It turns out we can force people to be courteous and kind to one another.
Orange City Mayor Gary Blair’s request for a City Council “code of conduct” on Feb. 28 has been fulfilled. City Attorney William Reischmann presented a civility pledge to the council at their April 11 meeting.
Blair’s request for the council members to consider adopting such a pledge came after a public incident with another member of the City Council.
“I did have an incident where someone cursed at me at a public meeting at a public park and so forth, and that’s why I brought this forward,” Blair explained later in the discussion. “It was another council member, and it didn’t sit well with me at all.”
According to the pledge, the goal is to “ensure a civil discourse at public meetings, in public arenas, or when communicating via electronic means.”
Reischmann said he believes being kind to each other won’t be that difficult.
“I don’t think it’s a hurdle too high, but it’s something that shouldn’t be taken lightly,” Reischmann told the council.
The pledge, Reischmann pointed out, was not a guarantee of civility but a recognition of it.
“This basically says we just all play nice in the sandbox and we treat each other with respect,” Blair summarized. “When we’re out and in public, we watch our language. You know, we just treat each other like decent human beings, as we should.”
When Blair asked if there was any further discussion to be had before a motion was called, several council members spoke up.
“I just want the record to reflect this is more pre-emptive than anything else because I have not seen that problem for the most part of the three years I’ve been on this dais,” Council Member Alex Tiamson said. “We don’t have that kind of problem.”
Blair disagreed, citing the incident that sparked the request for a pledge.
“Mr. Mayor, I’d also like to bring up that there has been instances here up on the dais, so I’m very happy about this,” Council Member Kelli Marks agreed.
“What happened to the times where if we did insult someone, we were big enough to go and say, ‘I apologize. Let’s talk. Let’s get it out.’ We no longer do this. We come up with rules and regulations to guide us through, and what we’re showing our citizens is that we’re divided. So why can’t they be divided?” Council Member Lisa Stafford chimed in. “In other words, why can’t we all just get along?”
Since the motion to adopt the civility pledge passed in a unanimous vote of 7-0, council members are now required to attempt to live up to it. However, the consequences of not doing so are unknown.
“There’s really no teeth in it as far as punishment or anything. It’s a pledge that everyone will be expected to live up to,” Blair said.