FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Citizen Group Draws Two Lines in the Sand
WASHINGTON, DC (September 3, 2009)- The American Townhall on Health Care has a bold mission: to demonstrate that not only is cross-partisan dialogue possible during these politically charged times, it’s absolutely essential.
“Cross over either one of these lines, and you’re on our turf,” states Lucas Cioffi, the lead organizer, who is referring to how the group has carved out space between the TEA Party March on Washington and the progressive counter-protests on September 12th.
The volunteer, citizen-run townhall takes place between 3rd and 4th Streets on the National Mall from 10am to 6pm. Americans from across the political spectrum are invited to drop by at any time and spend 30 minutes walking through a multi-phase dialogue process. Participants will share their concerns about the current health care system and the proposed changes to the system.
Unlike other townhalls, this event is entirely based on citizen input. The group is placing a special emphasis on social media and collaborative tools to extend the conversation to those that cannot be present in Washington, DC that day. The townhall will be broadcast live online using Ustream.tv, and Americans across the country can contribute their ideas over the Internet.
“We won’t be sitting around a campfire holding hands, we’ll be getting past the sound bites and talking about the very real tradeoffs that we face as a nation,” mentions Cioffi. ”We must change the tone of the debate if it’s going to be productive, and that’s what we intend to do.”
The event has a capacity for one thousand participants over the course of eight hours, with approximately one hundred engaged in dialogue at any given time. By harnessing Web-based tools, they believe this online-offline hybrid model of civic engagement can create the largest and most in-depth town hall meeting on health care reform in recent months.
Cioffi is an Iraq War veteran and served in the same battalion as Casey Sheehan, son of Cindy Sheehan who became a prominent anti-war protester. He draws inspiration for this event from the civility demonstrated by Ms. Sheehan’s fellow protestors and the counter-protestors outside President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas one particular day in August 2005. Cioffi states, “When I visited that protest, I was impressed by how both sides could remain on opposite sides of the road and peacefully disagree with each other– that was a dramatic step up from the violent disagreement that was going on in Iraq’s democracy at the time. But I think more is possible and more is necessary today on health care; both sides need to connect.”
The group will make heavy use of new online tools. ”All opinions will be anonymous and posted on the Internet so that researchers can help the American people visualize this very rich data set,” says Cioffi. “We’ve seen time and again how transparent data can serve as a platform upon which others can build amazing applications that we cannot even imagine ourselves. We look forward to being surprised.”
More information is on the group’s website at AmericanTownhalls.Org.
1270 New Hampshire Ave
Washington, DC 20036