Saturday, August 28, 2010

Open or closed? (UPDATE)

UPDATE 8-29-2010, 12:45 p.m. EDT: I mistakenly listed the cost of the new high school at $130 million. I thank Josephine Posti of the Mt. Lebanon School Board for catching that mistake and notifying me that the cost cannot exceed $113 million.

ORIGINAL POST: An intriguing conversation in one room takes place while an intriguing protest takes place outside. Is this a problem?

That question was at the forefront of an invitation-only town hall meeting that took place this morning. (Full disclosure: I agreed a few days ago to step in as the moderator for the town hall after the originally scheduled moderator had to cancel because of a death in the family.)

Was today's event exclusionary of those who differed with the Mt. Lebanon commissioner who called it? That's going to depend in part on where you fall about the primary issue that drew the protesters -- the potential for building a new high school to the tune of more than $130 million.

I'm sure someone is thinking -- wait a minute, Anthony is a free speech advocate. How can he possibly explain away this decision to prevent free speech by one local politician?

Ah, but he didn't prevent free speech. He didn't seek to move the protesters -- there were perhaps 15 of them when I last saw them -- who gathered immediately outside the municipal building. He didn't speak ill of them at any point during the meeting. He never said they had no right to show up at the same time his event was taking place.

At the end of the meeting, I mentioned to the commissioner that if he wanted to do a similar event in the future, he ought to invite even more people to attend. But you shouldn't read anything into that; it was merely a recognition that democracy works best, in my opinion, when all voices are heard.

Do I think today's event was exclusionary? No. I would like to see more of them in the future.

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