Russaw on Long Beach Forums

29 Oct

As we wrap up a full month of forums at Long Beach Public Library, one of our Democracy Fellows, Jeanine Russaw, debriefs us on her experiences. 


On Friday, October 26, I had the pleasure of moderating a forum on Regaining American Prosperity: Building an Economy That Works for Everyone— my first event in Long Beach. Though I can’t entirely speak for my partner, Kayla Rivara, it is safe to say it was an educational experience for all who participated. 

The common desire to reform the system for subsequent generations was the one thing the majority considered most valuable as they wrestled with tradeoffs throughout the deliberation.  This common value was easily identified, as many referenced their concern over the future of their grandchildren in the personal state portion of the forum.

As the conversation progressed, many participants struggled with tradeoffs associated with option one. In this option, the issue guide suggests that in order to repair our ailing economy, the government should reward enterprise—we need innovators to move society forward. When participants were asked about giving tax breaks to the wealthy so that they might startup businesses to bolster the economy, one participant expressed grave concerns: “I don’t trust them to do that. They make more money than everyone else; they don’t do anything with it.” She continued, “There needs to be more regulation or else our economy will fall apart,” appropriately highlighting one of the major trade-offs associated with this possible action.  Despite these concerns, the majority of the group found common ground with the belief that overregulation was detrimental to the country’s current economic situation. 

For most of the participants, common ground was found by blending the second and third options.  The second option dealt with “shrinking the wealth gap,” while the third option focused on giving everyone an “equal start.”

Overall, participants engaged in the discussion were passionate, but open minded and willing to take in other approaches to the issue. During the conclusion of the forum, the participants spoke directly to Kayla and me, urging us to continue what we were doing and to be a part of the generation that makes a difference with the situation.

It was a great day, a great experience, and I felt like there was a little headway made in the direction our project’s goals. Thank you Kayla, Mike and Bernie, and thank you to all of the forum participants!


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