Editorial, June 28, 2018

Jun 28, 2018

Restore civility

The move last week by Belfast Mayor Samatha Paradis to call for civility in discussions between city councilors and the public was bold — and necessary.

Recent meetings have seen members of the public scold councilors in less-than-polite ways, followed by some councilors calling them out on it. But name-calling has no place in public discussions. Both sides would be much better served by remaining calm and respectful.

There will always be matters of disagreement — big or small — between councilors elected to represent the community and members of that community.

In some cases, a resident is seeking to right a perceived wrong, whether it be against one person or many. In some cases, a resident may have a grudge against the entire municipality or against one elected official in particular. In some cases, an elected official has been publicly insulted one too many times. In some cases, an elected official may have tired of hearing the same argument over and over.

And it’s not just Belfast — the state, and entire nation, in recent months seem deeply divided and unwilling to hear the other side or make any compromises, with few exceptions. For example, the political discourse nationally has taken on a bullying tone -- Rep. Maxine Waters of California, after encouraging public confrontations with the Trump administration, is being chastised by members of her own party for her remarks.

"If you think we're rallying now you ain't seen nothing yet," Waters, D-Calif, told supporters at a rally in Los Angeles over the weekend, according to NPR. "If you see anybody from that (Trump) Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they're not welcome anymore, anywhere."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., weighed in from the Senate floor, NPR reported, though he did not mention Waters by name. "I strongly disagree with those who advocate harassing folks if they don't agree with you," Schumer said, "No one should call for the harassment of political opponents. That's not right. That's not American."

Mayor Paradis, with less than a year of experience under her belt, brought the voice of reason to the table locally. And, she did so without use of the gavel to silence speakers. It is the job of the mayor to run meetings and maintain order.

The criticism by Councilor Mike Hurley — he said Paradis should have kept order when residents went off topic — reveals his depth of experience in public service. Conversely, it also seemed like he was making an excuse for firing back at those residents.

We applaud Paradis as well for holding her ground against that voice of experience, which could not have been easy, given Hurley's support during her mayoral campaign.

The reasons for disagreement and conflict are many. Often, people feel strongly about the correct path to follow. But at the end of the day, both sides should be able to interact without hurling insults.

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