Conversation and Compromise - That's Good Government


David Vieira is a great conversationalist. As a local native and the state representative representing half of Falmouth, that skill comes in very handy as he makes his way around the district, advocating for and conversing with constituents he has known all of his life and those he has known all of a day.
Performing double duty as Falmouth’s elected moderator, David also knows a thing or two about civic participation and voting. From his early role as the moderator at Falmouth High School’s mock Town Meeting to his work as the legislative leader in American University’s undergraduate government to his roles today in both Falmouth’s and the commonwealth’s legislative bodies, he is undoubtedly also a leading local expert on the legislative process.

 

Putting all of these skills together, David Vieira knows compromise.

This week, he will bring his conversation and compromising skills to the Falmouth Public Library in an attempt to develop community consensus on the issue of voting in our schools. Following the lead of our own local legislators, who voted in support of a petition article offered by informed local activist Marc Finneran that implored the Falmouth School Committee to reverse its previous decision to cease voting in elementary schools, Mr. Vieira is teaching us all an important civics lesson just by scheduling a forum to discuss the topic.


Much has been written and said for and against the issue of voting in our schools, but David is transcending talk and actually focusing on a solution. Partnering with Enterprise publisher Bill Hough as a co-sponsor, he is hosting a public forum at 7 PM Thursday, December 11, in the library’s Hermann Foundation Meeting Room to present his plan and gather input. He has crafted a plan that preserves what he identified as the top priority—the safety of our young people—but also provides an important focus on voting and civic participation that may very well result in more people heading to the polls to vote in the future, an important and necessary pursuit as well, with voter turnout hovering below 30 percent at most local elections.


“I want voting to become a habit for our young people,” said this Falmouth favorite son when we discussed the issue this week. Who can argue with that? David’s plan, though, is also respectful of those who worked initially to end voting at the elementary schools. His proposal would designate all seven schools as polling locations, and encourages all schools to participate in mock elections in the days leading to the actual voting day, creating the habit he desires. In a further effort to enhance student safety, the plan suggests that election days become professional development days in which students are not attending school, a common practice in many communities. This plan would satisfy the hotly debated safety concerns of some parents while enhancing educational opportunities for local students and maybe, just maybe, opening the world of civics and elections to hundreds of young Falmouthites. This is a compromise where all involved benefit, where all sides of an argument can claim a “win,” and where we both protect and serve our students. It is more than a compromise. It is an accomplishment.


In his own words, David invited a community to have a conversation. He noted that “Falmouth Enterprise publisher Bill Hough and I are convening a forum and directly inviting the Falmouth School Committee, Town Meeting member precinct leaders, Falmouth Board of Selectmen, the Falmouth Educators Association, Cape Cod Collaborative leadership, Falmouth VIPs, Falmouth town clerk, and Falmouth League of Women Voters to discuss building a civic engagement initiative around the concept of educating youth to vote and protecting access at the schools. This initiative is in response to the recent vote of Town Meeting to ask the Falmouth School Committee to reconsider its vote to ban voting in elementary schools.”


Inclusive, comprehensive, and respectful, we need more conversations like this one to tackle public issues. We need more politicians like Dave Vieira to be willing to initiate them.


In his invite to potential attendees, our legislator noted that this dispute, which has lit up social media since Town Meeting’s definitive action, has actually created an opportunity.


“Let’s make civic lemonade out of the lemons that this debate has cultivated,” he quipped, bringing much-needed levity to what has become a politically charged issue. I couldn’t agree more. The compromising conversationalist is making government work for the people it serves. That’s not only good leadership—it’s good government
 

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