Rep. Kampf Calls for Civility on Hot Issue: Op-Ed

State Representatives weighs in on Meadowbrook Golf Course debate.

Photo Courtesy: State Rep. Warren Kampf
Photo Courtesy: State Rep. Warren Kampf
The following Op-ed was sent to Patch by Representative Warren Kampf (R-PA157)

It's Time to End Uncivil Discourse


As State Representative, I am accustomed to hearing from constituents as they present their views and positions on issues being addressed in Harrisburg and here at home.  Some agree with me.  Some do not.  But, mostly, all make their points in a manner that is respectful and fair.   I work hard to do the same in answering their concerns.  It's called civil discourse, and it is one of the foundations of our representative democracy.


Unfortunately over the past few months – as we have seen arguments over government shutdowns in Washington, D.C., differences surrounding the recently enacted Transportation Funding package in Harrisburg, and now the passionate feelings over eminent domain issues in Phoenixville – it has become clear that too many have abandoned civil discourse in favor of uncivil speech and actions. 


This speech and these actions do us no good.  It forces people, who are otherwise normally reasonable, to abandon the idea of achieving pragmatic progress.  It forces gridlock.  It stops us from addressing truly important issues.


During the debate over the Transportation Funding package, I was accused in a Letter to the Editor of choosing my position based on a political pledge to a Washington, DC special interest group.  The problem?  I had never taken any such pledge (something that was easily verifiable with a simple internet search) and I had made it known publicly that my position came from surveying the people I represent.  My attacker, however, had no problem simply submitting a lie to the newspaper.  That's uncivil discourse.


I give my attacker respect for her position on the issue and her passion over it.  I believe, however, her point could have been made in a way that was more respectful to both the public and me.  Had she made her point this way, I believe it may also have been more effective for those she wished to persuade.


In Phoenixville, some individuals have responded with vitriol against a recent decision to utilize eminent domain – and their actions have once again brought uncivil discourse to the forefront.


These individuals basically shut down a public School Board meeting because they refused to follow some simple rules put in place to ensure every resident a chance to be heard.  Rather than follow the rules for public comment in that meeting and make their opinions known, they hi-jacked the entire meeting and forced it to be temporarily halted. 


How many other citizens – citizens whose opinions matter just as much – lost their chance to speak or gave up trying because of the actions of this unruly few?  How many citizens who may have no ties to these people (but who share their views) are now seen as "rude" or "reckless" because of the actions of this uncivil group?


Some of those who oppose the eminent domain actions have even gone so far as to picket the homes of local school board members.  Reports state that a very few even made threatening chants a part of their picketing effort. 


The people who took this action seem to forget that these School Board members are still their neighbors, still parents and spouses, still people with regular jobs and the same everyday concerns as those who are picketing.  The picketers forgot that these School Board members are volunteers trying to make their community better. 


Who, I ask you, would be willing to volunteer for such a job in the future knowing this is the type of treatment you face when making an unpopular decision?  This is the true cost of uncivil discourse: the loss of the time and talent of citizens willing to step forth and serve.


Let me be clear: I am in no way suggesting that citizens abandon making their voice heard, be it in favor or opposition to an issue.  As the saying goes, "I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." 


I am just suggesting that all of us – every citizen and every elected official – would be better served saying what we must in a way that achieves civil discourse again.   In this way, we can find our way to truly addressing issues rather than just fighting about them.  That is a simple goal we should all strive to achieve if we truly care about making our community stronger.

