Having that discussion in the forums was definitely an image killer. Managing it didn't get rid of it, but led to yet more image-killing discussion, threads about moderation policy, constant monitoring, having to delete posts and ban members, and all the behind-the-scenes discussion and correspondence that went along with it, and then having to ban troublemakers who would re-register under a new ID and cause more trouble.
I've been on a few forums that have "safety valve" areas and by and large they work pretty well. They start out controversial, and then they pretty much settle down into backwaters that no one visits except for occasional amusement. Thus far, it's worked pretty well here, and I think the new refinements should continue to keep the non-productive discussion at the margins.