Time now to treat each other with greater civility

Article Posted on December 5, 2018

Dear Friends,

The first meeting of the Martin County Commission following the election, which brought a new commissioner to its board, signaled a new beginning. After a contentious political campaign, it was the logical time and place to ask for a fresh start to our political discourse.

And that's exactly what One Martin did.

On behalf of the One Martin Board of Directors, I appeared before the Board of County Commissioners on Nov. 20 to ask that commissioners and the public conduct themselves with civility and respect. This action was taken in furtherance of One Martin's mission to bring together diverse ideas, to foster understanding and achieve real solutions to our most perplexing issues.

To some, it might have seemed unnecessary. After all, we're talking about basic courtesy here, something we've all been taught since grade school. Yet it's basic courtesy that's most often missing from County Commission meetings.

We all recognize that local laws affect a community most directly and immediately, thus we are passionate about our beliefs as to what actions are best for Martin County's future and its quality of life. Since those passions may be in direct opposition to each other, some meetings become not only contentious, but downright ugly.

When this happens, people stop listening, which cripples fair and inclusive decision-making. Simple listening skills are the cornerstone of good government and are vital to achieving true democracy.

One Martin believes that the time for a civility code for Martin County has arrived and should include these straight-forward points:

  1. Treat everyone courteously;
  2. Give open-minded consideration to all viewpoints;
  3. Listen to others respectfully;
  4. Focus on the issues and avoid personalizing debate;
  5. Exercise self-control;

Embrace respectful disagreement and dissent as democratic rights, inherent components of an inclusive public process and tools for forging sound decisions.

We expect our county leaders to listen with open minds, to consider all viewpoints, and to put aside personal differences or preferences over specific issues. We simply are proposing a tool for the public and our elected officials to help the County Commission achieve its highest legislative purpose – serving the people.

Other county and city governments statewide and nationally have adopted a civility code, even within Martin County, in furtherance of good government and to help identify a community's core values. Please join One Martin in asking the same of our own County Commissioners.


Rick Hartman

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