At this morning's monthly Allen County Democratic meeting there was a discussion about the FWCS facilities upgrade with leaders from both sides of the petition drive present. Representing FWCS and the yellow side was Kathy Friend and Evert Mol represented the Blue side. Let me start by saying that I'm a blue supporter but I must say that Kathy Friend is a great spokeswoman for the yellow side. I was very impressed as she is personable, knowledgeable and articulate. She even took about 15 minutes after the meeting to debate various aspects of the project with me.
I think Evert started off on the wrong foot by making people feel like he didn't want to be there. That may not have been the case but that was the impression I got and others I spoke to as well. I don't want to be too hard on Evert because this wasn't the most sympathetic forum for his argument by any means.
Early in the Q&A session the discussion became about how this facilities plan might affect academics. Evert questioned one man that said his two children went to Southside and were National Merit Scholars. This definitely could've pushed that person into the realm of uncivil discourse but the man simply explained to Evert that they were in fact merit scholars. Later, in response to a party member's statement, Evert said that FWCS "has no academic plan". I think this was a mistake and I'll bet even Evert doesn't believe that. I think he just got caught up in a simmering discussion and misspoke; I think he probably feels (as do I) that the plan simply isn't working as well as it should.
After that comment the meeting went downhill quickly. Councilman Glynn Hines interrupted Evert and began to argue with him. Evert, rightfully asked to be allowed to finish speaking and Hines said "I wanna say something and I have to leave so after I'm gone then you can finish". I think that only sent the meeting spiraling down even worse. Hines then continued by saying that Evert might have "cursory" knowledge about the schools but he and the parents visit them regularly. That statement was completely unjustified considering Evert volunteers daily at Southside High and is in the school much more frequently than Hines or any parent.
Evert then interrupted Hines and told him that he was at Southside every day and he knows how poor the students' knowledge of math is. Hines began speaking again eventually told Evert to "go fly a kite". I think Hines' demeanor was completely inappropriate and uncalled for. This could've been an excellent discussion about the merits of the plan but it degenerated into an ugly scene that should have no place in civil debate.
Unfortunately, this exchange seemed to sour Evert so much that he asked for the discussion to be over and he quickly left right after the meeting was adjourned. I can understand why he was angry but I think he should've grew thicker skin and tried to continue the discussion. Glynn Hines was not speaking for everyone at the meeting and there were others there that probably would've liked the discussion to continue.
I must say that Yellow supporters should follow Kathy Friend's example - she stays above the fray and argues for the merits of her position. Unfortunately, in my opinion, today was another example of yellow supporters going too far. Previous examples include Evert being temporarily banned from school property, Paul Spoelhof (head of the Yellow Ribbon Task Force) calling me a liar, and statements made by Superintendent Robinson (quoted by the JG) insinuating that remonstrators were acting out of racism.
The Harrison Square debate didn't go down this ugly path and neither should the FWCS debate...