commoncence December 14, 2013 at 02:59 PM
Most disingenuous op ed I ever read. If I ask you to review a restaurant, don't tell me what the weather is. I knew the 'fix' was in the minute Mr Kampf's chief of staff answered my phone call with an exasperated, "what do you want the representative to DO?" Funny, that's why I was calling. If I knew the answer to that question, I wouldn't have asked it. I was at the now-famous board meeting. The board recessed rather than take comments from folks who don't live in, or do business with, the distrtict. They weren't even in the room for the most heated part of the discussion. And please cry me a river of your crocodile tears, you members who felt compelled to tell us how much you hate the idea of eminent domain, because it didn't stop you did it? I still want to know, where is the environmental assessment? Off the record the superintendent reportedly told the family's rep that they "did a few core samples" and that similar situations on other golf courses were caused by neighboring businesses, but the summary of the report being cited clearly states that the highest concentrations of contaminants were found in the tees, greens and fairways. How do you explain that? Does the board have Schuylkill Township's promise that the appropriate zoning changes will be made? Why do we need three new soccer fields? Clearly, if this was all so much in the taxpayer's interests, it wouldn't have had to be done under the guise of "land acquisition" through eminent domain. This is shameful and wrong and this board should be ashamed of itself, including Mr. Gould who vote against it, but appears by his actions to be full steam for it.
157Resident December 14, 2013 at 04:14 PM
Kampf's chief of staff is an over-fed politico wannabe. The day we take civility lessons from Kampf and his cronies is the day we all need to find another place to live.
PVilleRes December 15, 2013 at 11:39 AM
Yes CG3, I think that the people complaining are a minority. There are about 35,000 people in this school district, and I am willing to bet that 80% of them agree with the school boards decision. Have you read this article in the Mercury? http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20131213/documents-reveal-ongoing-talks-to-buy-phoenixville-golf-course I'm sure the Campbells are nice people, however they clearly are willing to let the property go. I do believe that the article I've linked points to the fact that they have certainly not been entirely truthful in this whole affair. Do you think anyone will really give them $8 million for that land? Maybe in 30 years when inflation has made that the fair value. I think there are a lot of self-righteous people following the Campbell party that just want to yell "Persecution!" and try to "Stick it to the man," if you will. That's just what I, and almost every other friend and adult whom I have spoken to about this, think. And finally CG3, I don't know who you think you are telling me to "grow up" because I have a different opinion. I, like you, am a tax-paying, voting citizen of this town, and just because I am still 18 and in high school doesn't mean I have no idea what I'm talking about at all. I think you'd be surprised at what we high schoolers are able to comprehend. We don't have kids going to West Point, Penn, Carnegie Mellon, etc.... for being stupid. Anyway, did you even read the article? That's exactly the type of uncivil discourse Rep. Kampf was talking about. A polite, well thought out rebuttal would have sufficed. I guess to end off this comment, I'll say that I don't think the school board is totally right... But I don't think they are wrong, either. I think the Campbell family is more wrong. And you know, the very same Constitution you refer to when defending the Campbells... allows for eminent domain. Funny, don't you think?
Jackie December 15, 2013 at 01:46 PM
@ PVilleRes - In Real Estate negotiations, both parties at any time can withdraw from said negotiations by saying they no longer wish to sell or buy a property. Regardless of previous negotiations, Meadow Brook is saying they do not wish to sell. The last I checked 'No' still means 'No'. It doesn't mean 'Yes', or 'Maybe'. Nor does it imply that Meadow Brook wishes to be forced into the sale of their business or home. Take a few minutes to imagine the state of our economy if every American who contemplated buying or selling a home or business was forced to follow through after deciding they no longer wanted to buy or sell. The historical importance of the protection of private property in American society is an inalienable right afforded all Americans. The American dream is to own your own home, and business. Eminent domain contradicts that right, in fact, it negates every Americans right to keep the private property or business they have worked hard for. There is nothing FUNNY about this issue or the fact that Eminent Domain is allowed through our Constitution. It is my wish that no other family ever has to be placed in this position. The fact that I may never be able to go home again is the furthest thing from FUNNY, and all because the school board is choosing to use eminent domain after being told 'NO' we do not wish to sell.
Jane December 16, 2013 at 04:50 PM
No means no. Period. The asking price was not met, there is no agreement of sale. Regardless of whether or not the club is a good spot, is totally irrelevant! The asking price was not met, so, it was stolen! PLAIN AND SIMPLE, IN A NUT SHELL, so-to-speak. NO MEANS NO!!


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