Harry's gang: Town hall returns; come on in
June 2, 2023
I hope some of you can join us at the “town hall” meetings we’re holding around Carlton County next week. The first is Tuesday, June 6 at the Moose Lake Brewing conference room, and the other is Thursday, June 8 at the Scanlon Community Center. Both start at 7 p.m., and everyone is invited.
I really do mean everyone. As these types of meetings have become popular with elected officials, they’ve become more “fixed,” with only certain viewpoints allowed. Even worse, some town halls allow the most crazy opposition viewpoints, which makes the group holding the event seem more tame and reasonable. Those town halls are certainly fun to watch, in the same way the “The Gong Show” and Jerry Springer were fun to watch. But they aren’t very productive. I intend our events to be productive.
The meetings next week are true town hall meetings. If you have any interest in the needs of Carlton County and its citizens, you’re welcome to come. I’m expecting the normal senior citizens and high school kids these events typically attract, which will be great. There’s nothing more gratifying than seeing the young and old mix at these events. And while you may expect the young people to be idealistic and impractical, I’ve noticed they are usually full of hope, yet still realistic. And seniors are often perceived as grumpy, but they’re usually well-prepared with their viewpoints and surprisingly eager to listen as well.
The format will be very similar to my cable TV talk show, “Harry’s Gang,” but instead of having a panel of liberals and conservatives, the audience is the panel. It’s a chance for anyone to show up and discuss the recent legislative session. Typically, elected officials come (they’re invited), and as people ask questions and make comments, others (including officials) do the same. It will be a great discussion, which I will moderate.
There hasn’t been a Harry’s Gang town hall in some time. I think the last one was just before Gov. Walz was elected the first time. There was a fun one in Scanlon a few years before that about annexation; and I held one when we were discussing the pool renovations at Pinehurst Park a number of years ago, which was very well-attended and productive.
Lively and fast-paced, these events are not allowed to devolve into name-calling and grandstanding; as a result, there is often very good communication among many different sides. I’ve found that people who try to shout slogans or repeat prepared talking points are often challenged by others, and usually back down. Also, the few that seem to always speak up will not be allowed to dominate the conversations if others want to talk. This helps the discussion stay civil and thorough. Disruptions are few, and I expect the conversations among different groups to continue in the parking lots, long after the event is over.
Many people who attend don’t want to participate in the discussion; that’s fine, too. They’re just there to listen. Politics can also be a fun spectator sport.
These events should be fun, too. Since this is the first time we’ve held one in Moose Lake, we picked a smaller venue because I am not sure how many will participate. It’s well-known in the event planning world that the first time an event is held, attendance is usually poor, as people wait to decide if they should attend until after it’s over. Odd, I know, but it’s true. So if the event is successful, I’ll know it by the number of people who promise to come next time. The event in Scanlon is being held in a much larger venue, as I expect people from the Esko, Carlton, Wrenshall and Cloquet areas to come, and I want to be ready.
But, if I spend two hours both nights just talking with my friend Kermit Nielsen, I’ll consider it a success. And everyone will tell me they’ll come next time. See you next week.
Pete Radosevich is the publisher of the Pine Knot News community newspaper and an attorney in Esko who hosts the cable access talk show Harry’s Gang on CAT-7. His opinions are his own. Contact him at [email protected].