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Messy things have no place at Starbucks--especially politics

San Diego Press Club Award: First Place Light Feature

TRANSCRIPT: "Messy Things Have No Place at Starbucks--Especially Politics"

David Broncaccio: A lot has been said about how homogenized today's political conventions have become. But, in San Diego-- Commentator and former political candidate Lisa Ross takes a look at free speech and the way it's being squeezed out of today's coffee shop culture. Ross:

Not too long ago, during San Diego*s primary election season, I became a *messy thing" ... Things that obscure the Starbucks *get it, gulp and go* experience.

I became one when the lady in the green apron ordered me to stop handing out campaign fliers from where I say, at my coveted Starbucks table. My First Amendment sensitivities shuddered. Starbucks had dealt another rabbit punch to the community soul ... So determined in its corporate march to conquer and redefine the American coffee house experience.

Coffee houses used to be messy places, filled with all sorts of people sipping caffeinated brews and skimming through gender-bending New Age publications and local propaganda. The coffee house was a bar without booze--a hangout--the decor purposefully iconoclastic and unkempt, but always bearing the marks of its own particular community.

So, it's puzzling why our LOCAL Starbucks not only tossed me out, but the same week tossed out other coffee house staples like those free newspapers stuffed with strung-out conspiratorial political articles, dense movie reviews and multi-cultural mating opportunities. I suspect that such publications are simply messy, their length encourages people to stick around a lot longer than it takes to swallow a Frappa Mocha Lotta-Bucks Swizzle (Grande, please).

I know that most people don’t really care that Starbucks made it impossible for me to introduce myself to voters in their Carmel Valley store. My otherwise Type-A-personality neighbors who stand patiently in long lines on Saturdays, are blending-in just fine with the store's deliberately anti-messy ambiance ...THEY proudly claim it*s the corporation's top money-maker in the region.

And, it’s also true, I did find other places to shake hands, kiss babies and engage in a political debate or two with neighbors.

But, I can*t help feeling that when the messiest of all political institutions, democratic electoral politics, is pushed out of a coffee house, we*re all getting pushed too far.


Broncaccio: Lisa Ross is a former candidate for San Diego City Council and a columnist for the Del Mar Times.

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