On November 2nd, Common Ground for Texans hosted a community conversation with a panel of 3 Republican and 3 Democratic Travis County precinct chairs. The meeting was facilitated by Diane Miller, founder of Civic Collaboration, a firm that specializes in helping diverse stakeholders establish common ground for action. The panel members shared their perspectives on various draft questions that could appear on future candidate surveys in next year’s elections. To promote a free interchange of ideas and limit partisanship, the seating of the panel members alternated between Republicans and Democrats. The panel members shared their view in an amazingly honest, friendly, and at times even humorous manner. It was actually a wonderful example of how civil discussions can take place between members of differing political parties. The audience, which was one of the largest at our meetings in a long time, certainly seemed to appreciate the format and the results.
After the panel discussion, the audience had a chance to participate in a robust discussion of election reforms that ranged over quite a wide range of options. In the end a quick straw vote was held and the two election reforms receiving the most support by the audience members were:
- Citizens redistricting boards (to overcome gerrymandered voting districts)
- Public funding of campaigns
The panel members all agreed that these types of moderated discussions were useful, and even enjoyable, and hoped that they would continue in the future. One topic of discussion after the meeting was how to get an audience with a larger diversity of political opinions for future meetings. One suggestion by a Republican panel member was to consider rotating the venues to different sites where other Republicans might feel more comfortable (such as locations where they hold their party meetings). That may be worth considering for future meetings if there is interest.