Civil Discourse with Westside Progressives

Westside Progressives offer an opportunity for education and community building.
From left: Helen Kupka, Philip Adam and Kelly Guncheon

If you’re looking for a place to talk about issues affecting your life, Westside Progressives could be a good fit for you. The non-partisan community group meets monthly to engage on topics of interest to progressives that affect everyone. They’ve discussed topics such as the importance of small business to a community, the economic impact of immigration in Minnesota, single-payer health care, being a Muslim in Minnesota and preserving the bee population.

“I wanted a group that would be educational and that would engage in civil discourse — civil being the operative word,” says Kelly Guncheon, who is the leader of Westside Progressives.

As a Plymouth resident for 18 years, Guncheon was part of a former group called Plymouth Progressives, which was set up to inform DFL activists about public policy issues. After a lack of leadership, the group waned for a year, and Guncheon was inspired to start a new group that was non-partisan. A financial planner who specializes in values-based investments, Guncheon says he is not affiliated with any party. “I’m an avowed liberal and progressive, so I admit to that,” he says.

The group generally sees between 40-50 people at their meetings, which are open to the public. People of all political persuasions are encouraged to come. “I want to bring in people I can learn from and that will inform the options and decisions I have. We always try to bring in an expert who will provide in-depth information about a particular topic. The Twin Cities is rich with talented, smart and interesting people,” he says. There is always at least 15 minutes of question and answer following the presentation and ground rules are set for respectful behavior.

“One of the neatest parts about our meeting is the mealtime beforehand,” says Guncheon. “Often times when I start the meeting, I have to quiet everyone down, because they all are so engaged in conversation, and that’s such a great thing. And at the end of the meeting, many people stay and help to clean and clear the room. It’s really turned into a nice community event, where people are friendly with each other and pitch in to help out.”

In addition to it being a community event, it is also a family event for Guncheon, as his wife and two daughters, 16 and 14, help to identify speakers, as well as set up and clean up.

“I was brought up in a family where the dinner table discussion was the most important part of the day for our family. It always segued into topical issues. So the meal time has been important to me because people really get to sit down and enjoy each other in conversation and from there it goes into the educational piece,” he says.

Plymouth resident Philip Adam has participated in meetings over the past 10 years. “I attend to better understand current public policy on issues that are pertinent. Whether it be climate change, civil forfeiture, health care, lots of topics. I like to be better educated so I can articulate to my colleagues and the people I associate with,” he says.

The group meets for two hours every third Tuesday of the month, and the evening includes dinner, a presentation, and lively discussion. Future topics include climate change, electric vehicles, the incarceration project and population control in the world. Upcoming topics can be found on their Facebook page @westsideprogressives and also via email. There is a $10 fee for the dinner. The group currently meets in the Church of the Epiphany, Episcopal at 4900 Nathan Lane in Plymouth.