Organization for civic discourse gets going at UMKC

UMKC Professor Allen Katz, co-founder of the Village Square.

Allen Katz, co-founder of the Village Square.

The new UMKC organization The Village Square, aimed at restoring civil discourse in national politics, has scheduled its first event. It has also announced the members of its advisory board.

In addition to the local Kansas City chapter, the national Village Square offices also are being established at UMKC, with support from the Bloch Family Foundation.

“It is an attempt to bring back the spirit of the American town hall and engage local citizens in civil dialogue on contentious issues. The Village Square holds comfortable, casual forums and offers programming that brings people together for face-to-face interactions about polarizing issues facing local communities and the nation. The goal is to engage in dialog, build connections and seek understanding, even while disagreeing,” the university explains in a press release.

“Our political system won’t change until leaders lose power when they are divisive and polarizing,” says founder Allen Katz, distinguished professor at UMKC, who co-founded the organization. “In our hometown, what will change right away is how we discuss these issues, because they’ll be framed not just by advocates, but by the community.

“There is a hunger in this country for rational conversation,” Katz said. “We’re going to create a place for that in Kansas City.”

Each Village Square chapter has co-chairs from opposite sides of the political aisle. Filling those roles in Kansas City are Mary Bloch, a Democrat on the Missouri side of the state line, and Leawood Mayor Peggy Dunn, a Republican from Kansas.

The chapter’s inaugural event, A Dinner at the Square, is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, October 9, at the Kansas City Public Library Downtown, 14 W. 10th St. It will be a dinner and panel discussion in partnership with the Library, with the theme “The Price of Incivility.” Katz will moderate a discussion among panelists former Congressman David Obey, retired Truman Medical Centers CEO and Executive Director of John Bluford, and Vice President of the National Association of Counties Bryan Desloge.

Kansas City Village Square Advisory Board members are Irvin V. Belzer, Mary S. Bloch, John W. Bluford, Curt Crespino, James W. Dawson, Corey Dillon, The Honorable Peggy J. Dunn, Henry Fortunato, SuEllen Fried, Lee Greif, Nick Haines, Scott T. Helm, Irvine O. Hockaday, Jr., Joanne Katz, Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner, Rabbi Mark H. Levin, Janet L. Mark, Mary Kay McPhee, Ramon Murguia, Sally Murguia, Sue Seidler Nerman, Dr. Nick Peroff, Cici Rojas, Steve Roling, Daniel Rosenfield, Mahnaz M. Shabbir, Deborah L. Sosland-Edelman, Marvin S. Szneler, Dr. F. Wayne Vaught and Phil Witt.

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