Thursday, March 22, 2007

Civility, Where Art Thou?



Have you noticed just how acrimonious our City Council meetings have become lately? The end of the last one, of course, was fraught with tension and rancor because it involved Councilwoman Linda Dixon being forcibly unseated by majority vote of the council, which conferred upon our young jailer/mayor the right to arrange the seats in any manner he chooses. In fact, it's likely that the council policy the City Attorney was instructed to prepare will permit him, and future mayors, to arbitrarily shuffle the deck any time he or she chooses. Pretty silly stuff, if you ask me.

Silly as it might have been, though, it caused an amplification of the stress long visible to those of us paying attention to such things. Clearly, much of this city remains divided into two factions - those who agree with the mayor and his majority and those who prefer a more mature, moderate, reasonable, steady approach to governance.

Prior to vote being taken to bounce Dixon from her chair, former mayor Sandra Genis attempted to provide some history and education for the council. She read excerpts from The Federalist Papers, quotes from The Bible and even tried some good old common sense. None of that worked. Dixon read the email that apparently launched this whole thing - a message from Leece to the City Manager, Allan Roeder, requesting the seat swap. She then let the mayor know in no uncertain terms how disappointed she was to have not been given the courtesy of being included in the decision - or even consulted. His pitiful attempt at an apology was disingenuous at best.

This kind of rancor has spilled over into the communications tacked onto the end of articles, commentaries and editorials in the Daily Pilot, too. Ever since that fine newspaper provided the capability to post comments we've seen a deterioration of civility in many comment threads. Most usually start out with the first few commentors addressing the issue at hand. However, almost invariably, many of the subsequent comments are critical of earlier comments and commentors instead of simply voicing a divergent view of the subject. Most of the nastiest are posted by anonymous cowards using fictitious pen names, spouting rhetoric they would likely never use in civil conversation. I mentioned this phenomenon in an earlier post and it's getting worse. I admit to being sucked into this literary quicksand, but have never posted comments anonymously - which still doesn't make it right. When your integrity is challenged it's normal to strike back - like any shouting match. However, it seldom accomplishes anything except giving the combatants a sore throat to go along with their sore heads.

So, from this point forward I'm going to do my best to keep my comments on those venues at a higher level - maybe others will do the same, although I don't have much hope for a couple of them. If I back-slide I know there will be some of you out there to remind me.

Here on my blog, though, I'm going to continue to present my views as I choose. That will likely involve ridiculing some of our local officials frequently - because they deserve it. I will also continue to chide one particular blogger - because I disagree with his philosophy and his ego makes him such a great target. I suspect he feels the same about me. That's just the way it is.

As we turn the corner on the last week of March and head, appropriately, to April Fool's Day, I look forward to continuing to participate in an exchange of ideas and opinions with those of you who choose to join me. Every comment received here is much appreciated and will be published, unless it is submitted as "anonymous" or it doesn't pass the "cuss-o-meter" filter. Fortunately, there have been very few of those.

Thanks for playing in my sandbox.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Rob Dickson said...

Sandra Genis for City Council?

Seriously, though - the actions of the Council were nowhere near as "entertaining" as made out in the news. What happened was very unfortunate and just plain disappointing. Leece and mansoor should have dropped it, and Dixon could have made them seem even more petty by just doing it voluntarily - or sitting in the audience!

Meanwhile, people's property rights are being trampled, more freeway exits approved (but no more on-ramps - hello gridlock!!), and our peaceful seaside city will soon have a daytime curfew. Can you say police state?

Many on the pro-illegal immigrant "side" were practically gleeful about the presence of a white supremacist gang (most were older than high school age) and a Goth stabbing, when in REALITY our gang problem is almost entirely Latino. We're so concerned with politically correct nonsense, that we'll start having police waste their time stopping kids instead of aggressively going after truant gang-members.

Yet all we can talk about is the musical chairs.

3/22/2007 11:51:00 AM  
Anonymous toldyouso said...

Sandra had it right, Rob. What you're really pissed about is the arrogance of power...the fact that the mayor believes that - because of his postion - he can whip his stones onto the table and demand his way without consulting with his colleagues.

Mansoor isn't a disgrace because of his policies, he a disgrace because of his hubris.

The alcohol content of elected office is high. If you don't want those who are drunk with power running your city, work harder to make sure more level headed (read: sober) individuals are elected.

3/22/2007 09:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Rob Dickson said...

toldyouso,

I couldn't agree more.

The majority's refusal to listen to the incredibly sage advice and admonitions of Sandra is very disappointing.

A true leader would have abandoned the seating idea in favor of good council relations. Disregarding minority council members simply because you have the majority is truly poor leadership.

Dixon and Foley are elected representatives, and treating them like they are irrelevant is very disresectful. In fact, I believe they got the most votes in the election that put them on the council.

I just think that we have far bigger fish to fry, and the seating controversy only became a controversy when Dixon fought the inevitable. I know that is unpalatable, but it is reality.

Your point about hubris is dead on.

3/23/2007 09:41:00 AM  

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