comments, the supervisors agreed to make a decision on proposed playing field plans.  The supervisors had three choices; (1) to remain silent and do nothing; (2) vote against AIS proposed plan or (3) vote to move the AIS proposal on to township Planning Commission and Chester County Planning Commission.  The supervisors asked for a 5-minute break to deliberate and then with a few remarks, once again in a unanimous vote, made the decision to vote against the proposed plan.  In their remarks, several supervisors cited receiving 328 emails and letters from residents and all but 10 were opposing the proposed plan.

Although I was pleased for the many residents who had passionately fought against the playing fields, I received an unexpected bonus from attending this lengthy meeting.  I left the meeting with a sense that both sides had presented their cases with civility and respect for the other side and that I had witnessed local government at its best.

Thomas Jefferson and the other founders of the American Republic, considered political discourse to be the heart of democracy. Jefferson noted, “Differences of opinion lead to inquiry, and inquiry to truth.” According to Webster’s dictionary, the concept discourse has two major meanings: (a) formal communication of thoughts about a serious subject through words (spoken or written) and (b) rationality or the ability to reason.

Civil discourse is our ability to have conversation about topics about which we disagree, and our ability to listen to each others’ perspectives. Political discourse is a method of decision-making in a democracy; last night’s special meeting represented local government and civil discourse at its best!  I applaud the Agnes Irwin School supporters and the Easttown residents for their thoughtful civil discourse, but above all, Easttown Township’s elected officials receive a standing ovation from my vantage point! 

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