The Pledge -
"I agree that I will listen and speak when called upon.
I agree that the only way a civil discussion can occur is if participants agree to be respectful of all speakers.
I agree and will join in the civil discussion."
so many Health Care meetings have been disrupted, the Coalition for the
Future of Martin County Healthcare decided to ask participants to sign
a pack of civility. Each participant was greeted and asked to sign this
pledge of civility. Would you sign this pledge to speak tonight?
I believe it encouraged participants and audience members alike to behave civilly. After the guests signed I offered them a speaker's card. I had made up speakers cards, and had planned to allot 3 minutes to each speaker. And allowing for opening comments and some time for announcements that would consume our two hour meeting.
Over fifty people attended our town hall meeting and only two guests refuse to sign our civility pledge. One gentleman ANGRILY denounced me for insulting him by asking him to be civil - what gall! [REAL GALL MEDICAL INSURANCE SALARIES]
I tried to explain that while most people would behave no other way, recently healthcare meetings had been marred by exhibitions of immoderate behavior. We hoped to avoid such problems. One "refusnik", later agreed to sign the pledge of civility so he could participate and speak. He was an Iraq vet, who while opposing national healthcare, did agree that we needed insurance reform. We had more than 30 speakers during the evening including two strident supporters of single payer, a teenager with a personal tale to tell and an octogenarian with broad experience with European health care.
Our town hall meeting in Palm City, Florida came quick on the heels of a very strident town hall held a few miles away at Indian River State college.
meeting, held at the behest of the local republican
congressman, was marked by confrontation and near fist fights.
Congressman Rooney opposes healthcare reform, happy it would seem, to
betray his own constituents
for the insurance blood money that will surely come his way.
The Citizen's Coalition for the Future of Healthcare in Martin County, had laid the groundwork for this town hall meeting by interviewing county and state and federal officials. We asked them to explain current outreach projects and we interviewed citizens to understand their perspectives.
The County Health
Department explained that they have a online information campaign, but
they have no money, to do outreach. They asked us to make sure to
invite them when we had our town hall meetings. The HIV/Aids campaigners asked to participate when we have our
town hall meetings.
So as out planning for the meeting developed we asked each agency and organization to attend and present at our meeting. We also invited the local hospitals and medical agencies to participate, but as time approached for our town hall meeting, the publicity of the violent and confrontational nature of so many national and regional meetings their participation began to fall off. Not planned parenthood, not HIV/Aids, not the County Health Department ultimately chose to appear at our town hall meeting.Intimidation does work, and the poisonous environment cultivated by the anti-reformers has done its work. It has made public meetings toxic and dangerous in many minds.
Our audience was made up in equal parts, by independents, motivated democrats and energized republicans. We had a dedicated contingent of democratic activists and "tea-bagger" republicans outside with signs, trading perspectives in a mostly genial manner. The occasional intemperate exchange was the exception. The majority of our audience was people interested in listening to the presentations.
Knowing that there was a chance that things could become difficult, I hoped that the civility pledge and speakers tickets we had a shot to achieve a reasonable and polite discourse despite the recent history that suggested that civil discussion was not possible.more
Richard W. Spisak Jr.
Citizen Coalition for the Future of Healthcare in Martin County