Members of the Orange City Council are, from left, Lisa Stafford and Bill O’Connor, Mayor Gary Blair, and Fran Darms, Alex Tiamson and Casandra Jones.

Can we force people to be courteous and kind to one another?

Seemingly like a bolt of lightning that came out of nowhere, a call for civility and good manners was sounded just before the end of the Orange City Council’s Feb. 28 meeting.

Before saying “Good night” and adjourning, Mayor Gary Blair asked his colleagues to consider adopting a “code of conduct” for themselves.

“Basically, just to keep us on the up and up,” Blair said, adding there is a need for standards of good behavior in the chambers and outside them.

“We have rules that apply to the meetings,” he also said. “Your whole conduct outside the council — like it or not, we’re held to a higher standard.”

Blair noted some circles in Florida, such as Jacksonville, already have civility policies for their elected officials, and he said Orange City should have similar guidelines.

“How City Council members should conduct themselves … [when] interacting with the public,” City Attorney Neysa Borkert said, following up on the mayor’s remarks. 

Borkert advised Blair and others to avoid making a binding policy, “making sure you say, ‘This is my view.’”

Asked after the meeting what had prompted his suggestion, Blair told, in general terms, how a recent incident became a teaching moment.

“Another [City] Council member used foul language on me in a public park in a public event,” he said. 

Blair admitted such a policy, if enacted, would still rely on individuals to uphold it willingly and abide by it, rather than using police power.

“You could be censured. There’s not a lot of teeth in it,” he added.

Aware of recent occurrences in Deltona, whose City Commission censured one of its members for naming a private citizen and posting insults and vulgar comments about him on social media, Blair said Orange City should declare such behavior out of bounds.


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