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A move toward improving politics

Tired of traditional politics with its negative overtones?

Sick of the name calling, infighting and partisan bickering?

If you are answering yes, then a forum next week called 'Whose Democracy Is It?' might be of interest to you. Reps. Greg Macpherson, D-Lake Oswego, and Scott Bruun, R-West Linn, along with former state representative Lane Shetterly (R-Polk County) and Scott Borduin, executive director of Democracy Talking, will conduct a panel discussion of Oregon politics and how citizens can improve it.

The free event, which includes a catered meal by Jake's Catering, is planned for Thursday, Sept. 21, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Governor Hotel in downtown Portland.

City Club of Portland Board of Directors President Susan Hammer will moderate the panel discussion. Audience members will have the opportunity to ask questions.

Democracy Talking, which is a non-profit based in Marylhurst, was put together when founders Borduin, Cay Borduin and Mick Mortlock met at a Unitarian church in Oregon City about four or five years ago. All three live in Lake Oswego.

They discovered they shared several common interests, including a disdain for business-as-usual politics, Mortlock said.

The forum idea 'was a natural,' Mortlock said, adding 'there is so much rancor in politics.'

'We commit ourselves to do everything we can to get people to recommit to the political process,' he said.

'The other two co-founders put in a substantial amount of money when we first started' in early 2005, he said.

Their basic belief is that Americans, their political interests notwithstanding, appreciate a civil approach to politics. People can still disagree, but there are ways to do so without all the unpleasantness that goes into much of mainstream politics.

Democracy Talking is a non-partisan organization, that, according to the group's Web site, is 'engaging Americans in civic discussion and action … (and) facilitates a growing grassroots network of Democracy Circles in the Pacific Northwest. Democracy Circles are small groups of neighbors and friends who meet regularly to discuss social, economic and political issues.'

The group put together a discussion course and manual for its Democracy Circles called 'Political Malaise: Why Americans are sick of politics and what they're doing about it.'

The three founders, along with company officers Pat Lichen and Mary Sommerset, hope to put together as many as 20 circles this fall. They conducted several pilot courses during the summer of 2005, Mortlock said. The six-week discussion course focuses on civic conversation about the key social, political and economic issues confronting America.

Group members hope to spread the concept around Oregon and the Northwest before eventually going national with it, Mortlock said.

The program is 'designed for people on the go,' he added.

'People, when they can get across the table from each other, then they can actually build a friendship - something they can't do online,' said Mortlock.

'Many Americans believe that the increasingly partisan rift in our nation is creating a disastrous gridlock in government,' said Scott Borduin. ''Whose Democracy is it' is an opportunity to discuss and counteract this dangerous trend.'

There is no charge for attending the event, but reservations are required and can be made by calling 503-925-5345 or e-mailing pat.lichen@democra cytalking.org. More information about the forum and the Democracy Circles may be found at the Web site www.democracytalking.org.