Opinion: Creating a safe place for tough public discussion

Pam Rasmussen

The Incline Village Library would like to thank the 35 community members and guest experts who attended our Tahoe Talks event about medical marijuana on April 12th.

Dr. Andrew Whyman, River Coyote and Eli Scislowicz brought a diverse body of knowledge and experience to the discussion, introducing the topic from three different perspectives and kicking off a community conversation unlike any I have attended previously in our community or region.

The conversationalists were respectful, authentic, curious, concerned, vulnerable, humble and humorous in sharing their stories, opinions and questions. This cross-section of the community was made up of parents, educators, retirees, young adults, middle aged adults and public servants, just to name a few.

The talking would have gone long into the night had I not gently ended the conversation. I was inspired and awed at the openness and esteem that was displayed by all who attended. One of the ground rules we set forth was: “It’s OK to disagree, but not to be disagreeable.” Not one person broke that rule.

In the April 22 edition of the Sierra Sun, Ben Rogers, the co-general manager and advertising director of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, wrote, “No matter what you think, no matter what you believe, it is vital to our system that we all share our opinions and ideas. The beauty of our republic is that our voices really do matter, even if at times we might feel we are shouting to the wind. One of the keys to having a great nation, a great state and a great community is to make sure that you are educated on the issues and we all can share our voices.”

Incline Village Library’s goals for Tahoe Talks mirror Ben’s viewpoint: build and maintain relationships during divisive political times; attract people who want to discuss issues instead of debating them; create a safe public space for difficult conversations.

We hope you will join us for our next Tahoe Talk on May 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the Incline Village Library’s meeting room. Our topic that evening will be Immigration, a hot-button issue of the 2016 presidential race.

Nevada and California have some of the highest rates of immigration and undocumented immigration in the country. Our guest experts — Fred Lokken, TMCC Professor of Political Science; Precious Hall, TMCC Professor of Political Science; and Ana Liz Servin-Bancroft, Program Manager for North Tahoe Family Resource Center — will help us strip away the politics of the issue and examine the historical role and purpose of immigration, assess the contemporary situation, and consider solutions both nationally and locally.

We will also address the issue of political refugees. We want to hear your opinions and stories. We are neighbors, co-workers, friends and families who can put a human face on an important topic for us all.

Pam Rasmussen is Managing Librarian for the Incline Village Library, a branch of the Washoe County Library System. Email her at

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