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Mead and Nehring kick off Building Bridges Tour in Mill Creek

MILL CREEK, Wash., February 23, 2023—Snohomish County Council President Jared Mead and Vice President Nate Nehring joined approximately 40 community members on Tuesday at the Mill Creek YMCA for an inaugural Building Bridges Tour geared to understanding and removing the barriers of political polarization.

Attendees were separated into groups of three to four to discuss four key topics: concerns about political polarization in the community, life experiences influencing those concerns, root causes of political polarization, and overcoming political polarization in the community.

After each discussion, a spokesman summarized the group’s thoughts with closing remarks by Councilmen Mead and Nehring.

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Comments shared as some of the root causes of political polarization were “the fear that I’m wrong” feeling and myopic “positive affirmation on social media.” Community members were concerned that these root causes lead to not seeing the “big picture” and “losing friendships.”

Possible solutions to removing barriers of polarization suggested by attendees were “to have more face-to-face time,” having Election Day off, and getting involved in community organizations that aren’t political.

James Chiles, a 33-year-old Woodinville resident, identifies as “just left of center” and thought that the forum was a great way engage the community. He likens experiences with the extreme ends of the Left and Right to those that he’s had with family members with multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia.

“Some of the more extreme Left and Right views feed into those character traits that are at risk for mental illness,” Chiles said.

Councilman Nehring thought the event went well and was pleased with the engagement from attendees. The goal of having these forums, Nehring said, is to hear the community’s various perspectives about political polarization.

“It seemed like everyone was inspired to do what they can within their networks to have a positive impact,” Councilman Nehring said.

Thirty-nine-year-old Andy Stevens of Bothell, a conservative, thought that the forum went great and was better than expected since he was expecting to hear only from Mead and Nehring.

“Getting into groups, and talking with other people with different viewpoints, we had a lot in common,” Stevens said. “It was awesome!”

Councilman Mead felt excited and inspired about how many people showed up and participated at Tuesday’s forum. He was nervous and unsure how community members would react. Mead is hopeful to continue holding the forums beyond 2023.

“We’re open to it growing as big as possible,” Councilman Mead said. “This is my passion; this is my calling in politics.”

Building Bridges’ motto is “Creating stronger communities through meaningful conversations.” The concept was founded when Councilman Mead, a Democrat, and Councilman Nehring, a Republican, were watching the events at the January 6th unfold and were “speechless.”

After publishing an op-ed on unity two years ago that was well-received by the community, they were invited by dozens of schools, colleges, and civic groups to speak on political discourse.

The councilmen plan to have three more Building Bridges forums: May 30th in Arlington, September 12th in Lynnwood, and December 5th in Everett. The Tour is in partnership with Braver Angels, a national citizens’ organization uniting red and blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America.

For more information on the upcoming events, email russell.witta@snoco.org or angela.ewart@snoco.org.

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