Guest column: By David Nevins

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By David Nevins

Estero

Like many other citizens I have become frustrated with the unbridled lack of civility, crippling partisanship and dysfunctional gridlock that are preventing our country from solving the serious problems we face on a daily basis.

Thomas Jefferson recognized that democracy was born from discourse and discussion, and that such resulting discussion would be replete with differing perspectives and opinions. Our founding fathers believed that ideological differences would ultimately lead to inquiry, and inquiry to truth. In their writings to each other they discussed how civil discourse and critical thought were essential for their Grand Experiment in democracy to withstand the test of time.

About a year ago, while pursuing a burgeoning interest in two concepts — civil political discourse and critical thinking — I discovered an organization called No Labels.

I have never been involved in politics before but I feel something needs to be done to end the partisanship and gridlock. For the last year I've been volunteering my time and expertise to this non-partisan grassroots movement of 550,000 Democrats, Republicans and Independents dedicated to the simple proposition that common-sense solutions to our national challenges exist and our government should be able to address and resolve those challenges successfully. If you tend to agree with me, and are not already familiar with the group, I would urge you to check them out at NoLabels.org.

No Labels has developed a 12-step "Make Congress Work!" plan that is the first grassroots campaign I've seen to effect real change in our government. One of the steps is a bill called "No Budget/No Pay" that is now co-sponsored by 40 members of the House and 9 senators.

No Budget/No Pay is quite simple. If Congress doesn't pass a budget and all 12 of the accompanying spending bills on time, every lawmaker's paycheck would be withheld until such a budget is passed into law. No exceptions.

At a time when our nation faces profound challenges as well as unique opportunities, the faith and confidence of the American people in their leadership has never been so low. The political situation in this country couldn't be more serious – because if Congress is broken, so is the United States of America. Every law addressing any substantial issue has to go through Congress first. That means if we want a better tax code, a balanced budget, a preferable immigration system or more effective educational and energy policies, we first need to fix the system that's fractured.

Most of the 12 steps proposed in No Labels' "Make Congress Work!" plan don't require new laws or any new spending, and they don't favor any party or particular cause. They are simple, straightforward proposals to break gridlock, promote constructive dialogue and reduce polarization in Congress. They can be adopted, almost all at once, when the next Congress convenes in January 2013.

The work of No Labels has just begun, and the task is not an easy one. However, I believe that with the help of enough ordinary citizens, like you, from across this great land, this movement can become the vehicle through which our Founding Fathers' shared vision as to what the nature, climate, and ethics of debate should be and how constructive debate can lead to consensus and responsible decisions.

A few weeks ago I held a No Labels event in Naples that attracted 200 citizens. As a result of that meeting I have formed the Southwest Florida Chapter of No Labels and we now have close to 100 members.

I am asking you to join the effort.

Many of my friends and associates say "the system can never change", and that I am merely wasting my time. I say that our Founding Fathers were considered to be idealists by some, and that the Constitution they designed still endures 200-plus years later. We can and must build upon their brilliant and exemplary framework to finish what they collectively intended, but never managed to complete. We must define and implement a process of governance in our country built upon civil discourse and critical thinking.

Please email me at D7373davenevins@mac.com.

Nevins has degrees in economics and business from Penn State and Penn. Nevins is managing general partner of real estate joint ventures in State College, Pa., and is owner and president of Nevins Real Estate Management.

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