It’s to be hoped the interesting debate that took place in Sartell City Hall Nov. 20 will not prove to be an anomaly. (See related story in today’s paper.)
The debate was the first of what organizers hope will be an entire series of ongoing debates every other month or so well into the future. The debate was not a city-sponsored idea. It was organized by a group of residents, some of the them involved as professors at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University.
The topic of that debate sounds facetious, at first: “Be it resolved that chickens should be allowed to roost in residential areas?”
But, in fact, the debate was very interesting and touched upon many of the ongoing questions and conflicts in modern urban societies, such as:
At what point does your freedom impinge upon someone else’s?
How can we best define what constitutes a neighborhood nuisance?
Should any rural or agricultural-animal land uses be allowed in urban neighborhoods?
How can people, so removed from their food sources, establish familiar contacts with what they eat?
There were two people debating in favor of allowing chickens in urban areas, and two arguing against it. The debate was expertly moderated by Patty Candela of Sartell. About 70 people attended the debate, a very good turn-out considering it was the first event of its kind. Besides the issues thoughtfully discussed, there were moments of humor, too. Both sides of the debate made their points articulately, persuasively and passionately.
It was so refreshing to witness a good, lively, civil debate – so unlike the mudslinging, nasty verbal bouts indulged in by too many of today’s brand of politicians. The audience, too, was civil and keenly attentive to the points made by each side.
Watching that debate was actually revelatory because it was an amazing reminder of the “lost art” of rational, civil debate. It’s something sorely lacking in our society these days – days of hype, of shouting, of meaningless noise and commotion. Even presidential debates can deteriorate into attack-mode exercises with both sides playing loose with the “facts.”
The audience at Sartell City Hall clearly enjoyed that hour-long debate. Their pleasure was proof-positive of the hunger many have for such civil and enlightened discourse. Their enthusiasm is a good omen that similar, excellent debates will continue in Sartell.
Kudos to those who organized this series. We encourage others to attend future debates. The topics and dates will be announced, as they become known, in the Sartell Newsleader.