Elizabeth Washington: Civility starts with commission

Published: Monday, May 20, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 17, 2013 at 5:29 p.m.

Nathan Crabbe wrote in his May 12 column that civility is an important ingredient in public civic dialogue. As Crabbe thoughtfully noted, this ingredient is sometimes overlooked by both citizens and elected officials.

It is crucial that civic dialogue and public discussion flow freely. Many Gainesville citizens who voted in the recent mayoral runoff election cast their votes with this important principle in mind.

I believe it is their hope that under the leadership of Mayor-elect Ed Braddy, all viewpoints will now be heard, there will be open avenues of expression, and the mayor-elect will set a respectful tone that has not always been evident over the last three years. Braddy has committed himself to establishing an atmosphere quite different than the past three years, during which time city commissioners:

Characterized the ideas of other commissioners as “empty wind.”

Characterized citizens as “jerks.”

Advocated “politely ignoring” citizens.

Accused other elected officials of being “hypocrites.”

Accused other elected officials of committing a “swindle.”

Stated falsely that a citizen who tirelessly fought for public access to public information did not actually care about access and received tens of thousands of dollars in payoffs.

Falsely asserted that citizens legally seeking public input on important public issues committed criminal trespass.

Championed the use of the police force to suppress public opinion.

Snickered, rolled their eyes or left the room during citizen comment.

Used social media to attack individual citizens.

The democratic process is messy and disagreements are inevitable. But I believe that civility and open dialogue are signs of political maturity that distinguish most Gainesville residents. I am hopeful, like Crabbe, that civility and open dialogue will flourish once again in our City Commission meetings.

Elizabeth Washington lives in Gainesville.

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