Daily Leader staff report
Expanding the Coronado Museum is a goal of the Seward County Historical Society, and We the People listened to a presentation made by advocates for the museum Thursday.
The local group of We the People is focused on being educated on political issues as well as getting to know more about the community and its businesses, organizations and facilities. It has met at EPIC PCS, Ruffino’s Restaurant and at the Coronado Museum. The group plans to visit as many local businesses and facilities it can to learn about those institutions prior to discussing political issues.
At the Coronado Museum, local community advocate Earl Watt shared a Powerpoint presentation highlighting the lack of space available at the Coronado Museum and how a new Heritage Center would benefit the community by bringing in traveling exhibits as well as providing additional space for meetings, lectures and more.
The new Heritage Center would replace the Massoni Barn that was destroyed in a tornado in 2003.
Coronado Museum Executive Director Joanne Mansell shared the Dorothy program with the group and explained how the Dorothy’s represent Liberal at a variety of community and state events throughout the year. She also explained the current exhibits at the museum including the 40-year history of Seward County Community College/Area Technical School and the For the Fun of It exhibit and sale.
Most of the discussion involved the needs and offerings of the museum.
In the final 45 minutes of the two-and-a-half hour meeting, the group discussed some of the recent happenings of the Independence Caucus and also discussed what type of involvement We the People would have in upcoming elections.
Group organizer Jim Rice explained why he was supporting i-caucus endorsed candidates but said that everyone was free to support whichever candidate they chose.
When asked if the group wanted to make any endorsements, Rachel Strickland said, “If we don’t what are we here for?”
Watt then asked the group if it saw the Tea Party as negative.
While no hands went up, attendee Jeff Scott asked, “How about neutral?” He defined himself as a moderate and said he saw good and bad in the Tea Party movement. He explained that he was concerned about the potential violence that has been reported but said that people were becoming more aware of what was happening, and he saw that as positive.
Watt then asked who viewed the Tea Party as positive. Most raised their hands, indicating the We the People group, although not affiliated with any state or national movement, agreed with those in the Tea Party.
“Why do you see the Tea Party as positive?” Watt asked.
“There is a lot of frustration with what is happening in Washington,” first time attendee Terry Harper said.
Rice asked Harper if he had ever been involved politically, and Harper said he had not.
The group agreed to decide on some common principles that would define the group more clearly at its next meeting.
Following the meeting, political discussion continued between attendees.
Rice also shared why he believed the local group did fit the national Tea Party model.
“I think smaller government, less control, more freedom to choose, those things are right down the line of the national Tea Party,” he said.
Group co-founder Reid Petty also shared that it is not uncommon for political groups to meet at public facilities like universities, libraries or museums.
“When I attended the University of Kansas, I went and heard several different political people speak,” he said. “Ann Coulter, Tom Daschle, those are two very different political views. KU has different parties speak at the university despite political affiliations. People meeting at taxpayer facilities is very common all over the nation.”
Petty also pointed out that people from both parties have regularly attended the meetings.
“People feel more comfortable to speak out and share their opinion,” he said. “We’ve had a Democrat attend most of our meetings and a moderate, and they feel welcomed to be there. I also like how we have continued to keep a steady number of people between 20 and 30 attending. We had some new faces as well.”
The diversity in the group is a strength according to Rice.
“I think that is what the group is all about,” he said. “We need to hear a variety of views. It makes for good discussion and decisions.”
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