‘Good Government’ talk an opportunity to find facts

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Christina Getachew, executive committee member of People for Social Justice, stands in front of the Alpena City Hall sign in downtown Alpena on Tuesday. The group is hosting an event titled “Good Government” on Thursday at Alpena Community College.

ALPENA — Getting face-to-face with others can turn online foes into real-life friends.

Residents will have an opportunity to do that during the Michigan Truth Tour stop at 7 p.m. Thursday at Alpena Community College’s Robert Granum Theatre.

The town hall-style meeting is called “Good Government,” and is sponsored by the Alpena-based People for Social Justice, in partnership with the Center for Michigan, both non-partisan groups that aim to educate the public about governmental issues. The event, part of Bridge Magazine’s statewide traveling tour, aims to inform voters about the facts so they can make informed decisions come election time. Bridge is published by the Center for Michigan.

“Their belief is that our democracy is only strong if all citizens are involved on the individual level, and I agree with that,” Christina Getachew, People for Social Justice executive committee member, said about the Center for Michigan.

Participation in an interactive survey following the discussion ensures that voices from the Alpena community are included in the results of a statewide poll.

“They’re using technology to poll the audience that is there, to add to their vast amount of statistics on opinions from people across the state of Michigan, so anyone who comes will have the ability to answer those questions,” Getachew said. “So our voices will be heard among those of 45,000 other state residents. It’s important that we have a strong Alpena showing so that the results are realistic, based on what people here believe and feel.”

Topics to be discussed are transparency, taxation, elections, and other issues centering around public policy, within about an hour timeframe.

“I’m excited about this event on Thursday night, especially because it’s one of those events where we all come together as a community, and it’s beyond what we hear, the rhetoric, from either Washington, or the media, that says that there’s this massive divide in our country,” Getachew said. “But I think that events like the one that’s going to happen Thursday night show that there’s so much common ground in communities like ours, and that it’s important for us to come together and express ourselves. It’s democracy in action, but it’s also a way for us to hear one another, and the truth. The actual truth, you know, from the individuals within the community.”

People for Social Justice formed in Alpena in 2016 after the presidential election.

Getachew said coming together in a town hall setting allows people to address their differences, and reveal their similarities, in a more respectful, humane setting, rather than just lashing out online.

“I think it goes against what people may believe if they’re stuck behind the computer screen or looking at the internet,” she said about the opportunity to exchange ideas in person. “It’s what’s happening on the ground, and that’s exciting.”

Separately from Thursday’s event, People for Social Justice also hosts Community Conversations, Getachew said.

“We had our first one last year,” she said, adding that such conversations are “happening again across the country in response to this idea of there being a divide, or that it’s difficult for people to sit down and talk.”

She said ground rules are set for these Community Conversations.

“We sit down and we have a meal together, because what’s more intimate than sitting down and breaking bread together?” she asked. “We’re not to judge anyone at the table, no one should feel blamed. There are all these really strict guidelines we follow, but in the end, it’s been an opportunity for us to listen to one another, voice our own concerns, and not feel judged. We walk away knowing we’ve been heard, because everybody really listens.”

She said the conversations allow people to connect on a deeper level and understand different perspectives.

“The first one we had was really spectacular,” she said. “The people that came out really thought it was a great way to hear everyone’s different life experience. We can do it in a way that everyone walks away feeling respected.”

This year, Bridge Magazine’s Michigan Truth Squad is visiting more than 100 communities statewide to help equip voters with reliable, factual information on the state’s most important issues.

To learn more about People for Social Justice, and find out about upcoming events, visit the group’s Facebook page at facebook.com/pg/NorthernMichiganPeopleForSocialJustice.

Darby Hinkley can be reached via email at dhinkley@thealpenanews.com, or by phone at 989-354-3111 ext. 324.