The Park Record editorial, July 2-5, 2011 |

The Park Record editorial, July 2-5, 2011

Fostering civility in a democracy is no easy task

The current Park City Leadership Class has taken on improving community civility as its end-of-year project, and it is a worthy issue. Members of the class plan to spend the next three months encouraging and recognizing acts of civility in politics and everyday life. The timing is especially pertinent as the city enters another election season.

Cities, towns and neighborhoods across the country, including Park City, are faced with the enormous challenge of maintaining respectful discourse and tempering personal attacks between citizens while also ensuring that individuals feel free to express diverse views and opinions.

That is the ultimate challenge of living in a boisterous, independent-spirited democracy like the United States. It is one of the tenets that we celebrate on the Fourth of July — and then lament at lengthy contentious public hearings or when faced with protestors carrying signs espousing unpopular causes.

The state of Wisconsin, for instance, is in the throes of an epic battle that caused a delegation of senators abandon the statehouse, hundreds of angry protestors to camp out in the rotunda, and has given way to a divisive effort to recall the governor.

comparison, Park City is an extremely civil community. But there are always plenty of disgruntled or rightfully indignant citizens (depending on your point of view) who need to air their complaints. Those disputes regularly take place over back fences, on roadways, at City Hall and the county courthouse, online and in this paper’s opinion pages.

Most of the time the debates are healthy and productive. But not always. Sometimes they lapse into personal attacks and lies with local politicians being frequent targets. The unfortunate side effect is that many qualified citizens shy away from public service because they don’t want to be subjected to those kinds of attacks.

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The Park Record has taken its share of criticism regarding civility. Mostly, the complaints are aimed at the anonymous commenting board that appears on The Park Record’s website. And while we agree that some of the comments are tasteless and mean-spirited, we are still committed to trying to maintain an open, uncensored forum. At our readers’ urging we are continuing to look for ways to weed out the destructive commenters and to foster constructive community dialog.

If members of the Leadership Class can help citizens rise above petty neighbor-versus-neighbor disputes and personal politics, they will have left an admirable legacy. This weekend, they will begin handing out ‘civility cards’ to recognize random acts of civil community engagement. It is a nice gesture that will serve to reward those who are already interacting in a positive way, but the trick will be to finding ways to effect real change in the face of deep controversy without just giving lip service to the issue.