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The Civil Dialogue group was created originally to sponsor a series of public forums at Lower Columbia College that posed a simple but challenging question: Can local people have polite and productive political discussions about hot topics — even if they strongly disagree?

“Community in Crossfire:  Seeking Civil Dialogue in Uncivil Times” was a five-part series organized by a group of community leaders. It focused on homelessness, drug addiction, the economy and the environment and the causes and troubles of political polarization. The forums featured four panelists of differing viewpoints, moderated by retired Cowlitz Superior Court Judge Stephen Warning. 

The goal was not necessarily to come to a consensus about the issues, but to discuss them honestly and without acrimony. The guiding principle is reflected in a phrase coined by former area state Sen. Joe Zarelli: It’s ok to argue, as long as you argue toward a solution.

“My hope is that this series will model and encourage the exchanging of diverse political views in a manner that fosters greater respect and understanding for opinions different from our own and which helps us remember that first we are Americans who all want a healthy and safe community for our children and grandchildren,” said Alan Rose, former Community Relations & Development Director for Lower Columbia CAP and one of a group of a half dozen organizers of the series.

All of the 90-minute forums were recorded by KLTV and are available to be streamed from their website. In 2024, the group aims to create opportunities to provide nonpartisan information about candidates and issues to voters, to encourage education around the decisions facing voters on the ballot.

The the Civil Dialogue Project is led by George Raiter, Alan Rose, Stephen Warning, former Daily News City Editor Andre Stepankowsky, John Jabusch, Melanee Evans, and David Futcher. 

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